3 Finalists for Intel Science Fair Are Eco-Inspired


Aniruddha Deshmukh (the finalist from CA) being notified that he's a finalist and receiving his check; Photo via Intel

Intel's Science Talent Search is an annual event that encourages high school seniors to take an interest in math, science and engineering. Three of the finalists for the grand prize take aim at environmental issues, including clean drinking water, deforestation from wildfires, and climate change - showing that students are also taking a keen interest in environmental issues.

Read on for details about these great projects. The competition is no small-beans science fair. The 40 finalists will go to Washington DC in March for the judging, and their projects will be on display at the National Academy of Sciences. On top of that, the contestants will get to rub elbows with national leaders and scientists. The grand prize winner gets a heart-stopping $100,000 in scholarship money, and, get this, seven former Finalists have won the Nobel Prize while others have been awarded the Fields Medal, the National Medal of Science and MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Pretty exciting stuff.

All the more exciting that environmental issues are part of the running.

"Answering the call of critical challenges in medicine, technology and the environment, the 40 Finalists of the Intel STS 2009 are making real impact on our world through their independent research—while serving as inspiration to the next generation of young researchers," said Elizabeth Marincola, president of SSP.

The Intel Science Talent search encourages students to tackle challenging scientific questions and develop the skills necessary to solve the problems of tomorrow. The Finalists' independent research projects include topics such as human-seeking robots, revitalizing ecosystems affected by wildfires, implications of gender on stem cell transplants, climate change, and potential cures for Parkinson's disease and cancer.

So - here are the projects that have earned such a fantastic spot in a major event:

Smitha Ramakrishna, a 17 year old from Arizona, focused her research on clean, safe drinking water. For this project, she tested the breakdown of artificial sweetener in an environment more rigorous than that of our wastewater treatment plants and found that the sweetener didn't break down, therefore concluding its prevalence in our water sources. Her research suggests that our facilities for clean water are to blame for contaminants in drinking water and that unless we act soon, these contaminants may compromise our future sustainable water supply and impact people's health and lifestyles.

Her inspiration came from a trip she took to India where she was moved by the disparity between her comfortable life in Arizona and that of her peers in India where children struggle to have access to potable water. When she returned home, she made a commitment to help fight environmental injustice and with some friends founded the Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (http://www.geocities.com/awake_az/), whose mission is to help underprivileged children in India and spread awareness in her own community about environmental issues. She also founded Earthworks - her school's environmental club - and re-energized her school's Science Research Club.


Patrick Abejar, a seventeen year old from New York, looked at boron isotopes in carbons in the ocean to determine the effects of climate change. By looking at the composition of fossilized shells he was able to measure the amount of climate change that took place in the ocean spanning as far back as 8 million years ago.

His research ultimately concluded that there is a growing increase of transformation taking place in the ocean due to climate change. The data he collected has enormous potential to help scientists grasp a better understanding of the causes and consequences of CO2 emissions throughout geologic history, and may help them determine our own fate. According to his mentor, the data he acquired would be impressive for a Ph.D. student, and he's a high school senior!


After reading about the recent surge in California wildfires, which haslaid waste to many local environments, Aniruddha Deshmukh, a 17 year old from Cupertino, CA, wondered if there was an effective way to revitalize these environments. Thus, for his project, he studied the decline of a native coastal plant species - which has declined 70 percent due to wildfires caused by global warming - and he examined how to regenerate the species using cobalts.

Aniruddha is saddened by global warming and the general nonchalance towards environmental destruction. His goals are to not only restore native vegetation, but also to explore the uncertainties associated with many plants. His mission is to improve nature, and by doing so, improve humanity.

We'll follow up in March and let you know the winning entries to the Intel Science Talent Search. Cross your fingers that these three great environmentally-minded students do well in the competition!

More on Science Competitions:
The Big Deal With Citizen Science
Discovery Young Scientist Challenge 2008
Metropolis 2008 Next Generation Design Competition
Video: Greener Gadgets Design Competition Winners
Design Competition: A Commuter Bike for the Masses

Tags: Contests | Deforestation | Global Climate Change