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World’s largest pre-college science competition opens

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More than 1500 students from 56 countries, including South Africa, are competing in Intel International Science and Engineering Fair that started in Reno, Nevada, yesterday. The students will share ideas, showcase cutting-edge research and inventions, and compete for nearly $4 million in scholarships and awards in the event, a program of the Society for Science and the Public.

Four South Africans, Christopher Wilken, Jacques Winterbach, Arno de Beer and Jason Dixon, are representing their country at the international Science and ENgineering Fair 2009, a program of the Society for Sicence and the Public.

The top three winners will each be awarded a $50,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation.

Wilken’s project will determine whether the Vitamin C level in oranges can increase or decrease once it has been picked. Winterbach’s project will be on finding a cheaper way of producing electricity that is environmentally friendly and uses a sustainable energy source. Both de Beer and Dixon will showcase their project of treating and controlling ticks and other parasites found mainly on wild game animals.

The high school students who participate in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair are the innovators of tomorrow. In fact, more than 20 percent of 2009 participants have a patent or are considering applying for one for their research. Finalists’ projects tackle challenging scientific questions that address some of today’s most pressing global issues such as climate change, cancer, alternative fuels, driver safety and world hunger.

‚It is encouraging to see how the young men and women at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair have developed novel solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems,‚ Barrett said. ‚I’ve been learning from these young scientists since Intel began sponsorship in 1996 and look forward to seeing how their innovations will improve the global economy in the years to come.‚

Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, owns and has administered the International Science and Engineering Fair since its inception in 1950. ‚For 60 years, this program has united the world’s most talented young researchers from the around the globe. The Intel ISEF provides these remarkable students the opportunity to showcase the quality and depth of their research, and give us all hope for the future of our planet and our society.‚ said Elizabeth Marincola, president of Society for Science & the Public. To learn more about the organization and its programs and publications, visit www.societyforscience.org.

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalists are selected annually from more than 550 International Science and Engineering Fair-affiliated fairs around the world. Their projects are then evaluated onsite by more than 1,000 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each typically with a Ph.D. or the equivalent of 6 years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines. A full listing of finalists is expected to be available at www.societyforscience.org.

Bradley Rautenbach and Sean Daly

At last year’s event, a South African duo were among the highlighted entrants profiled on the Intel web site: With piles of discarded tires mounting in dumps around the world and in their home country of South Africa, St. Johns College students Bradley Pieter Rautenbach and Sean Daly decided to take action. Old tires are an environmental hazard, explained the students. When tires pile up, they collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. When fires occur, hazardous gases are released into the atmosphere. To address these issues, the students came up with a recycling plan that involves using rubber from discarded tires to create inexpensive roof tiles and mulch. In designing the roof tiles, Rautenbach and Daly considered tile shape, positioning, and angle. Additionally, they tested fire preventative solutions on the rubber, eventually settling on a fire retardant that not only reduced flammability, but also strengthened the material. The result: a viable roofing option for people in need of affordable housing. The team created mulch by shredding rubber tires for use as ground cover. The rubber mulch proved very effective at retaining soil moisture, a real advantage for rural South African farmers who may have to carry water long distances to tend their crops. In the end, Rautenbach and Daly’s research not only offers solutions for recycling tires and reducing environmental hazards, but may also make life a bit easier for others.

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