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SPIE judges award prizes, gain inspiration at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

31 May 2013

Bill Arnold, Bernd Geh at Intel Science and Engineering Fair

SPIE volunteer judges including Bill Arnold, left, and Bernd Geh were impressed with the creativity, resourcefulness, and dedication to problem-solving they saw among Intel science and engineering fair entries.


PHOENIX, USA -- For the volunteer judges, the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix was more than a chance to give back to the community. As one of five judges representing SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, observed, it was also a chance to gain some inspiration from the next generation.

"I was afraid to meet 1,600 'Sheldon Coopers' (referencing a character on the CBS television series 'The Big Bang Theory'), with the IQ of every single one of them surpassing my own," said first-time judge Bernd Geh, executive staff scientist at Carl Zeiss SMT.

While the scientific depth and equipment resources varied among projects, he said, "most works had one thing in common: young people who truly care for the problems of this planet and who display an impressive amount of creativity and dedication to do their part to help keep moving forward as a society."

The ISEF, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world's largest pre-college science competition, with finalists competing for more than $4 million in awards from ISEF and organizations including SPIE. Students are able to compete after winning a top prize from one of 454 affiliate fairs in more than 70 countries, regions, and territories. This year's event ran 12-17 May.

SPIE judges evaluated 86 projects based on students' abstracts, and selected 14 candidates to interview at their posters.

Along with Geh, the judging team included Amit Ashok, assistant professor at the College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona; Bill Arnold, SPIE President and chief executive scientist at ASML, US; Eustace Dereniak, SPIE Immediate Past President and professor at the College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona; and Shahab Chitchian, senior process engineer at Intel Corp.

"A combination of SPIE judges from academia and industry helped us to have better selection process and see all aspects of the abstracts," Chitchian said.

London Bolsius, Michael Janner, Timm Piper at ISEF
SPIE Optics and Photonics Special Award winners, from
left, London Bolsius, Michael
Janner, and Timm Piper

Selected for SPIE's Optics and Photonics Special Awards were:

● First place ($2,500), London Bolsius (Round Rock High School, USA) for his "3D Scanner." Bolsius built a 3D scanner with Lego parts and software algorithms that he obtained partly by using open source code from the internet and partly by developing his own methods.

● Second place ($1,500), Michael Janner (Redlands East Valley High School, USA) for his "Assembly of Magnetic Particles and Magnetic Holes into 1D, 2D, and 3D Photonics Crystals." Janner used microscopic magnetic particles to produce radiant colors using interference effects.

● Third place ($1,000), Timm Piper (Martin-von-Cochem-Gymnasium, Germany), for his "New and Improved Insights into the Microcosm: Multimodal Light Microscopy with Bright, Darkfield and Phase Contrast ... ." Piper used a modified microscope to obtain contrast-rich images of phase object samples by combining dark field, phase contrast, and differential interference contrast methods.

SPIE judges gave three Honorable Mention awards ($250) as well, to:

Szu-Jung Wu and Shiang-Wen Huang (National Hsinchu Girls' Senior High School, Taiwan), for "Fish-eye Like Spot Magnifier with Low Cognitive Load for Image Browsing." Inspired by the optical effect of a fish-eye lens, the students designed and implemented a mechanism to "zoom" into the information content of a display without losing the context to the whole picture, to help manage the information explosion of our cyber age.

Andrea Marie Albaladejo Quiles (Puerto Rico), for "Effect of Conversion of the Sunlight into Electricity of the Kyllinga brevifolia." Quiles had noticed on her father's farmland an abundance of a native species of sedge (Kyllinga brevifolia) considered to be a weed, and developed ways to use this plant to enhance the electrolysis effect by exploiting photosynthesis. Her objective was to find a way to help support the world's increasing energy demand.

Rikhav Shah (Lake Highland Preparatory School, USA), for "Fluorescent Quantum Dots as a Solid-Phase Detection Medium for Heavy-Metal Contaminates in Drinking Water." Shah used the fact that heavy metals suppress the fluorescence effect of quantum dots to design a simple and portable test method to detect heavy metal in drinking water. 

"This is a very high-energy event," Arnold said. "It is very exciting to see the high level of achievement attained by persons who are not yet out of high school. Our winners all have fine chances for further success in optics and photonics and we wish them all the luck in the world."

Ashok agreed, saying, "I was impressed with the resourcefulness, ingenuity, and creativity of these young minds who are surely on a path to become future scientists and engineers.".

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.


Media contact:
Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager, SPIE
+1 360 685 5478