Intel drops Science Talent Search competition

Intel, the company that pretty much prints money, is dropping its sponsorship of a program that — in a perfect world — every company should want to sponsor: the Science Talent Search, the most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school students.

It costs about $6 million a year to give students in the country a little more enthusiasm for science, the New York Times says. That doesn’t even come close to rising to the level of “chicken feed” from Intel, which has not yet said why it’s backing out of the effort.

The Silicon Valley giant took over sponsorship of the award with great fanfare from Westinghouse, becoming only the second company to back the prize in its 73-year history. At the time it was seen as something of a passing of the torch in American industry, to a company then at the heart of the Information Age from one renowned for industrial work in things like nuclear power plants.

Craig Barrett, a former chief executive of Intel, is even a member of the board of the Society for Science and the Public. He said he was “surprised and a little disappointed” by Intel’s decision.

“It’s such a premier event in terms of young people and technology,” Mr. Barrett said. “But they appear to be more interested in applied things, like” Maker Faire, an all-ages event that showcases homemade engineering projects.

Eight Nobel Prize winners were once contestants in the competition.

So were a few Minnesota kids who haven’t won a Nobel. Yet.

People like Evan Chen, who was a 2012 finalist — the last student from Minnesota who made the finals — while attending Wayzata High School. He was researching muscle generation, as part of his research into Muscular Dystrophy.

  1. Listen MPR’s Tom Crann talks with Evan Chen about his research

    March 7, 2012

The truth is that he’d probably be just as interested in finding a cure for Muscular Dystrophy even if Intel hadn’t sponsored the program. He was motivated by a classmate with Muscular Dystrophy. But if the nation’s corporate leaders are walking away from supporting science education, what does that say about us?

Samantha Garvey is another competition semi-finalist the same year as young Evan. She was homeless when she got involved.

Whatever happened to her? Last year she had a stroke. But she persisted, and she’s a senior now at Bowdoin College in Maine, focusing on biology research.

Intel will continue its sponsorship until 2017, because it has a contract to do so.