Alese & Morton Pechter
have traveled the globe, writing and photographing everything exciting
we could discover but found some of our most inspiring travels very
close to home. There is nothing more uplifting than to see youngsters
involved and enthusiastic about activities that take them beyond
Recently we have had the pleasure of being present at the finals
of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)
Robotics International Competition held in Orlando, Florida and
the National Science and Engineering Competitions held locally,
regionally, statewide and then finally at the Intel International
Science and Engineering Competitions which were held this year in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. FIRST also has local and regional competitions.
As a parent, grandparent or teacher, you have probably been involved
in one of those school science projects at some time in your life,
but have you ever seen the best of these projects in one auditorium
with bright eyed, enthusiastic young people just waiting for the
chance to tell you about their discoveries? The National Science
& Engineering Competitions take place all over the world and all
have days when the public is invited to view the materials and hear
about the projects. You can spend the day at your child's school
... or visit one of the regional or State sites ... and if you want
to see the best of the best you can travel to the Internationals.
We were present in Philadelphia for the 1999 finals. Next year the
Internationals will be held May 7-13, 2000 in Detroit, Michigan.
At the local level, you will probably know most of the participants
and can be so proud of your schools, teachers and students for what
they have accomplished. You will see the beginnings of the future
of our country. At the State and International level the young people
have achieved one step higher in accomplishment. It is inspiring
to see literally thousands of great young kids all participating
in good, creative projects.
STATE SCIENCE AND
State Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) of Florida ... that is
the one we attended ... is a three day display of science project
exhibits prepared by aspiring scientists and engineers in grades
six through twelve. Nearly a thousand finalists were present. During
the event, students had the opportunity to share their ideas with
one another, increase their personal development in scientific and
technological areas, gain self-confidence and participate in educational
field trips and tours of local areas of interest ... as well as
visit Sea World and have their social blast, Social Fusion, at the
Orlando Science Center.
State competition this year was held at the University of Central
Florida in Orlando. A previous year, we had attended when it was
at FAU in Boca Raton, Florida. The categories and projects can be
mind-boggling. We saw projects in Behavorial and Social Sciences;
Biochemistry; Botony; Chemistry; Computer Science; Earth and Space
Science; Physics; Microbiology .... and the list goes on. There
are separate competitions for individuals and for teams who want
to work together. Have you ever looked into the eye of a 12year
old and had him tell you about his project: "Interferometric Measurements
Using Holography in Photorefractive Crystals"? ... and that is at
the State level! Awards are given in many diverse categories consisting
of ribbons, plaques, monies, books, internships and scholarships.
INTEL INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE
AND ENGINEERING FAIR:
year, 1999, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
(ISEF) ... was held where it all began, in Philadelphia, PA., with
30 projects from 13 local and regional fairs. The first ISEF was
held in 1950. This year there were over 1200 projects from 500 fairs
representing countries around the globe. During the Intel ISEF,
students, teachers, mentors, scientists and guest Nobel Laureates
gather to exchange ideas and make new friends at the only international
science and engineering competition for high school students in
This fair was huge. A portion of the Philadelphia convention center
was utilized to house it. For the 1200 projects they had over 900
judges with representatives not only from the United States but
places like American Samoa, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Chile,
Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Malaysia, Netherlands ... a total
of approximately 50 countries. The participants ranged in age from
12 to 20 yrs; 51% were males, 49% females.
At this level, the awards are on a grander scale ... government,
professional and educational organizations provide scholarships,
internships, book and equipment grants and scientific field trips
to selected finalists. The companies participating in the awards
would fill the Dow Jones registry; the universities are among the
most prestigious in the country.
The students come to demonstrate their expertise but really look
forward to the social mixers, visiting the "special" places in the
host city, and making some new, lifetime friends.
What saddens us is that these wonderful youngsters very seldom
make the newspaper headlines. In fact, when we were in Orlando for
the State Science & Engineering finals, the newspapers were filled
with news of atrocities committed by a few disturbed youngsters
..... but there was not one word, even in the local papers, about
these thousands of wonderful, bright, productive young people who
will determine the future for all of us!
if you think these children are all books and studies you have it
all wrong. Of course, in these projects, the emphasis is on science,
mathematics and engineering but when the youngsters get together
they are typical of all ... they share ideas, laugh, joke, have
a great time partying, sight seeing and get to enjoy meeting and
interacting with others from around the globe. The trip to Orlando
for the State competition was filled with side excursions to local
universities and Sea World. In Philadelphia the crowds of youngsters
were treated to the Liberty Bell; Independence Hall and party after
party, including a gala 50th anniversary party ... humongous cake
FIRST ROBOTICS COMPETITION:
The FIRST Robotics Competition really overwhelmed us. ... It may
sound lofty but you have never seen so many kids have so much fun
working together on a project. At FIRST they "see a world where
science and technology are celebrated, where kids think that science
is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen, is President and owner of DEKA Research
& Development, a New Hampshire based corporation specializing in
advanced technologies in medical equipment as well as being Chairman
and owner of Teletrol Systems, Inc., a manufacturer of electronic
environmental control systems for commercial and industrial buildings.
He has received several Honorary Doctorates for his accomplishments
and a special award for his "innovative and imaginative leadership
in awakening America to the excitement of technology and its surpassing
importance in bettering the lot of mankind."
But all of that is statistics about an enthused, exciting, warm,
effervescent young man who has the ability to make others see the
visions that he has for the kind of future our children will have.
If you hear him speak, you can feel the electricity. No wonder he
has been able to gather the top people and companies in science
and engineering to be part of his FIRST program.
His Board of Directors, Advisory Board, judges and contributors
come from among the presidents and CEO's of the top companies in
the country: Paul Allaire, Chairman & CEO of Zerox; Ralph Larsen,
Chairman & CEO of Johnson & Johnson; Gary Tooker, Chairman of Motorola;
Michael Bonsignore, Chairman & CEO of Honeywell; Dr. Allan Bromley,
Dean of Engineering at Yale University; John Pepper, Chairman &
CEO of Proctor & Gamble; Judson Green, President of Walt Disney
Attractions, Inc. .... among scores of others.
The competition is demanding and awesome. Teams are put together
locally ... from a small group of a few engineers and high school
students to a small army of engineers, students, faculty and parents.
The purpose of this team is to design and assemble and build a robot
from a standard set of metal, motor and electrical raw materials.
But the team consists of more than engineers and science oriented
youngsters. The group effort involves such diverse aspects as financing
the project, coordinating logistics, arranging press coverage for
their team, documenting the impact their team has made in the community
... all aspects of a total group effort.
than having high school students as the robot operators and on field
players, there are no other rules that specify who else should be
on a team. There is room on the team for students with many differing
skills. An art student can design the team's logo; a computer whiz
can develop a web page; a math student may calculate the required
geometry for the robot; a vocational training student can build
the robot and someone who likes to write can be the publicist and
handle press relations. Monies are also a factor so many take on
the task of fund raising for the team and budgeting the finances.
The competition requires an intense six week project for which
industries and universities team with local high schools to design,
construct and control a remotely operated vehicle for a sports based
playoff whose objective changes each year.
This is a large scale engineering competition which shows youth
that no other career compares to one in space and engineering. Each
team starts off with the same standard kit of parts and uses their
creativity to design and build a vehicle capable of performing a
demanding task better than two opponents. Teams made up of high
school students, industrial engineers, and, sometimes university
students join together in this hands-on project to build a better
We were impressed by the fact that many districts had inner city
school students working with youngsters from private schools. Children
who had never thought of science and college and advanced study
of any kind socialized and worked with those who took higher achievement
for granted. The camaraderie and team spirit of all was obvious.
grandeur of the actual competition, the cheering and screaming hords
of young people urging on their teams, the enthusiasm in thousands
of high school students' faces .... all make this an event extra-ordinaire.
Football and basketball may have their afficionados but the exuberance
and exhilaration of these participants and onlookers can match the
clamor displayed at any sports arena .
Each team comes armed with logos, handouts of all kinds and shapes,
pins (that are readily exchanged and treasured as collector items),
cheerleaders, songs, banners and anything they can dream of that
will promote their group and garner more cheering throngs in the
Of course there are awards given at the completion of the competition.
There are plaques, scholarships, ribbons, monies, etc.... in many,
many different categories....not only the one with the most points.
Very important to this competition is the effect the project has
on the whole local community and how the team is able to encourage
others to follow studies in science and engineering.
The award we liked best was not even given by the officials of
this event. While visiting with one of the teams in the pit area,
we were regaled by another team coming to visit them. They had brought
with them their own awards and had decided that this particular
team was worthy of their special award for ... best use of materials.
A beautiful plaque was presented, to the unsuspecting group ....
songs were sung, hugs and handshakes exchanged by students from
different parts of the country .... and then each went on with his
own business for the day. The team receiving this most gracious
award was new to the competition and an award from their peers was
overwhelming to them. It was this fabulous spirit that we saw during
the whole competition.
We do believe an event of this type, with 22,000 finalists participating
... involved in an educationally enriching, teamwork oriented project
... with both participants and onlookers hoarse from the excitement
... is one that should certainly obtain more press coverage and
encouragement so that many more of us could know and understand
how great the majority of our kids really are.
1999, we know that one of the regionals took place at the Kennedy
Space Center in Florida and the final competition was at EPCOT at
Disney in Orlando, Florida. It was not even necessary to pay for
entry to the park area. The group is so large that Disney had set
up a portion of the EPCOT parking lot (you would never recognize
it as a parking lot!) ... with two huge stadiums for the competition
and an air-conditioned covered building (constructed just for this
event) .... that was the size of three football fields .... that
was the "pit" area for the teams. Each team had its own space where
they could assemble the robot together and make repairs and adjustments
before going out to the competition stages. Visitors can roam through
this building and chat with the students and team leaders at some
time during the competition days. The event is scheduled typically
around April and hopefully will be at Disney again for the year
Check out your local schools. Many of them enter competitions of
this kind each year ... they build cars; human-powered submarines;
enter academic bowls; math competitions .... you name it and there
is probably a competitive team or group in your area. Go see these
kids doing their "thing". It will be the best traveling you will
do and you will see, as we have seen, that our future, the ones
that these youngsters will control, is in very good hands. Better
yet, why not volunteer your services to help. They are always in
need of enthusiastic adults who bring wisdom and new energies to
Contact your local school
Several local schools that participated in 1999 ....
St. Andrews School .... Boca Raton
Hollywood Hills High School ...
Hollywood Mast Academy Cordis ... Miami Lakes
Miami Coral Park Senior High School ... Miami
Dillard High School ... Plantation
North Miami Beach Senior High School ... North Miami Beach
Palm Beach Gardens High School ... West Palm Beach
The Benjamin School ... West Palm Beach
North Broward Preparatory Science & Engineering Schools ... North
At the State & International level ....
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology)
Sandra Darah, Coordinator
200 Bedford Street
Manchester, New Hampshire 03101
FLORIDA STATE SCIENCE & ENGINEERING FAIR
Mary Jo Koroly, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Precollegiate Education & Training
Chief Executive Officer, Florida Foundation for Future Scientists
334 Yon Hall
P.O. Box 112010
Gainesville, Florida 32611-2010
INTEL INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE & ENGINEERING FAIR
Date: May 7-13,
2000 in Detroit, Michigan.
Science Service, Inc.
Director of Development & Public Relations
1719 N. Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20036-2888