Over the past few years I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to a lot of different places and meet lots of great people, however, my experience this week definitely makes the top five of my life. This week I got to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair! During this week-long event 1,700 kids from 70 countries and territories around the world presented their research in life and physical science categories. The week was packed with symposia, speakers, and of course competing.
It was amazing to be surrounded by brilliant kids my age pursuing STEM and coming up with the most innovative solutions to the problems plaguing our society today.
It was amazing to have intellectual conversations with individuals who didn’t see my research and passion for science as a barrier to being a normal teen.
It was amazing to go to my first club, try new food, and present my work to judges from around the world.
It was amazing when I was called on stage for getting 4th place in the Cellular and Molecular Biology Category.
Over the course of the week I got to explore many parts of Pittsburgh through our mixer event at the American Eagle Club, our fun night at Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center, and Highmark Sportsworks, walking around the city to get to the convention center, and going on the double-decker bus tour of the city. In the tour I learned about the rich history of the city and was reminded that Pittsburgh was a city in the original 13 colonies.
In addition to the competition there was an Expo center and a quad section. The expo had representatives from various businesses in the STEM field with fascinating presentations. One group had tiny balls that could soak up water to become extremely large and they had the same refractory index as water so you couldn’t even tell if they were in a glass. The quad section was filled with all kinds of games with the latest technology. In one game you put goggles on and were transported into a virtual game where you could use your controller to start missions, another area had virtually controlled drones you could direct to overcome obstacles, and another game was a typical race car game, but instead of using a controller you could shift in your seat from side to side and the car would move and avoid road blocks. It was fascinating to see all the latest technologies being incorporated into entertainment and real-life applications.
The highlight of the week was probably the end of the awards ceremony. When the first place winners were announced, cameras projected them on huge screens where their tears of happiness were captured. Each individual who comes to Intel ISEF dedicates so much effort into their project and it was very fulfilling to see the reward and recognition.
I want to leave you with this statement from Wendy Hawkins, the Executive Director of the Intel Foundation. She said that “Science knows no political boundaries, it just flows around the world.” This really resonated with me because I saw individuals from Palestine and Israel embrace each other and students from many war-torn countries of the Middle East came to share the research they had done.