High school math wiz wins Intel Talent Search

In a contest challenging seniors with exceptional math and science skills, Intel awards $100,000 to California boy for project comparing two ways to estimate the square root of an integer.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The three top award winners in the Intel Science Talent Search from left to right--Matthew Miller, Michelle Hackman, and Evan O'Dorney.
The three top award winners in the Intel Science Talent Search from left to right--Matthew Miller, Michelle Hackman, and Evan O'Dorney. Intel

Honoring some of the nation's brightest high school seniors for achievements in math and science, Intel yesterday awarded the three highest prizes in its Science Talent Search for three very different types of projects.

The top prize of $100,000 went to Evan O'Dorney, 17, of Danville, Calif., for a project in which he compared two ways to estimate the square root of an integer, discovering which one was the quickest. Though that may sound abstract to non-math people, the results of O'Dorney's research allowed him to solve other equations that could be used to encrypt data.

Taking home the second-place prize of $75,000 was Michelle Hackman, 17, from Great Neck, N.Y., for a project in which she studied the psychological effects of separating teenagers from their cell phones by tracking their levels of anxiety. Hackman, who's blind, trained 10 people to conduct the experiment and record the results. She spoke briefly with CBS News Radio in early February when she was still a finalist in the competition.

Intel awarded its third prize of $50,000 to Matthew Miller, 18, of Elon, N.C., who discovered that small bumps on the surface of the blades of a wind turbine can alter their aerodynamics and thereby increase their ability to generate electricity.

Other seniors who placed among the top 10 included one who researched a math equation that could improve Internet security and encryption and another who studied how frequently stars form binary systems. The students who qualified as the 40 finalists were selected from 300 semifinalists who were themselves chosen from 1,744 total applicants. Overall, Intel handed out $1.25 million in prize money to the finalists.

"The creativity and leadership of these 40 Intel Science Talent Search mathematicians and scientists hold tremendous potential to move our country forward," Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini said in a statement. "They are already addressing real-world problems like cancer treatment, disease prevention, and national security. We need to identify the common characteristics that inspired these high school seniors to successfully revitalize math and science education nationwide."

Though Intel provides the cash money, the Science Talent Search has actually been owned and run since 1942 by the Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit group set up to raise public interest in scientific research and education. That goal is one shared by Intel, which is actively involved in promoting math and science education as a way to increase America's competitiveness in the global market.