The world is coming to West Virginia University’s backyard, otherwise known as Pittsburgh, so the University is pulling out all stops to attract the high school brains headed to the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair next week (May 13-18).
Topping the list will be sophomore Katherine Bomkamp, who as a student at North Point High School for Science Technology and Industry in Waldorf, Md. attended the fair in 2009 and 2010 with her invention, “The Pain Free Socket.”
“I’m very excited to be there and to be part of WVU’s presence,” said Bomkamp, one of six students who will be on hand as volunteers. “The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair changed my life. It gave me the confidence to move forward with this project. It’s like my past academic career meeting with my future.”
About 15 WVU faculty and administrators will also serve as judges for a competition that involves 1,500 high school students from 65 countries.
While making its first appearance at an Intel Fair, WVU will scout for future Bomkamps among the promising young inventors.
Its calling card will be a new display that includes hands-on demonstrations and features designed to grab students’ attention.
The display includes blood spatter intrigue, in which students will examine paper stained with fake blood to simulate a forensic investigation; a cut-away model of a Toyota Prius, which reveals the inner workings of an alternative fuel vehicle like those found at WVU’s National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium; an iris scanner, in which students can have their eye scanned part of biometrics data collection that’s a included in the curriculum at WVU’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and receive an enlarged print-out; and more.
The display was a hit at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., in April.
Having Bomkamp on hand also helps in WVU’s recruitment efforts, according to Jay Cole, WVU’s chief of staff and one of the judges at the event.
“Katherine is a great example for students from this competition to see that they can go on and do great things in college,” Cole said, “She’s incredibly passionate about the Intel Fair and about WVU, and maybe she can show some of the competitors that WVU is the right place for them.”
And through Bomkamp, Cole hopes to encourage schools in West Virginia to increase their participation in local, regional and state science competitions.
But the goal includes more than recruiting high-quality students, according to Cole. It involves a larger strategy aimed at increasing WVU’s presence in the Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania regions and also initiatives tied to the school’s Strategic Plan 2020, including increasing diversity and under-represented groups among faculty and students. Also, through events like the Intel Fair, WVU can solidify and expand existing partnerships between other institutions, private sector businesses, foundations and organizations.
“It’s one piece of a larger, regional and national strategy,” Cole said.
WVU already belongs to The Power of 32, a 32-county regional economic development initiative in southwestern Pennsylvania that includes Pittsburgh, north central West Virginia, eastern Ohio and western Maryland. WVU President Jim Clements chairs the group’s implementation committee.
Also, Cole is a member of the Pittsburgh Today Advisory Committee. But, he said, participating in events like Intel Fair will increase WVU’s regional exposure and opportunities for the school, possibly building on research partnerships between WVU and the University of Pittsburgh or Carnegie Mellon, or establishing additional partnerships with philanthropic organization like the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The fair rotates between several cities and will return to Pittsburgh in 2015 and 2018. Cole said WVU will build on its initial appearance.
“In terms of policy makers and opinion leaders and certainly folks in and around Pittsburgh they are aware of us. But I think we can do more to raise our profile among those folks,” Cole said.
Bomkamp developed her invention aimed to alleviate phantom pain in the world’s millions of amputees after observing patients in a military hospital.
Since coming WVU as a young inventor, in two short years has become one of the nation’s most celebrated students.
Feedback from fair judges pushed her to improve her invention and WVU, she says, has helped her take it to new heights. Through WVU’s Center for Entrepreneurship, a component of the WVU College of Business and Economics, Bomkamp learned to think of her invention as a product and immersed herself in the commercialization process. She was awarded a grant to hire engineers to develop a prototype of the device.
Along the way, she was named one of Glamour magazine’s 21 Amazing Young Women and her innovation has received worldwide media coverage that includes CNN, the BBC, The New York Times and others.
She also became the youngest person ever invited to present to Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovations Summit and was recently named one of 162 college students from 32 states to be named a Newman Civic Fellow. The fellowships recognize student leaders who have worked toward finding solutions for challenges facing communities and are awarded by Campus Compact, a national collation of 1,200 college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.
“WVU has supported me and opened my eyes to new possibilities,” she said.
For more information about the fair, see: http://www.societyforscience.org/intelisef2012.
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