Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of "Arizona technology and innovation," nearly 900 students are showing off their science skills this week at the Arizona science and engineering fair. It's taking place downtown at the Phoenix Convention Center. Another huge science contest concluded last month in Washington D.C. where the winners of the 2011 Intel science talent search were announced.
>> The first place winner of the 2011 Intel science talent search and the recipient of a $100,000 award, from Danville, California and venture school, Evan ODORNEY. [Applause]
Ted Simons: A California student won the top ward for high school seniors sponsored by Intel and the society for science and the public. Arizona was represented by a student from Basha High School in Chandler. Earlier I spoke with Scott Boisvert and Kathleen Barton, Intel's education manager about the competition.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us on Horizon. Scott, what exactly did your research project look at?
Scott Boisvert: My research project was looking at fungus that’s causing extensions across the globe. I was trying to find different chemicals in the water to stop the growth of the fungus.
Ted Simons: Why did you look at that particular research? What got you going?
Scott Boisvert: This fungus is actually causing the largest extinction since the dinosaurs so there’s been many problems because of it and especially in southern Arizona and Latin America there's been many problems because of this fungus and so I was help add to the cause and try to find something that could potentially stop it --
Ted Simons: How did you hear about something like this?
Scott Boisvert: So there's been many publications. A few years ago was actually the year of the frog and that helped out a lot of knowledge about it, there was many documentaries about it on PBS on other channels that helped spur my knowledge in it and see my interest and value in doing it – the project about this fungus.
Ted Simons: These projects, obviously very important in terms of education. Is this what the Intel science search is looking for? Talk about the science search in general.
Kathleen Barton: Absolutely. We've been a supporter of the Intel science talent search for the last 13 years and it's really about helping to create the next generation of innovators and the projects represent the preeminent high school research in the country and they're going to help to solve the global challenges, everything from curing cancer and figuring out amphibian extinction and maybe the sustainability of the planet.
Ted Simons: And again without getting into too much detail here, started back in the 40’s I guess with Westinghouse. Intel's been involved how long now?
Kathleen Barton: For the last 13 years and we're the main supporter of the program. And it brings together 40 students -- Scott was one the 40 finalists. It started with a field of 300 and actually almost 1800 students made applications of their research early on and they came to Washington D.C. to defend their research and meet with other students and meet with Nobel laureates and then celebrated and rewarded for the excellent achievements they have.
Ted Simons: As far as your research is concerned, how did you perform this study? What did you do, exactly?
Scott Boisvert: So I was working at Arizona State University in a lab there with Doctor Elizabeth Davidson and I would sample water from natural amphibian habitats and then have this water chemically analyzed and grow the fungus and observe how much it grew and moved and the different water environments and then correlate the two using different distilled techniques and then overall, I ended up getting a list of potential chemicals that would be influential in the growth and movement of the fungus.
Ted Simons: What about the variables were you close to industrial facilities, were you out there in the woods, southern Arizona, were you up in northern Arizona? Talk about to us about that.
Scott Boisvert: So I actually stratified out Arizona into the main watersheds and sampled from everywhere across the state. From sites close to urban areas to sites close to mining facilities and to really rural areas up in northern Arizona, I did the whole spectrum.
Ted Simons: You have natural contaminants and you do have industrial runoff effecting this particular disease?
Scott Boisvert: There could be potentially run-off from different cities, definitely natural contaminants, what I was looking at, specifically, was inorganic chemicals in the water and how they played a role in the growth and movement of the fungus.
Ted Simons: Were you surprised by what you found?
Scott Boisvert: I was definitely surprised, but definitely in a good way, I was able to find a lot more chemicals being influential in the growth than I had originally perceived and because of this, there's a lot more potential avenues for future research and building upon my experiment.
Ted Simons: For the research that Scott is doing and other obviously educationally scientific minded kids are doing -- students are doing, what are the challenges right now in terms of education? And talk about high tech and technology and computers. It just seems like it's a different world than even a few years ago.
Kathleen Barton: Well it is and I think there’s some real positive opportunities with technology. When you think about it, you can potentially bring the research that -- researcher that Scott is working with if she has technology in her lab, or a researcher from China or anywhere around the globe into a classroom doing research and Scott went out and found researchers on his own. Someone at ASU. But imagine if you don’t have that access if you lived in a rural area, potentially through technology, you can be able to talk with a researcher, use Skype to talk with them or bring them into a classroom through some type of technology.
Ted Simons: Is Intel seeing in the talent search I should say, are you seeing different difference experiments? Different kinds of students with different knowledge with that advancing technology?
Kathleen Barton: Absolutely. A couple of things about the search and the international science and engineering fair, it's evenly split between young men and women who participate in the fair and that's a change over the last number of years, but the breadth and quality of the experiments that the students are doing is amazing. Colleagues that Scott was with did everything from research only separation anxiety of students with their cell phones to how bumps on wing's surfaces might affect the velocity -- aerodynamically affect velocity. And then Scotts research, so these students are really presenting a very very wide variety.
Ted Simons: Do you see yourself continuing in the line of aquatic research of disease -- what do you see, what do you see in your future?
Scott Boisvert: Some of my future -- I'm actually -- I want to move into more of a medical direction and be a physician of some sort, and hopefully go toward an MD PHD Degree and do clinic research of some kind.
Ted Simons: I think a lot of our viewers would be interested to know, when did you -- you're still a young man, somewhere along the line -- but a lot of people want to be a fireman, a cop, a football player. When did you decide you wanted to study science, get involved in math and science?
Scott Boisvert: I've always been interested in medicine, but one the biggest contributing factors to me going into more of a science field is actually in the eighth grade year when I went to the Intel international science fair as an observer and that was a great opportunity for me. I got to participate in all the activities that all the kids do and got to meet from all over the world and it was a ton of fun and I knew I wanted to go back and engage in a deeper level of research.
Ted Simons: Was this something that your family was interested in? So when you were very young you tinkered around. Is there a teacher out there that inspired you? Again, a science fair is great but something has to keep you going there too doesn’t it?
Scott Boisvert: Yeah so definitely my family has been a great supporter. My dad is an engineer that works in research and development. And over the years I have had teachers that have really helped encouraged me to go into any field that I see as being able it like and enjoy myself in and definitely, research is one of those fields that I've recently acquired a great interest for.
Ted Simons: And Kathleen, that is the goal isn’t it? To get someone who has that interest, to keep it sparked, to keep it going and to find some other kids that may even want to be -- maybe a baseball or football player and all of a sudden they see science and math and they go, that's not too bad either.
Kathleen Barton: Absolutely. That's why at Intel we're investing $100 million in the Science competitions, in the Intel science talent search and the Intel international science and engineering fair so that we can create these opportunities for students to share their research and to advance and make the friends they've made and hopefully when we honor them the way we did in Washington D.C. and make them feel like rock stars maybe that will also then inspire and motivate other students to become the next generation of researchers and innovators.
Ted Simons: And we should say, $20,000. Not too shabby
Scott Boisvert: Not too bad at all.
Ted Simons: Not bad work if you could get it in high school huh?
Scoot Boisvert: Yupp.
Ted Simons: Well congratulations, great job and good luck with your future
Scott Boisvert: Thank you so much.
Ted Simons: And great job with you as well.
Kathleen Barton: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.