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City hosts Intel's brilliant minds for science, engineering Fair

| Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
People make their way into the David Lawrence Convention Center Tuesday May 15, 2012 for the Intel ISEF 2012. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The group from Brazil poses for a picture at the David Lawrence Convention Center Tuesday May 15, 2012 at the Intel ISEF 2012. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Imagine a future with a simple treatment for diabetes, or a way to predict earthquakes or an end to catheter infections.

The future arrived in Pittsburgh this week, with about 1,500 students from across the globe who are competing for more than $3 million in prizes in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

"Despite the language barriers, the passion for science is a universal feeling," said Jacob Kimmel, 18, of Satellite Beach, Fla. Kimmel's project involves extracting fat stem cells from a person to create neuronal products that can be transplanted back into a human being for treatment of catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord trama.

"I don't know if I give myself a lot of credit," Kimmel said, of his chances of winning a prize in the competition. "There really is an amazing group of kids here. I'm excited I get to participate."

About 70 countries, regions and territories are represented in the competition, which Intel Corp. bills as the world's largest high school science research competition. The students already won local, state and other competitions to advance to the Pittsburgh fair. Seven local students are amongst those competing for prizes.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is the world's largest manufacturer of microprocessors, the brain inside computers and most smart electronic devices. Intel Foundation is sponoring the fair.

Students said they enjoyed the opportunity to discuss their exhibits with other students, and trade ideas and research tips.

Sathvik Ramanan, 15, of Richland, Washington, said he is lucky to be at the event. The high school sophomore didn't win a regional competition, but went on to win the state competition.

He's working on ways to grow fungi to create more aviation biofuels.

"Anything can happen," he said of his chances of winning. He added that doing research for the competitions made him more comfortable working in a laboratory setting.

Parents Keith and Pam Bidwell of Dayton, said they were happy to see Pittsburgh, along with supporting their daughter, Shannon Bidwell, 17, a high school junior.

Shannon's research on functional magnetic resonance imaging, she said, could lead to changes in the treatment of neurological diseases that are currently treated with medication.

"There's a lot of things she's really good at," Keith Bidwell, a radiologist, said.

The fair is also helping Downtown businesses, and drawing attention to the region. Many of the students, along with their parents, teachers and judges, filled the streets near the convention center, looking for restuarants for lunch. Journalists from Egypt, China, India and other countries are in town, covering the event and profiling students.

VisitPittsburgh said an estimated 11,000 visitors will spend an estimated $8.4 million, including 14,000 hotel room nights in Pittsburgh. The fair is expected to be one of the top five events at the convention center this year.

Exhibits will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, with thousands of visitors and students expected. Admission is free.

Top prizes at the fair include the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award, named for Intel's co-founder and retired CEO, and two $50,000 awards.

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