The Intel Science Talent Search… and the Smartest Kids in America.

This post brought to you by Intel. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m here to tell you…there is hope for the future.

I wouldn’t have believed it, based on television shows like Wild & Out and Jersey Shore, but there is hope for the future. I saw it today, in the work of 40 teenagers. Teenagers who have been working diligently on projects that brought them to the culmination of their hard work…the Intel Science Talent Search in Washington, DC. A trip to the nation’s capital to showcase their brilliance, meet their peers, their admirers, and go for the win. And the Grand Prize?



Heck, even coming in dead last is a huge achievement…it’s an honor to just make it to the finals… and you’ll still take home a cool $7,500. Pretty amazing stuff for a teenager. Lots of pressure, sure – but, from what I saw today, these aren’t your average kids.

Earlier last week I was surprised with an email from the folks at Intel, asking if I would be interested in making the trek to Washington for the weekend, to meet these kids at the science fair and see what they had been up to.

I remember Science Fairs, don’t you?

Somebody would make a solar system out of Styrofoam balls and paper maiche, then hang it from fishing line in a cardboard box. The laziest of kids would put a penny in a Pepsi bottle (tornado!), and the coolest kid would have a mom that helped him make a volcano (that spewed lava) out of God Knows What and baking soda.

I didn’t see ANY of that today.

No one even mentioned that Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore.

No Pepsi bottles.

Not ONE volcano.

What I did see?

Projects with themes and words I couldn’t even pronounce. Projects about polymers and their reorganization, in which possible chemical bomb detectors could be created…The kid was 17.

A project about breast cancer.

A project in which a young man named Stephen Le Breton of Connecticut created a chemical substance (A teenager. A TEENAGER created a chemical substance) that created Tooth enamel. Enamel that after one treatment applied to a worn down tooth created an new enamel on the tooth. He’s hoping to patent it. I’d have bought it on the spot.

At 17, I was schlepping pies at the Pizza Hut, thinking about boys and the latest movie. This kid? Thinking about MIT, FDA testing, and patents. Good on him.

Another project that spoke to me was a done by a fellow West Virginian, Vincent Jacob O’Leary. Sure, he was from Wheeling, but still, West Virginian. The title of his project?

“A Multi-Year Analysis of Orconectid Crayfish Invasion Dynamics in West Virginia Utilizing Laboratory and Field Methodologies.” Quite a mouthful.

This young man had been researching the invasion of certain types of crayfish in streams. Turns out these invading crayfish had destroyed the environments they had moved into – eaten all the plants, killed or ran off the native fish, and created uninhabitable areas. Why is this a problem? It’s just a few streams, right?

Not right.

These crayfish, if given free reign, could target the Great Lakes, killing off a fishing industry we ALL rely on. Millions of dollars, job, lives – changed. By a crayfish.

My suggestion?

“Can’t we eat them?”

He had an answer for that. Yes – we could. I guess he’s not a foodie, and that’s okay. But, he had no advice on whether these crayfish were tasty. He offered no recipes. But that’s what people like ME are for…he finds the problem – and I come up with a stew for it.

The fair was full of genius like this, of kids wise beyond their years. Of futures being laid out in college degrees and scholarships. We’ll likely never see any of the 40 incredibly talented kids on Reality TV – we may never see them on the cover of US Weekly. But I have this feeling, at least one of them will change our lives.

Mine and yours.

So keep your head held high – the future is plenty bright. I saw it shining today.

The Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) is the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competition. Intel STS alumni have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science. The Intel STS recognizes and rewards 300 students, as well as their schools, as semifinalists each year. From that select pool, 40 finalists are then invited to Washington, DC in March to undergo final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for $630,000 in awards, including the top award of $100,000. Thank you Intel for the opportunity to attend this incredible fair and meet the future. I was honored. Though this post was sponsored, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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