Glendale College's Student Magazine
Wednesday June 20th 2018

Teen Scientists Tackle the World’s Biggest Problems


Intel Science Fair Winners in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2011: Matthew Feddersen, Blake Marggraff, Taylor Wilson, Pornwasu Pongtheerawan, Arada Sungkanit and Tanpitcha Phongchaipaiboon.


  • Can a teenager discover a cure for cancer?
  • Can a teenager design a way to counter nuclear terrorism?
  • Can a high school student invent the next type of biofuel? Alternate energy? Fuel cell?
  • Can a 15 year old design a system to protect cities from tsunamis?

Impossible? Ridiculous?
Think again.

That’s exactly what some of the most brilliant, dedicated, innovative and talented teenagers anywhere are working on in the fields of science and engineering.

For proof, take a mind-boggling look at the world’s largest pre-college science and engineering research competition, the prestigious annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, or ISEF, a program of Society for Science and the Public, which was held which was held in Los Angeles in May.

More than 1,500 pre-college students from more than 65 countries and territories competed and won in affiliated science fairs, going through the required ranks of their high school, city, and state levels to qualify to be selected to compete at Intel ISEF. First-time participants this year included France, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Macao, a region of the People’s Republic of China.

In addition to the possibility of winning awards and prizes, one of the most meaningful benefits of the competition for the finalists is the opportunity to meet and communicate with their peers and with expert judges regarding their original research and inventions.

Hundreds of judges from nearly every scientific discipline evaluate the Intel ISEF finalists onsite. All judges have either a doctorate or the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.

Many of the students already hold patents, and some have government contracts for their inventions and research.

The International Science and Engineering Fair was created by Society for Science and the Public (previously known as Science Service) in 1950. The fair became international in 1958, when Canada, Japan, and Germany joined the competition.

Funding for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2011 was made possible by Intel and the Intel Foundation. Dozens of other academic, corporate, governmental and science focused organizations provided additional support and awards.

Nobel Laureates

This year all fair attendees were invited to a conversation opportunity with a group of Nobel laureates. The Intel Corporation formed the Excellence in Science Discussion Panel, inviting Paul Berg, J. Michael Bishop, Martin Chalfie, Dudley Herschbach, Robert Horvitz, Douglas Osheroff, and Richard Roberts to participate. The panel was moderated by NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca.

About Intel

Intel Corporation is an American global technology and semiconductor chip company, based in Santa Clara, with revenues in 2010 of more than $43 billion, and 82,000 employees. The company is the inventor of the X86 series of microprocessors, the processors found in most personal computers. More information about Intel is available at

Local Efforts and Organizers

Organization of a large event like the Intel ISEF requires a lot of planning, coordinating, and teamwork from many individuals, volunteers, organizations and sponsors.

Hundreds of volunteers, judges, and translators are needed for the fair, as well as a production crew, set up crew, press, and others.

This year the local chairperson of the Los Angeles Local Arrangements Committee for the Intel ISEF was former educator Joe Reuter, who was responsible for Display and Safety. He was also the chaperone and adult in charge of Southern California finalists.

In addition to his involvement with Intel ISEF, Reuter has worked with the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair, and is a strong supporter and advocate for science and engineering education. He recognizes and promotes the value of participation in science fairs for students.

“Some districts better recognize the importance of the science fair process at the high school level,” said Reuter. “Competing at the state fair is an achievable goal for hardworking students.” “Every year over 100 participants from the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair are selected to attend the California State Science and Engineering Fair”, he said.

The number of fair participants a county can send to the International Science and Engineering Fair is based on the size of its population. A smaller county will be allowed fewer participants, sometimes only one. Since the population of Los Angeles is so large, up to six participants from the Los Angeles County Fair can be selected to attend ISEF. From the California Fair, they’re also allowed six participants to ISEF.

Middle and high schools are all eligible to host their own science fair, said Reuter.
Reuter remembers being impressed while teaching at Glendale High School, with the exceptional ability his Armenian students showed in math and engineering, frequently presenting elegant solutions to mathematics problems. Glendale has the greatest concentration of Armenians outside of Armenia. Consequently, he hopes to see local support for an Armenian delegation to be represented at the Intel ISEF in the future.

Reuter has a background in electronics and communications, taught electronics at Glendale High School, and was on the Electronic Trade & Industry Advisory Committee at Glendale Community College for many years.

An average of one to nine months of effort is made by the contestants before any of their work goes on their display boards. Preparation involves correct inquiry, research, data collection, and analysis, then presentation of results. In some cases, students have worked for years on their research which could be presented in stages. There are specific rules for the projects that can be found in detail on the Intel ISEF website.

The Path to ISEF

For students who wish to work towards competing in the Intel ISEF, the process has several stages. The student must compete and win at his or her local school level in an Intel ISEF-affiliated science fair, then at their city/county level in order to be considered to compete at Intel ISEF. A student Affilliated Science Fairs can also win at the state level for a chance to compete at ISEF.

It is very important for all parties to understand and familiarize themselves with the ISEF rules from the beginning, since the fairs on the pathway up to ISEF must be Intel ISEF-affiliated science and engineering fairs.

Intel ISEF-affiliated science fair

An Intel ISEF-affiliated science fair is a science competition that is a member of Society for Science & the Public’s (SSP) fair network. These competitions exist in nearly every state in the U.S. and over 50 countries.

Learn more about affiliation rules, and find Intel ISEF Affiliated Fairs from these websites:

Other Ways to Help

Support for students is very important, and often determines the difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t. Support can be offered by parents, teachers, and counselors, as well as from fair directors, local colleges, universities, special science programs, professional associations, and sometimes from the community and related industries. Mentorships can provide critical guidance that can be life-changing.

Community members from all regions are encouraged to consider volunteering at local middle and high schools to support students interested in participating in science fairs and to possibly compete at county, state and international levels or to volunteer directly at county or state fairs – there are plenty of opportunities.

Prizes, Awards and Winners

Finalists at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2011 were competing for more than $4 million dollars in prizes.

Top Intel ISEF 2011 Winners:

For new cancer treatment research: the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award went to Matthew Federsen and Blake Marggraff, a team from Lafayette, Calif., for developing a less expensive and potentially more effective cancer treatment that places a tin metal implant near a tumor before radiation therapy.

For nuclear physics research: development of system to counter nuclear terrorism, the
$50,000 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award went to Taylor Wilson of Reno, Nev., for his research in developing one of the lowest dose and highest sensitivity interrogation systems for countering nuclear terrorism

Also receiving the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award was the team of Pornwasu Pongtheerawan, Arada Sungkanit and Tanpitcha Phongchaipaiboon from Thailand. This team’s environmentally responsible invention was the determination that a gelatin found in fish scales could be successfully used in modern day fish packaging.

More than 400 finalists received awards and prizes for their original research, in addition to the winners mentioned above. These included 17 “Best of Category” winners who each received a $5,000 prize. The Intel Foundation also awarded $1,000 grants to all winners’ schools and their affiliated fairs.

A full listing of finalists is available at

Meet the Scientists:

Neela Andres, Missoula Montana, Swine, Project AS039, Intel ISEF 2011 Neela Andres

Neela Andres, Big Sky High School, Missoula, Montana

Age: 15, Grade 9, Teacher: Brandon Thomas Honzel

Intel ISEF 2011 Project: Animal Science:

“Stress Relevance Affecting Female Productivity Traits in Swine”

lnspiration: Her family

Goal: To become a teacher

Neela Andres is an outgoing, enthusiastic 15 year old finalist from Missoula, Montana, who has been researching ways to improve the health of swine livestock, one of her family’s businesses.

Having been raised on a farm, Neela has been involved since a very young age in many farm-related activities, and is responsible for the sows (adult female pigs.) The pigs are sold for meat and showmanship, and also to kids for fairs. Neela loves animals, and gives all her sows names. “I’ve been taught that you can love an animal but also treasure its meat”, Neela said.

Neela’s project was to test her sows to determine which ones had a specific stress trait in their DNA. “Stress can be in the swine’s genes, and will affect their productivity,” said Neela. She took small blood samples from all of her sows to send to a lab, and have their DNA tested for a specific stress trait. She then analyzed two different genotypes, carriers and non-carriers. The farm will save money by choosing a non-stressed pig. The pigs with the stress trait experience difficulty breathing if scared, bruise easily, and are irritable. This factor would also affect the quality of their meat. Neela was quick to add that there were no external factors causing stress – it was entirely genetic.

Neela entered her first science fair in kindergarten. When she was older, the family drove 10 hours for her to participate in the Utah Science Fair. Neela has been involved with Future Farmers of America, as well as 4H. She placed 4th in a Montana state FFA career development event, in the sales competition. At Big Sky High school she got special permission to participate in a program called Advanced Problems in Science, or APS, which is usually reserved for upper classmen.

Her father is a farmer and agriculture teacher, and her mother is a school administrator. “My family is my inspiration,” said Neela. “Agriculture is a big part of my family’s life.”

Later her college choices might include Montana State University, or possibly Lesley University, where she would like to major in teaching.


Brittany Williams, Wilmington, North Carolina, Physics, Intel ISEF 2011 #PH030 Stealth Tech

Brittany Christine Williams

E. A. Laney High School, Wilmington, North Carolina

Age 14, Grade 9, Teacher: Sharon Cicero

Intel ISEF 2011: Project: Physics

Stealth Technology: I Can See You…But You Can’t See Me!!!

Interests: Stealth technology; light bending

“Did you see the Harry Potter movies? Do you remember the invisibility cloak?” said Brittany.

“Well, stealth technology can accomplish the same thing – it can make planes invisible to radar,” she said.

Stealth technology is the science behind “invisible” aircraft, meaning aircraft that is undetectable to radar.

It incorporates the use of advanced design and specialized materials used to create these “invisible” aircraft.

Brittany investigated some of the principles of this technology in her science project which involved measuring the light reflection among various shape/color combinations, used to simulate radar reflecting off of various stealth aircraft. She could determine whether objects could become “invisible” to radar based upon the reflective properties of each shape/color combination.

Sixteen different color/shape combinations were used for testing- glossy and matte, black and white, in combination with cubes, cones, cylinders and spheres. Brittany’s hypothesis was that the “stealthiest” combination would be the one that reflected the least amount of light. She predicted that the most angular shape would also deflect light, or simulated “radar” best, the most angular shape being a cube. She also expected the matt surfaces to be more successful.

She measured the level of reflection of a beam of light off of her various color/shape combinations by using a LUX meter, and recorded the results. Her hypothesis was that the most successful, “radar deflecting” combination would be the matt black cube, and the worst combination, or most “visible” would be the shiny white ball which reflected the most light.

This turned out to be the correct prediction in her research, which she tested multiple times to guarantee accuracy.

Brittany talked about applications for this technology, the most dramatic example being the F117-A aircraft which had no electro-magnetic radar jamming technology, but instead achieved its impressive level of stealth “invisibility” to radar through its angular shape and black surface.

“Most stealth aircraft look more unaerodynamically stable because irregular angles help with invisibility,” she said.

Brittany is interested in light bending technology. She is considering applying to Stanford University or Cornell University in the future.


Brian Ralph, Stony Brook,NY, Paleo, Project AS026, Intel ISEF 2011 Brian Ralph

Brian Patrick Ralph, Smithtown High School West, Smithtown, New York

Age:17. Teacher: Joanne Figueiredo

Intel ISEF 2011 Project: Animal Science

“Understanding the Evolutionary Trends of Basal Dinosauria With Respect to Body Mass Analyses”

Goal: Medical field. Planned Major: Biochemistry.

2011 Intel Science Talent Search, Semi-Finalist,

and American Statistical Association ‘s Certificate
of Honorable Mention

Brian Ralph, aged 17, has been involved in an independent research class at Stony Brook University in New York, where he did his project in paleontology, entitled, “The Evolution of Body Mass in Basal Dinosauria With Respect to Body Mass Analysis.” Brian’s project is a study of the evolutionary trends of basal dinosaurs – the earliest that existed.

By using two computer programs he was able to test models of evolution. Using a known equation, he first calculated the estimated body mass of organisms using their femur (leg) bone length, and formed a database. He then graphed the data using a second program called Bayes Traits. He created phylogenetic trees, showing relationships between organisms. Using statistical tests he was able to show that punctuated evolution was the model followed by basal dinosaurs.

A practical application for punctuated evolution analysis is the ability to pinpoint environmental stresses as possible change factors.

Brian’s interest in biology started in eighth grade when he took an honors biology class, then continued with AP Biology in 10th grade. By 11th grade he started looking for a mentor and with the help of a friend found Dr. Alan Turner, Assistant Professor of Anatomical Science at Stony Brook University. Brian requested an interview, and was given permission to do independent research at the college. He also participated in the Summer Simons Research Fellowship offered at Stony Brook University. Brian is now a senior at Smithtown High School West, in Smithtown, New York.

He recommends to other interested high school students that they look around for research labs in colleges. He also suggested to those students who are serious about studying paleontology, that they consider becoming professors and teach during the year, then in the summers they can go on research digs.

Brian was a semi-finalist this year in the Intel Science Talent Search, considered one of the most prestigious science competitions in the United States. He is planning to attend Stony Brook University Honors College in Long Island, with a major in biochemistry, and is interested in the medical field.


Michael Labbe, Chatanooga, TN, Physics, Positron energy, Intel ISEF 2011, Project PH052 Michael Labbe

Michael Anthony Labbe, Notre Dame High School, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Age:16, Grade 10, Teacher: Carl Anthony Labbe

Intel ISEF 2011 Project: Physics

“Positrons, Elements of Dark Matter”

Inspirations: Family; positrons; scientist Eugene Sänger

Goal: Invent a positron fuel cell; clean energy

Awards: won at the 2011 ISEF: Award of $1,000 – National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance/The Lemelson Foundation

Michael stood quietly in his science fair booth, next to a mysterious looking machine with wide bands of gleaming copper wire wrapped meticulously around large twin cylinders, housed within what looked like a polished steel frame. A meter of some kind was mounted on one side of the device which he built himself, and which he described as “a positron production and containment system.” The title of his project is “Positrons: Elements of Dark Matter.”

Last year, in 9th grade, Michael learned about dark matter, dark energy, and positrons, which he found to be intriguing. A positron is a positively charged sub-atomic particle having the same mass and magnitude of charge as the electron, and constituting the anti-particle of a negative electron.

He also read about a German rocket scientist, Eugene Sänger, who thought it would be possible to use the annihilation of positrons and electrons for rocket thrust, but it penetrated all the materials. So it couldn’t be used effectively as rocket thrust, but inspired him to investigate it as possible clean abundant energy source.

Michael’s goal is to produce and direct positrons, and contain in a magnetic field to be used as an energy source. From there that energy can be used to power something, as in a light bulb.

He explains: “In this experiment I needed a hot electron source which would shoot hot electrons at a high-Z material (or goal). The hot electrons lose energy as they interact with the nuclei of a gold atom. They then form high energy photons which mutually annihilate with the protons located within the gold nuclei spinning off pairs of positrons and electrons. From there the positrons can travel effectively toward the negative side of a magnetic field where they could be used to power an energy source. “

Michael wants to go on from this experiment to develop a positron fuel cell, using the same idea as this experiment on a lower scale (smaller size). This is Michael’s theory – “We don’t know what dark matter is made of,” he said.

Inspiration comes from his family – Michael’s father is a synthetic engineer who works in materials science, and his older sister, now attending the Naval Academy, got him interested in science through her own involvement with science fairs.

Michael aspires to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.


Caleb Gestes, River Ridge, Louisiana. Energy, Intel ISEF 2011 Project #ET063, Lightning in a Bottle Phase 1 Caleb Gestes

Caleb George Gestes, John Curtis Christian School, River Ridge, Metairie, Louisiana

Age: 17, Grade 11, Teacher: Cathy Boucvault

Intel ISEF 2011 Project: Energy

Lightning in a Bottle, Phase 1

Harnessing the power of lightning is the ambitious goal of Caleb Gestes, who calls it “the most powerful force on earth.”

The 17-year-old from Metairie, Louisiana makes a persuasive case for his project, called “Lightning in a Bottle Phase 1.”

According to Caleb, “Lightning can reach over 300,000 volts and is hotter than the surface of the sun. It strikes anywhere at any time in any place and is one of the last natural resources on this earth that we have not utilized for our energy needs. It’s dangerous, unpredictable, and powerful beyond belief, but it is a jackpot of energy we cannot pass by. This project is my first step to working to solve this dilemma and to take use of the power.”

Storms have always fascinated Caleb, and there are plenty of them where he lives in Metairie, Louisiana, which is approximately 7 miles from New Orleans. The state of Louisiana averages 27 tornadoes and 60 days of thunderstorms per year, and the lowlands around New Orleans are vulnerable to cyclones and hurricanes. Metairie was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005, as well as New Orleans, which was devastated.

Caleb expects to conduct his research in stages, and believes a Leyden jar type design is the best way to go about capturing lightning. The first phase of his research involved experimentation to explore different designs of Leyden jars and to determine which design was the most efficient. He used a Van de Graff generator to charge the jars, due to the great similarities between static electricity and lightning. His results showed that the first design ever built was the most efficient

The Leyden jar was invented around 1746. It is a device that collects and stores static electricity, and was a simple but critical breakthrough in the history of electrical power. The Leyden jar was basically the first battery.

For phase two of his research next year, Caleb is planning to use artificial lightning, and will probably need funding.

This is his third year of participation at Intel ISEF, and he also participated in the ISWEEEP Competition in Houston. He always liked to build things and is now interested in the field of engineering. He also enjoys aerospace.

Caleb offered more compelling statistics: “There are 16 million lightning storms in the world every year, and the energy released in just one of these storms is enough to give the entire U.S. power for 20 minutes,” he said.

“I noticed that when you take a picture of lightning and turn it upside down, it looks like a tree – the tree of life,” said Caleb.

“I believe that creating renewable energy sources is not just for us, but to protect the earth for future generations – to protect God’s earth.”


Taylor Wilson, Reno, Nevada, Nuclear Physics, Intel ISEF 2011 Project #PH037 Taylor Wilson

Taylor Wilson, Davidson Academy of Nevada, Reno, Nevada

Age: 16, Junior. Teacher: Elizabeth Walenta

Intel ISEF 2011 Project: Physics

“Countering Nuclear Terrorism:
Novel Active and Passive Techniques for Detecting Nuclear Threats”

Interests: Passionate about applied nuclear physics.

Use applied nuclear physics to solve problems related to national security, nuclear waste, and cancer

won at the 2011 ISEF: Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000; Intel ISEF Best of Category Award of $5,000 for Top First Place Winner – Physics and Astronomy – Presented by Intel

Nuclear physics is Taylor Wilson’s passion. As incredible as it seems, 16-year-old Taylor has been working in applied nuclear physics for six years, has already patented a neutron detector, has been published, holds special licenses to allow him to research, and is working with the Department of Homeland Security on problems of national security related to terrorism.

Highly engaging, articulate, and speaking at a very rapid and almost dizzying pace, Taylor described his project as a small crowd of onlookers moved closer.

“35 million containers go through ports each year in the United States, and anti-terrorists are afraid that terrorists will bring in nuclear materials,” he said. “I am developing a system to scan and detect nuclear radiation.”

The system Taylor has developed for detecting nuclear weapons and materials in cargo containers at ports utilizes active and passive interrogation methods, and constitutes one of the lowest dose, highest sensitivity, interrogation systems reported. Methods were presented to detect small quantities of Uranium 235, weapons-grade Plutonium, as well as highly enriched Uranium.

The Portal Monitor which Taylor developed as a result of his research is consumer and environmentally friendly, cost effective, and significantly more sensitive than systems currently deployed.

This year at Intel ISEF 2011, Taylor Wilson won the $50,000 – Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, and the Intel ISEF Best of Category Award of $5,000 for Top First Place Winner in Physics and Astronomy, presented by Intel.

This is the third year Taylor has participated in the Intel ISEF. Last year he won a trip to CERN, Switzerland to see the largest particle detector/accelerator in the world.

He has built a portable fusion reactor, and is using the byproduct of the reactor to do physics experiments. “At the age of 14, I achieved nuclear fusion. I am the youngest known person ever to do this,” said Taylor enthusiastically.

He holds a patent for a neutron detector, which, prior to his inventing one, he said, had been described as ‘the holy grail of nuclear physics.’

Taylor’s family moved from Arkansas to Reno, Nevada so that he could attend The Davidson Academy, a special school for profoundly gifted children on the campus of the University of Nevada, in Reno. The students work on individualized projects and study at an accelerated pace and in greater depth than they would at a traditional school. Taylor started taking university classes three years ago, and is currently taking all university classes. For his graduate level work, he is thinking about attending the University of California at Berkeley.

Taylor is also interested in working on nuclear applications for the diagnosis of cancer, and solutions for nuclear waste.

“I love to take basic physics and apply it to solving problems,” he said.

2011 Intel ISEF Opening Ceremony The world’s largest high school science research competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, opened up in Los Angeles, Calif. on May 9, 2011.

About Roma Kouyoumdjian
Roma Kouyoumdjian is a communications and marketing major with a background in design. She is interested in ecology, environmentalism, education, and science/engineering education for K-12. Her hobby is gardening. She has three sons and lives in Los Angeles.

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