Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Invades Pittsburgh

May 14, 2012
Technology Editor Bill Wong takes the winner of the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair to Pittsburgh to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
I'm out in Pittsburgh with William Xu(Fig. 1), the grand prize winner of the annual Mercer Science and Engineering Fair that I help run. We are here so William can compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. His project is entitled Creating and Optimizing Porous MOFs for the Capture of Carbon Dioxide from Flue Gas Mixtures. By the end of the week we will find out how he does compared to over 1500 other students. There are the best of the best and the projects are impressive. 

Figure 1. William Xu is the Grand Prize winner of the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair who one of the students competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

At this point the project is set up. The opening ceremony was tonight and the keynote speaker was Ben Gulak, an ISEF alumni from 2004, 2006, and 2007. He is also Chairman and CEO of BPG Werks.His last project was the Uno, an electric unicycle-style vehicle. He showed up on the Dragons' Den TV show and talked them into buying into the company he was starting to take the Uno to the next level.

One of the projects that has turned into a product is the DTV Shredder (Fig. 2). This tracked vehicle was inspired by a number of vehicles including the skateboard. It is an all terrain vehicle that is a blast to drive.

Figure 2. BPG Werks new DTV Shredder is essentially a tracked skateboard that goes just about anywhere.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the Excellence in Science Technology Discussion Panel hosted by NPR's Science Correspondent Joe Palca. The panel is made up of Nobel Prize Winners including J. Michael Bishop (Nobel Prize—Physiology or Medicine 1989), Martin Chalfie (Nobel Prize—Chemistry 2008), Dudley Herschbach (Nobel Prize—Chemistry 1986), H. Robert Horvitz (Nobel Prize—Chemistry 2002), John Mather (Nobel Prize—Physics 2006), Douglas Osheroff (Nobel Prize—Physics 1996), Carl Wieman (Nobel Prize—Physics 1995) and Ada Yonath (Nobel Prize—Chemistry 2009). This session is always a lot of fun because students provide the questions. What question would you ask?

Wednesday is judging. For the students it starts at 8am. They get breaks and lunch but judging does not end until 6pm. It is going to be a very long day. Dinner will be served at Heinz Field.

If you are in the Pittsburgh area then stop by on Thursday. The floor is open at 9am to the public and the students will be at their projects from 10am to 2pm. The exhibits will be open until 9pm but most of us will be at the award ceremony that evening. William is at CH048. He can tell you all about porous MOFs (metal-organic frameworks) how they can capture CO2 from flue gases.

If you can't make to the convention center on Thursday then check out your local fair and lend a hand next year. Most fairs our like ours, always in need of more support, more judges and more students. You can check out our site to see the companies that support our fair.

I can't guarantee I'll get videos at this year's fair but you can check out a few I made at last year's Intel ISEF on EngineeringTV. This is only a very small snapshot of the projects on display. My list tends to be biased on the side of engineering, computer science and math since those are areas I actually understand.

The list of ISEF winners will be online after the award ceremonies on Thursday and Friday. I'll let you know if William picks up any awards. The category award winners take home $75,000. Not everyone takes home awards and they vary quite a bit. My daughter (yes, the one with the Dragon Runner robot ring bearer) won trips to England and to Space Camp. She also made a lot of friends at the fair.

See you at the fair.

ISEF Update

Just got back from Pittsburgh. William received two awards including The Alcoa Foundation's First Award including a $2500 prize and the Ashtavadhani Vidwan Ambati Subbaraya Chetty Foundation's (AVASC) Second Award.

The winner of the top award, the Gorden E. Moore Award, was Jack Andraka of Crownsville, Md. for his project entitled Non-Invasive Pancreatic Cancer Detection Tool.

More photos and another article can be found on the Mercer Science and Engineeering Fair website and the MSEF Facebook page. 

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