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ISEF Attracts Over 1,800 Top Students from Around the World

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is hosting 1,800-plus students in Phoenix, Ariz. this week for the top high school science and engineering competition.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is celebrating its 70th year in Phoenix, Ariz., where over 1,800 of the top science and engineering high school students are competing for an array of awards in every major science and engineering category (Fig. 1). ISEF is run by the Society for Science and the Public that also runs the Broadcom Masters competition for middle school students.


1. Over 1,800 students from around the world are participating in this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz.

I have been coming to these events for 20 years since I’ve been helping run our local Mercer Science and Engineering Fair (MSEF) each year in Mercer County, N.J. I’m here with our two finalists, Sonja Michaluk and Michelle Tong. Sonja is a two-time grand prize winner at MSEF and a 2016 Broadcom Master finalist (Fig. 2). Our fair is one of the smaller ones in the area, but we have had many great projects from our students.


2. Sonja Michaluk and Michelle Tong are the ISEF finalists from the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair participating in this year’s Intel ISEF competition.

If you have a chance and happen to be in the Phoenix area on Thursday May 16th, stop by the convention center. It’s open to the public (Fig. 3); you will have to edge your way around thousands of students from local schools who get to take a look at the projects on display and talk to the finalists about their projects.


3. Stop by Thursday if you can make the open house at this this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair at the convention center in Phoenix. It’s free.

I had a chance to check out some of the projects during setup earlier this week. They were as impressive as in past years, using the latest technology from microcontrollers to drones for testing, evaluating, engineering, and researching a range of projects. I will highlight a few after the open house, when I can see the students at the projects.

I would also like to highlight and thank the over 1,300 volunteers, including the judges who make this competition possible. There are lots of sponsors, like Intel, that provide support for the fair, but it’s the volunteers that make it work. That includes those in the state and regional fairs that feed into ISEF. It’s one area where we’re always coming up short. If you have a desire to help out, then check out your local fair. They can definitely use the help, and it’s much less effort than doing something like coaching a sports team and just as rewarding.

ISEF is an individual or small-team competition compared to the large-team competitions like FIRST Robotics. Both types of programs have their place and students learn a lot participating in any of these competitions. Still, it’s surprising given the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses how few schools follow through with support participation in competitions such as the Broadcom Masters and Intel ISEF affiliated fairs.

These fairs are open to local students, usually at no cost, and complement any school-based fairs as well. If your local school doesn’t promote them, then get involved and let them know what’s going on. The list of local fairs for these competitions are available at the Society for Science and the Public’s website.

I hope to see some of you here in Phoenix.


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