PITTSBURGH — Dr. John Shiber, professor of biology at the Prestonsburg campus of Big Sandy Community & Technical College, served as a grand awards judge at the 63rd annual International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh last month.
The ISEF is a program of the Society for Science & the Public, an organization that promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education everywhere in the world. Sponsored by the Intel Foundation, over $3 million in awards and prizes are conferred in this competition.
Shiber was among hundreds of science, math and engineering professors volunteering their time and expertise to judge science projects of high school students, representing 16 countries and 30 U.S. states, who had won top prizes in their respective regional or country-wide science fairs. Over 1,500 projects competed, and 19 of them were from Kentucky.
No stranger to the ISEF (three times a grand awards judge), Dr. Shiber reviewed and critiqued student projects in the category of animal sciences, one of the 17 disciplines represented by this year’s entries.
“It was not an easy job,” Shiber said, “because every project was unique and each student meticulously followed the scientific method. It is really amazing to see how creative they were. All the students I interviewed had done top-notch work.”
Two-thirds of the “Best in Category” winners were American, from high schools in California, Connecticutt, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The remaining winners were from Canada, India and Kazakhstan. All of them won $5,000 and their respective schools received a $1,000 grant for science education. The category winner for Animal Sciences, in which Dr. Shiber judged, went to the student from Pennsylvania.
The two second prizes of $50,000 each went to Canadian Nicholas Schiefer (Computer Science), who developed a method to improve computer search engine capabilities, and to American Ari Dyckovsky (Physics & Astronomy), from Virginia, whose project, dealing with the science of quantum teleportation, has potential for being very useful to national security.
American Jack Andraka (Medicine & Health) from Crownesville, Md., took the 2012 ISEF Grand Prize of $75,000. He had developed a new method of detecting pancreatic cancer.
“It is very heartening to see so many young people, especially from the U.S., really serious about science,” says Shiber. “Our country ranks very low in the world in both science (22nd) and math (27th) education, but the work of these students proves that we still have the capacity to once again excel in these areas. My hat goes off to all of them and the teachers who mentor them!”