The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair will be held May 12-17 at the Phoenix Convention Center, with aspiring scientists from all over the world competing. Renee Levin, Intel’s community engagement manager, will talk about the fair. Sarah Sakha, a student from Xavier High School, will talk about her winning project, which seeks to develop emergency food products used in famine relief.
Ted Simons: Our continuing coverage of Arizona technology and innovation focuses tonight on the upcoming Intel international science and engineering fair set for next month at the Phoenix convention center. Here to tell us about this high-profile event is Renee Levin, Intel's community engagement manager, and Sarah Sakha, a student from Xavier College Prepatory School. Sarah will be competing in the science fair. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. Give us an overview now of this fair. What are we talking about?
Renee Levin: This is the largest precollege science fair in the world. We're expecting 1500 students from 70 different countries, regions, and territories that will descend upon Phoenix may 13th-17th. They're competing for $3 million worth of prizes.
Ted Simons: Oh, my goodness. Age range, grade range?
Renee Levin: They are high school students.
Ted Simons: So 9-12.
Renee Levin: Right.
Ted Simons: And they made it to this level by winning earlier competitions?
Renee Levin: Most of them had a competition either at a regional level, a state level, or country level. Sarah won at the state level and she'll be competing in the competition.
Ted Simons: I want to get to Sarah in a second, but let's get back to the actual event. Is it a competition -- How do you compete? Other and judges throw flash cards?
Renee Levin: No. Each project is in an individual category. There's 17 different categories. Animal, science, behavioral science, microbiology, these are just some of the categories. There's a cadre of judges that will go around and each project is reviewed by 10 judges. And then the cohort of judges make the decision on who's the top prize in each individual category.
Ted Simons: That's very exciting. All right, Sarah, you won the state competition. Correct?
Renee Levin: Yes.
Ted Simons: Now you're the international competition, what is your focus? What did you present?
Sarah Sakha: Scientifically I'm in the microbiology, but the special part of this is that science social issues, so I delved into the social aspect of science and the practical application of sustainable Development.
Ted Simons: We're looking at some of your work. You're talking about emergency food products for famine relief?
Sarah Sakha: Yes. There's an increasing number of humanitarian emergencies worldwide today, and there's an acute and immediate need for food relief. And emergency food products or EFPs is provided as food relief, and I was watching a CNN special about the famine and drought in Somalia, and there was a shot of a little child trying to eat an unpalatable dried paste-like substance. Based on that I delved into social issues, and science, and did my project.
Ted Simons: I was going to say, we all watch television and see certain segments, rarely do we wind up trying to change the world because of it. Was it something you were leaning in that direction to begin with? Or did it just really hit you, that one story?
Sarah Sakha: I have a fond interest for social issues and politics, and I'm always catching up on the news, but when I saw the shots of a little child trying to eat it, that was particularly poignant and I decided to -- No better way to do a science projects.
Ted Simons: When you first started to when you won the state award and now you're competing internationally, has the scope or any aspect of the project changed?
Sarah Sakha: Definitely as far as extent of my further research, and I thought more and more about the implication was my project. But this is a continuation of my project last year and took to the competition last year. So the scope has changed.
Ted Simons: So you have you some experience at this level. The international competition, how did Phoenix land this?
Renee Levin:Society for science in the public is the organization that runs the fair. And they went out and determined that Phoenix, L.A., and Pittsburgh are the three cities that it will rotate within the next decade. So we expect -- We will have the fair here in 2013 ,2016 ,and 2019 .
Ted Simons: Wow. That sounds like a lot of responsibility. I would imagine it's not just throw up a sign, open up the airport and let everyone come in. The logistics must be tremendous for something like this.
Renee Levin: You're right. And there's a local arrangements committee made up of businesses, educators, all kinds of volunteers throughout the community, and we're really seeking community support for this program. We need a thousand judges, most of them at a Ph.D. level or bachelors, masters degree, plus six years of experience. We need interpreters from all different languages.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Renee Levin: we need people to help on the outreach day, which is the public day on Thursday, may 16th. And we will have 4,000 Arizona students attending the fair, and they're going to be doing all kinds of hands-on activities, and making sure the kids get to go through the arena to see all of the projects.
Ted Simons: What about housing? Transportation? Those sorts of things?
Renee Levin: They have booked pretty much every hotel room in Phoenix. We've been working with the local light rail, and the airport, they'll even need greeters at the airport to help the kids and their chaperones make sure they get on the right bus or light rail system to get to their hotel.
Ted Simons: We're looking at some of the folks from the Arizona fair, engineering fair. This is the big kahuna here. The idea of competing, does that spur you on in any way?
Sarah Sakha: It does, of course it's very intimidating with such formidable judges, and so many projects, so many students. But I think the experience of just being to learn from people with -- Like last year's winner, that's just where science lies today.
Ted Simons: But again, it seems like if you were just -- You do care about winning, right? You are gung ho --
Sarah Sakha: yeah. [laughter]
Ted Simons: I want to make sure.
Sarah Sakha: Definitely.
Ted Simons: And where do you plan to go on this? Do you plan to -- You mentioned social issues and science together. Where do you plan -- What's next for you?
Sarah Sakha: At this point it presents a viable food product, so I may try to explore the marketability as the product. But scientifically, doing more research on the potential of the come pounds within the spices. And refining the product itself.
Ted Simons: As far as college is concerned, you've got some places in mind?
Sarah Sakha: I do. I'm a junior so I have a little time, but yes.
Ted Simons: Arizona state is not too far away now. As far as the competition is concerned, again, where, when, and for folks watching this that they may not be able to be a judge, and they may not be able to take part, but they're fascinated by these kids doing these great things, how can they come and watch and be witness to all this?
Renee Levin: I hope they will realize there will be 1500 kids as smart as Sarah at this competition. On Thursday, it's the public day, and it's open, and it's free. So bring your families, bring your students, if you have a school, bring them down and just check out these amazing projects. The students will be there, I believe from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so you can meet with the students. But really, if you go on the website you can see the wide variety of people that we need.
Ted Simons: Give us that website address.
Renee Levin: WWW.societyforscience.org.
Ted Simons: I think we got it right up there. That's Intel --
Renee Levin: Intel iCEF 2103 .
Ted Simons: That's exactly what it is. And the dates again?
Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you both here and good luck in the competition.
Sarah Sakha: Renee Levin: Thank you
Renee Levin:Community Engagement Manager, Intel; Sarah Sakha:Student, Xavier High School;