BOSTON — It's easy to overlook the incredible learning that takes place in our high schools when so much of what we talk about is budgets, testing, and "no child left behind."
Thanks to competitions like the Intel Science Talent Search, we can turn our focus to a couple of Massachusetts high school students and the innovations in Mathematics that led both of them to America's oldest and most prestigious, pre-college science competition. The Intel STS began awarding cash prizes to the country's top teenage researchers seventy years ago, and the list of alumni includes people who have gone on to earn more than 100 of the world’s most distinguished honors, including seven Nobel Prizes and four National Medals of Science.
All forty finalists are awarded cash prizes, ranging from $7,500 to the $100,000 grand prize. To enter the competition, students submit written reports of scientific research they have conducted during the school year. It's an extensive application, demonstrating creativity and interest in science, and requires supporting documents from schools, advisors and mentors.
Both He and Ding expressed surprise at becoming finalists, but they told Kara they have enjoyed their time in Washington D.C. with the other 38 students from across the U.S. Both young men entered the competition with research in Mathematics. He did his project at MIT. Using computer programming, He proved that certain types of rules are universal, in the sense that they can model all other rules, and in the process he gained insight into the symmetries and structure of rotor-routers. Ding has improved our understanding of representation theory of infinitesimal Cherednik algebras. Representation theory is a topic in algebra concerning symmetries of vector spaces.
While in Washington, D.C., the finalists meet leading scientists, visit historic places and meet with distinguished national leaders. Students display their research at the National Geographic Society where they describe their work to visitors. The video below, from the Society for Scientists, shows interviews with last year's finalists and will give you an idea of what Xiaoyu and David's week as STS finalists was like:
Kara Miller As a radio host, Kara Miller has interviewed thinkers from E.J. Dionne to Howard Gardner, Deepak Chopra to Lani Guinier. She is a panelist on WGBH-TV's "Beat the Press," as well as an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, The National Journal, The Boston Herald, Boston Magazine, and The International Herald Tribune.