UK students win top science prizes

8th June 2001 at 01:00
A major science fair looks at pupils' achievements and raises concerns for the future, writes Justin Stevens.

The 52nd Intel International Science And Engineering Fair (ISEF) held in San Jose celebrated the amazing achievements of the world's next generation of scientists, and there were four UKwinners.

Jonathan Friend, aged 18, of King Edward's High school in Birmingham won third place and a prize of $1,000 in the computer science category with his "Secure digital music distribution" project. Jonathan's SoundTrak software enables music to be compressed into a much smaller file size than MP3 files, as well as achieving higher audio quality. Files can also be distributed securely over the Internet. The software has attracted a lot of interest from major music publishing companies, yet strangely enough, Jonathan does not like any form of music!

Patrick Donnelly and Terence Carmichael, both aged 19, from Saint Patrick's College, County Derry, won third place and pound;1,000 in the engineering team projects. In their project, "Cluck-a-doodle-doo!" they manufactured a wireless temperature monitoring system for cooking chickens to an exact temperature in an industrial oven.

Richard John Davies, James Palmer and Neil Roques (all aged 18) from Bassaleg comprehensive in Newport, south Wales, won $1,000 and third place in the engineering team projects category for their "Anti-static tape application on a robotic assembly". Richard, James and Neil's project improves part of the television manufacturing process at local company LG Electronics. Their patented prototype is being developed by LG Electronics in Korea, with plans to introduce the improvement into factories this year.

Sharon Matchett, aged 18, of Grosvenor Grammar, Belfast, won second place and pound;150 in the patent cateory of the Government Awards, as well as fourth place in the best of category in engineering and a further $500. Sharon's project, "Maternity seatbelt", was for a garment that protects a pregnant woman during vehicle travel.

Intel assumed sponsorship of ISEF in 1997 and all UK entrants received travel sponsorship from it.

In his ISEF 2001 keynote address, "Life is a random walk", Intel president Andrew Grove urged the audience to "invest yourself in areas you enjoy and results will follow". With more than 1,200 students from 38 countries competing for $3 million in scholarships and prizes at the fair, the results of investing in what you enjoy were evident to see. Students were judged on the creative ability, scientific thought, thoroughness, skill and clarity of their projects.

Yet despite the variety of science and engineering projects on show and the high quality of entries, representatives of Intel, in Silicon Valley, expressed concern for the future, with the declining interest in maths and science among students.

Carlene Ellis, vice-president of education, expressed concern over the dumbing-down of calculus and hard science courses. "We must encourage kids to see the joy of broad sciences," Ellis says, and believes the Internet could prove a great enabler of this.

If you want to enter future ISEFs you can :Enter the British Youth Science Fair organised with the British 0207 973 3500Enter British regional computer challenges organised by local Science and Technology Regional Offices (SATROs). Overall co-ordinator is John Trickett of Wessex SATROTel: 01225 Young Innovators run by Northern Ireland Science and Technology Regional OfficesTel: 028 9036 6682

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