More than 1,500 budding scientists from around the world gathered in Los Angeles, California, last week (May 8-13) to compete for $4 million in prizes and scholarships at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The high school-age innovators showed off some cutting-edge inventions.
Sixteen-year-old Zhdan Sukhov demonstrates a small robotic rover adapted for use in the fight against terrorism. The student from the Ural mountain region of Russia says it can be used to help bomb-defusing crews locate explosive devices. “So this model could go under the car and look for some kind of bombs, mines, something like that. And then the defusing group can do their work," he said.
The students and advisors came from 65 countries to showcase their innovations in environmental science, medicine, chemistry and many other fields.
A student from Ukraine created an instrument that is both a guitar and violin.
Student Haoyang Fan from China demonstrates a tracking device for skateboards that lets users analyze their skateboarding technique. He said a small computer on the bottom of the board tracks motion and direction, "indicating which part of the move I did wrong, and how should I correct them.”
Jimmy Wong, director of the Hong Kong New Generation Science Innovation Center, says a team from Hong Kong brought several different inventions. “A device for helping color-blind people to recognize colors, a safety device for working on tools or any mechanical machinery that will cut off the electric supplies as soon as you touch a fan that you have at home. As soon as you touch the blade, it will cut off the electricity," he said.
Hong Kong student Nick So developed a kit to measure the levels of potentially toxic nitrates and nitrites in homemade baby food. “Some parents may use vegetables that contain high levels of nitrates. And so the baby food has got a high nitrate level, and when it reaches their stomach, it will be reduced to nitrites and cause the blue baby syndrome," he said.
Many of the Intel student-scientists this year were girls. Jessica Richeri from California designed a self-driving vehicle that avoids obstacles.
Megan Perkins from the south-central state of Kentucky tested the efficiency of different fuel oxidizers in rockets. She has tested rockets since the age of eight in the corn field behind her house. "And so in middle school, when I had to do a science fair project, I naturally leaned toward rockets because it's kind of like a family hobby," she said.
Megan says she wants to become an aeronautical engineer.
Fifteen-year-old Tunisian student Meriam Touzi developed a water conservation unit inspired by a household mishap, when her mother wasted water by leaving a tap on. “She left it for a few minutes, and when she came back, the floor was full of water," she said.
Fifteen-year-old Francela Rojas from Costa Rica developed a device to convert sunlight to electricity using mirrors, heat and pressure to power an engine.
She hopes to make this a career, and says her family supports her. "They respect that I want to be a mechanical engineer. You don't see a lot of girls in mechanical (engineering), but that's what I want to do, and they are totally agreeing with it, and they just support me 100 percent," she said.
Other teens, like Francela, say that science is exciting, and they, too, are planning careers in the field.