“It feels amazing,” Wilson said right after he won the award. “Science is really cool, and you can change the world.”
Two projects were awarded the Dudley R. Herschbach SIYSS Award, which comes with an all-expense-paid trip to Sweden to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar and the Nobel Prize ceremonies. Herschbach won a Nobel prize in chemistry in 1986 and is also emeritus board chair of Society for Science & the Public.
The first winning project comes from two South Korean students who created a material that mimics spider silk and used it to gather water. Like dew on spider webs, drops of water coalesce on the material and then can be funneled into a reservoir. Jinyoung Seo, 18, of Go-Yang City and Dongju Shin, 18, of Seoul are currently building water-harvesting devices with the silk analog that can be used to collect usable water in places where there is fog but very little rain.
The second Herschbach SIYSS award went to Andrew Kim, 18, of Athens, Ga. In his project, Kim explored why some fruit flies are extreme fighters. The more social experiences a male fly has had, the less likely he is to be aggressive, Kim found. A gene called cyp6a20 seems to have a role in the process, too. Understanding the biological basis of aggression might help scientists understand neuropsychiatric disorders that lead to extreme aggression, Kim says.
“These kids are our future,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “They build the world that we are going to have to live and thrive in." Seeing what they've accomplished "restores my hope that we’re all going to be OK," she said.
Three students won European Union Contest for Young Scientists awards, which come with a trip to Helsinki to attend the contest. The winners are Lai Xue, 18, of Chengdu, China, for building an augmented reality system that merges digital objects and the real world; Erica Portnoy, 17, of Dix Hills, N.Y., for figuring out some of the details of how bacteria infect human cells; and Jane Cox , 16, of Provo, Utah, for her new method to distinguish meteorites from indigenous rocks.
Seventeen categories took home Intel Best of Category awards in classes ranging from Animal Sciences to Energy and Transporation. Best of Category awards come with $5,000 to the student, $1,000 to his or her school and $1,000 to the affiliated science fair where the work was initially presented.
In each category, students also won prizes ranging from $3,000 to $500. First- and second-place winners in each category will also get a minor planet—otherwise known as an asteroid—named after them, courtesy of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. The lab’s Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Program searches the sky for solar system objects that could strike the planet. MIT’s Jenifer Brinker Evans assured the winners that their asteroids wouldn’t pose a threat: “No one has to fear their namesake will be the source of world destruction,” she said.
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