A 17-year-old Canadian has earned first place at Intel's 2015 International Science and Engineering Fair, which the company claims is the biggest high school science competition in the world. Raymond Wang's system to improve air quality in airplane cabins scooped the US$75,000 top prize ahead of a low-cost HIV testing device and a new containment enclosure for undersea oil wells.
Around 1,700 students from 78 countries were selected to participate in this year's fair. A 15-year-old called Nathan Han took out the top prize last year for his software that detects cancer-causing genes.
This year's winner of the event's $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award developed an air inlet system for airplane cabins. Wang's system increases the amount of fresh air entering the cabin by more than 190 percent while at the same time reducing the concentration of pathogens in the air by up to 55 times compared to conventional designs. His system can be incorporated into existing airplanes with little difficulty or cost.
Two $50,000 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards were also handed out. One recipient was Nicole Ticea, a 16-year-old from Canada who developed a low-cost, easy-to-use and electricity-free testing device for HIV. The device is expected to cost less than $5 to manufacture, and it's intended for low-income communities where undiagnosed HIV infections are prevalent. Ticea has already founded her own company and received a $100,000 grant to further develop the technology.
The other Young Scientist Award went to 18-year-old Texan Karan Jerath, who developed a better containment enclosure that should allow undersea oil wells to quickly and safely recover after a blowout. The enclosure separates natural gas, oil, and water; works with a variety of water depths, fluid compositions, and pipe sizes; and prevents the formation of methane hydrate that could potentially clog the pipes.
Jerath, Ticea, and Wang weren't the only enterprising young scientists recognized for their innovations. Around 600 others received awards and prizes amounting to $4 million in total, including 20 who each took home a $5,000 Best of Category prize.
The awards were judged this year by 1,000 judges spanning nearly every scientific discipline, each of whom holds a Ph.D. or the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.