One of the most prominent sponsors of educational programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is Intel. The company sponsors a mobile Tech Learning Lab that has traveled the United States bringing high-tech STEM education to students. Intel also sponsors the renowned International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
In 2019, three of the top four ISEF winners were girls, shattering the STEM gender gap. Read on to learn more about ISEF and the 2019 female winners.
History of ISEF
ISEF began in 1950 as the National Science Fair, going international in 1958. It was established by the Society for Science & the Public, then known as Science Service. This was a partnership between famous journalist Edward W. Scripps and zoologist William Emerson Ritter to inform the public about scientific advances. The Society for Science & the Public not only founded ISEF but also five other STEM competitions, a fellowship program for STEM educators, and several newsletters and web publications.
Each year, ISEF invites the top winners from affiliated science fairs held around the world to compete for prizes. These students generally win numerous other competitions before reaching ISEF, including local school science fairs and regional fairs. The students who are invited to compete at ISEF are all in grades 9-12. Each student chooses one of more than 20 STEM categories to compete in.
Judging at ISEF is serious business. All judges hold the PhD or an equivalent degree and/or six years of experience in the STEM workforce. These judges award more than 600 prizes to individuals and teams. ISEF awards prizes to first through fourth place winners in each of the competition categories as well as to overall winners. In addition, approximately 70 corporate, professional, and government sponsors also offer prizes through the Special Awards program. Prizes awarded by sponsors include scholarships, internships, field trips, and equipment.
2019 Top ISEF Winners
In 2019, three of the top four winners at ISEF were girls. These winners included Allison Jia, a 17-year-old from San Jose, California, who was awarded one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards in the amount of $50,000. Her project investigated tau proteins that spread in the brain and are responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases. Her project was entered in the Cellular and Molecular Biology category.
The other Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award winner of $50,000 was Rachel Seevers, a 17-year-old from Lexington, Kentucky. Her project involved designing, building, and testing a new propulsion device whose movements are inspired by jellyfish to be used for underwater exploration. This project was entered in the Engineering Mechanics category.
The third female ISEF top award winner was Shriya Reddy, a 15-year-old from Northville, Michigan. She won the Craig R. Barrett Award for Innovation, a $10,000 prize. She competed in the Biomedical and Health Sciences category, and her project focused on developing a noninvasive approach for the rapid diagnosis of melanoma.
The fourth top winner and the only young man to win a top award was Krithik Ramesh, a 16-year-old from Greenwood Village, Colorado, who competed in the Biomedical Engineering category. He won the overall top prize of $75,000, named the Gordon E. Moore Award after the Intel co-founder, for developing a machine learning application for spinal surgery. His project reduced the length of surgery times, the length of recuperation times, and negative side effects of spinal surgeries.
“Best of Category” Winners
In addition to these top winners, winners were also announced in 18 other categories. These winners were awarded $5,000 prizes for being “Best of Category,” along with the $3,000 prize they earned for their first-place finishes. Of these 18 “Best of Category” winners, eight were girls.
These eight category winners were Annika Morgan of Redding, Connecticut, in Biochemistry; Helena Jiang of Gainesville, Florida, in Chemistry; Katie Lu of Springfield, Missouri, in Earth and Environmental Sciences; Shicheng Hu of Shanghai, China, in Chemical Energy; AnaMaria Perez of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in Mathematics; Kaylie Hausknecht of Lynbrook, New York, in Physics and Astronomy; Amara Ifeji of Bangor, Maine, in Plant Sciences; and Hannah Herbst of Boca Raton, Florida, in Translational Medical Science.
ISEF has enjoyed some large-scale publicity lately. A feature story highlighting the 2019 top female winners was recently published in the National Geographic magazine. National Geographic also recently produced a documentary film about ISEF that is switch to chrome available for streaming. This film, called Science Fair, won the audience choice awards at both the Sundance and SXSW film festivals.
Finally, PBS also produced a film about ISEF called Inventing Tomorrow. It has been shown at several film festivals, including Sundance, Hot Docs, Full Frame, the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the Seattle International Film Festival, where it was a Grand Jury Prize Winner. It is also available to stream via the PBS series POV.