Young scientists from the Charlotte area traveled to Phoenix to compete for more than $4 million in the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF).The Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. More than 1,500 high school students from 70 countries, regions and territories participated. Since it began in 1950, the Intel ISEF has been owned and administered by the Society for Science & the Public (SSP), a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the understanding and appreciation of science. The SSP partners with Intel and many corporate and academic sponsors.To qualify, students compete in their local and school-sponsored science fairs, and the winners then participate in Intel ISEF-affiliated regional and state fairs. The goal of Intel ISEF is to unite top young scientific minds and give them a platform to share their ideas.The finalists present their projects at the May fair to thousands of attendees and are judged by more than 1,200 judges, each with a Ph.D. or six years of professional experience in the scientific category they are representing.• Andrew Hopkins of Mount Holly will be a senior at the Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology and competed at the Intel ISEF. His project won third place in the category of Animal Science.“I can’t say it enough. It was so much fun. Intelligent kids from all over the world came. We talked about more than science. We talked about different cultures,” Hopkins said.Hopkins’ project studied the effects of bisphenol A (also known as BPA, which is used to make certain plastics) on the life cycle of the blowfly. “I was in my teacher’s forensics class and we were studying entomology and how the blowfly can determine the time of death,” said Hopkins.Through his research, Hopkins studied how bisphenol can impact the physical development of the blowfly.“I found that it does slow down the metamorphic cycle and therefore, we cannot use the insect in forensics unless we calculate the levels of BPA first,” said Hopkins. • Parth Thakker of the Cameron Wood neighborhood in south Charlotte also participated in the Intel ISEF. A rising senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Thakker’s project used sugar-powered rocket motors to test the effects of different additives in rocket fuels.“The propellant flushing phenomenon, which is the rapid ejection of unburned propellant during combustion, is especially relevant to fuels with low melting points such as sorbitol. By testing the catalytic and temperature-modifying effects of additives red iron oxide and sulfur, I was able to find positive interactions between the additives that improved the performance of my motors,” said Thakker.His project won fourth place in the Energy and Transportation category.Like Hopkins, Thakker enjoyed the experience of attending and presenting at the fair. “The number of students was phenomenal, and everyone was so outgoing and friendly that it was impossible to get bored. On the day of judging, for example, I became very good friends with many of my booth neighbors from places like Puerto Rico, Pakistan, and even rural Tennessee,” said Thakker.• Christopher Panuski of Davidson is also a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and he won fourth place in the Material Engineering and Bio-Engineering category. He also won a Certificate of Honorable Mention from the International Council on Systems Engineering.His project studied the sources of radiation in space.“My research focused on analyzing the lifetime of commercial components in an aerospace environment, as well as proposing and testing a new radiation shield polymer, polyvinyl-alcohol. This material is much more effective than traditional metals, while also having strength similar to that of steel,” said Panuski.He summarized how unique the opportunity was. “Not only did I have the chance to meet individuals from around the world, but I was also able to present my work to professionals in my field of research,” said Panuski.
Tuesday, Sep. 03, 2013
Charlotte’s young scientists excel at international competition
Learn more: Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF): www.societyforscience.org/isef. Follow the Intel ISEF on Facebook, Twitter and Flicker.
Jennifer Ford is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jennifer? Email her at email@example.com.
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