$4 million was won by these kids and we should all be thankful

Watching the news, it is easy to become disillusioned with the direction our poor planet is heading.Threats of war, race and religion conflicts, corrupt governments, and the changing climate playing havoc with the planet’s weather.

There has to be a better brighter future and I found it in Los Angeles, California where I was invited to attend the Intel International Science Engineering Fair (ISEF).

ISEF is an annual convention where the brightest minds gather to showcase their research solving real-world problems. But these aren’t your garden variety geniuses. What makes this convention extraordinary is that the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators are still at school!

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Over 1700 kids won their right to exhibit in LA after being selected from 425 affiliate fairs in 78 countries, regions and territories around the world. Finalists’ projects tackled topics ranging from virtual reality to sustainable energy to machine learning, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and everything in between. Projects represented a wide range of scientific disciplines and their work was judged by hundreds of science, engineering and industry professionals who have a Ph.D. or equivalent (six years of related professional experience) or are senior graduate students with doctoral-level research in one of the 22 scientific disciplines.

The competition was tough as each one wanted their share of the $4 million in scholarships and awards.

The Top 3 ISEF 2017 winners were:

  • Ivo Zell, 18, of Lorch, Germany, won first place and the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award for designing and constructing a remote-control prototype of a new “flying wing” aircraft, which has potential applications that range from drone delivery systems to larger aircraft design. Flying wings are inherently more efficient than traditional aircraft designs, but also less stable in flight because they have little or no fuselage or tail. Zell’s working prototype aircraft addresses this issue, using an unusual bell-shaped lift profile for improved stability and using telemetry to demonstrate its stability. The modified shape of Zell’s aircraft allows it to operate smoothly and safely in challenging flight situations without the need for a complex electronic stabilization system and without significantly sacrificing fuel efficiency.
  • Amber Yang, 18, of Windermere, Florida received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of $50,000 for her innovative approach to predicting the locations of clouds of space debris that move in low Earth orbit. An estimated 500,000 space trash objects now pose a potential hazard for spacecraft. Yang adapted an algorithm to train her own artificial neural network to recognize space objects in a specific debris cloud and predict their future locations.
  • Valerio Pagliarino, 17, of Castelnuovo Calcea, Italy received the other Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000 for his prototype of a novel laser-based, wireless, high-speed network. Motivated by the lack of reliable Internet access in his rural locale, Pagliarino designed his new system using off-the-shelf components and then built and tested a small version of the network.

Approximately 600 additional awards, funded by the Intel Foundation with support from dozens of corporate, academic, government and science-focused sponsors, were distributed.

What Stood Out?

Two elements stood out for me. The first was the camaraderie between such a diverse set of students from across the world, all sharing in their love for problem-solving.

The second, and as a father of two girls, I am glad to report that was that while the boys outnumbered the girls, this was only but a few percentage points. In 2017, 47%  or 841 finalists were female and 53% or 937 finalists were male. Problem-solving isn’t the domain of one of the sexes!

Intel has been supporting the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for nearly 20 years, a commitment that continues through 2019. Intel is broadening access to technology skills and experiences for underserved youth worldwide through the Intel® Innovation Generation initiative, helping ensure the next generation of innovators is diverse, inclusive and empowered. Intel believes technology is a force for positive social impact and has the power to be a great equalizer, but only if everyone has access to it.

If this is a glimpse of what the future holds, then I see hope for the next generation and we should all be thankful.

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