Erika DeBenedictis, aged 18, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation at this year's Intel Science Talent Search. Her project was a software navigation system to help improve spacecraft travel through the solar system. Erika's research found that the gravity and movement of planets create "easy transit routes," which will ultimately help spacecraft move faster and with less fuel.
Second place honors and $75,000 went to David Liu, 18, of Saratoga, California, for his work to develop a system to recognize and understand digital images. David's work has already been used to examine aerial images to identify hazards to buried oil pipelines and could also be used to enable unmanned aerial vehicles and Web-based image searches.
Third place honors and $50,000 went to Akhil Mathew, 18, of Madison, New Jersey, for his math project on Deligne categories, a setting for studying a wide range of algebraic structures with ties to theoretical physics.
Fourth place winner Lynnelle Ye, 18, of Palo Alto, California, received a $40,000 award for her project that provided strategies for winning at a computer game titled "Graph Chomp."
Fifth place winner Eric Brooks, 16, of Hewlett, New York, received a $30,000 award for his research studying racial genetic factors that may affect the spread of prostate cancer.
Sixth place winner John Capodilupo, 18, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, received a $25,000 award for his project that used cluster analysis of objects in the night sky to study the structure and evolution of the early universe.
Seventh place winner Benjamen Sun, 17, of Grand Forks, North Dakota, received a $25,000 award for his work studying how sand, dust, and other debris on city streets can adsorb pollutants from rain and, thus, contaminate city water sources.
Eighth Place winner Katherine Rudolph, 18, of Naperville, Illinois, received a $20,000 award for her math project that investigated dense packing of identical spheres, the results of which can be used in fields from chemistry to cryptology.
Ninth Place winner Yale Fan, 18, of Beaverton, Oregon, received a $20,000 award for his research that demonstrated the advantages of quantum computing in performing difficult computations.
Tenth Place winner Linda Zhou, 18, of River Edge, New Jersey, received a $20,000 award for her project that researched how to reverse drug resistance in breast cancer cells.
The remaining 30 finalists each received at least $7,500 in awards.
This year's Intel Science Talent Search finalists hail from 18 states and represent 36 schools. Of the 1,736 high school seniors who entered the Intel Science Talent Search 2010, 300 were announced as semifinalists in January. Of those, 40 were chosen as finalists and invited to Washington, D.C., to compete for the top 10 awards.
The Intel Science Talent Search encourages students to tackle challenging scientific questions and develop the skills necessary to solve the problems of tomorrow. Over the past 68 years, Science Talent Search finalists have gone on to win seven Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, three National Medals of Science and 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, has owned and administered the Science Talent Search since its inception in 1942.