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Youth Take Center Stage at International Science Fair

  • Deyane Moses

Thousands of spectators gathered in Los Angeles for what is known as the world’s largest high school science research competition.

This year's Intel International Science and Engineering fair in Los Angeles drew 1,700 students from around the globe to compete for $5 million in awards and scholarships.

Zarin Rahman, 17 was among the finalists. She submitted a study suggesting a link between the use of electronic devices and problems with weight management and sleep deprivation.

“The award doesn’t really matter to me," she noted, "but then, people will know who I am, read my project, and then I can spread my message and research more than I have been already."

Teacher Judith Vasquez, who was on a field trip with students, hopes they will be inspired to pursue careers in math and science, especially the young women.

“Because science typically tends to be more of a boy thing," she explained. "They’re more geared towards it and we want them to be exposed … equally exposed to everything."

Students compete in a variety of categories: behavioral sciences, medicine, and physics to name a few. Often times, ideas presented here become reality.

“Twenty percent of the students who come here have already gotten a patent for their work or they’ve applied for patents," noted said Wendy Hawkins, Intel executive director. "So they’re intending of going back and make these things real.”

One of those students is 15-year-old finalist Miriam Demasi. After reading about a 2003 earthquake that leveled a small town in Iran, she developed a new building material. She said her product is cheaper, stronger, and has a higher insulation value, which will result in less deforestation.

“I haven’t implemented it yet but with the help of an aid organization getting it known to those people, I believe they would adopt it readily,” she said.

The winner is...

This year's biggest prize worth $75,000, went to 15-year-old American student Nathan Han of Boston, Massachusetts.

“The goal of my project was to create a system that can predict the harmfulness of mutations anywhere in the person’s genome. So anywhere in their DNA,” he said, adding that he became interested in mutating genes after learning a family friend had been diagnosed with cancer.
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