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Hi there! My name is Sophia and this year I was able to participate at Intel ISEF because of the amazing opportunity that was offered by the CT STEM Fair, so firstly, I’d like to thank the sponsors for providing this opportunity. Now that I look back at ISEF, I can definitively say that it was one of the most memorable and amazing opportunities that I have had thus far because of how easy it was to communicate with others’ about the ideas that we (the finalists’) had of the future. It was just so inspiring to be surrounded by individuals in so many different countries and from so many different ethnicities that had such diverse ideas that could truly change the world.

On the first day of Intel ISEF, we had this really great pin exchange ceremony in which we were able to exchange little pieces of our own state or country with other finalists’. I was able to receive pins from so many different countries (i.e Russia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, South Korea, etc.) I was also able to communicate my ideas and take photos with them, so I can cherish these memories forever! When I got back to the hotel, the first thing that I did was FaceTime my friends back home and show them how great the pins were (needless to say, they were really excited!)

On the second day of Intel ISEF (on Monday), we went in the morning to go set up our poster boards. I had my project approved by the committee there and I met a couple of kids that had set up around me. Through the duration of a single week, I can definitively say that the person that had the poster board set up next to me is going to be a friend for life (we shared so many stories about our projects and how we wanted to change the world of science!) The CT STEM delegation then went on a mini field trip around Pittsburgh and we went on a duck tour around the city where we got to see the historic steel areas and some of the sports destinations around Pittsburgh. We also went on the incline up a mountain right across the river (The Allegheny River I believe) that coal miners used to use. At night, we went to a closing ceremony that had amazing performers (such a cool DJ as well). We heard a speech about Artificial Intelligence from an Australian professor that really inspired me to connect my project to AI for the future.

On the third day of ISEF, we first went to go to the Intel Quad. The Quad was so much fun because they had so many Virtual Reality sets that were set up and some musical instruments and arts and crafts activities set up. The Intel Quad was supposed to be an area for us to all unwind and decompress because the very next day would be our presentation day that we were all dreading to some extent. In the afternoon, we attended a few of these really cool panels for Science excellence. The first panel that we went to was with previous Intel ISEF finalists like ourselves who had used the ideas that they presented years ago at Intel ISEF and built a business from it. It was truly inspiring because I began to see how Intel ISEF is much more than just a fair and rather, it is a forum for people to communicate science and build massive futures with them if they make their own opportunities. The next panel was with these Nobel Prize Laureates and that, of course, was fantastic because we got their ideas of how to continue on with scientific research even when expectations fail! We were able to get a picture with one particular scientist who had won a national award and it was, of course, very exciting! That night, all the finalists got to go to a Student Mixer where there was lots of dancing and talking!

On the fourth day of ISEF, we had to present our projects (which was quite stressful to be honest). Personally, I got a few contacts to actually expand my project into a business. I also got the contact information for the former President of a National Geoscience Institution in the United States. Even though there were a few tougher presentations, overall, it was a fantastic experience! That night, we got to go to Heinz Field for some food and then go to the Carnegie Center. The Carnegie Center was such a great hosting location because there were so many activities that were occurring simultaneously. For instance, I was able to watch a laser light show while other people were able to watch a feature film in the basement of the museum. What a way to decompress!

On the fifth day of ISEF, it was Public Viewing Day! I presented to so many different students and adults. I loved presenting to younger kids because they were so interested in my topic and I got to test my ability to explain complex ideas and methodology in simpler languages. During the public viewing day, the former secretary of the interior under the Obama Administration actually stopped by my project to say hello since she was really interested in looking at Geoscience projects. After the public viewing time, the CT STEM chaperones took us to see the Carnegie Natural History Museum, which I personally really enjoyed just because it had a pretty massive dinosaur exhibit (and I like dinosaurs!) At night, we attended this special awards ceremony and I met up with my friends from Florida and we clapped a lot for every single award winner. I was so incredibly honored to be awarded two special awards. I received one award from the United States Air Force where they picked one project per category. I also received a third place award from the Society for Experimental Mechanics which was really great because at the end of the week at ISEF, someone actually gave me a way to contact them if ever I needed aide in my project.

On the last day of ISEF, it was the Grand Award Ceremony. I was so excited whenever someone from Connecticut had won an award. I was so honored to win a third place award in the category of Earth and Environmental Sciences! At the end of the ceremony, we were all so happy for all the finalists that had come to ISEF because the level of science, grit, and talent in the room was just simply fantastic! Afterwards, we were actually able to visit a tech company called Petuum which had expanded to have more than 100 employees! We were able to visit because my dad had actually went to school with the co-founder and she wanted to come meet us and give us a tour! The company aimed to make Artificial Intelligence more accessible! At the end of the day, after we had landed in New York, there was such a bitter sweet moment for me at least because the people that I had come with to Intel ISEF were such fantastic people. They were both seniors so they would be going to college next year but I am still a sophomore so I was sad that I wouldn’t get a chance to compete with them like this again because they were such great people and friends!

At the end of Intel ISEF, I had won a total of 3 awards (2 special and 1 regular) and $2,750. The money was absolutely amazing because I knew that every dollar of it was going to go towards bettering my project so that I can (hopefully!) have the opportunity to compete here again and also, so that my project can be applied to help the community!

I have been working on my project for two years and I plan to continue to work on it through high school and even through college! My project is about detecting sinkholes before they collapse through the usage of sensor networks and over the summer, I have secured a partnership with a company based in China to actually work with sensor manufacturers and design a marketable product. I am also currently working on securing various locations to test out these much more massive sinkhole simulations as compared to what I’m working on this year. I am also working on creating a phone application so that there is a more user friendly interface that can send SMS alerts if ever there was any danger of an impending sinkhole. I also plan on applying Artificial Intelligence to my project to prevent possible false sinkhole alerts. There are a lot of things in the works for next year! Intel ISEF has given me a definite increase in inspiration for this project because I realize how important science and engineering is and how many people/judges truly want this project to succeed for the better of the community!

I had such a fantastic experience this year that I will be working non stop crazy to better my project so that I can possibly have the opportunity to present a more innovative project at Intel ISEF next year!

Thank you so much for sponsoring this trip! Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that something like this would happen to me!

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