Erika A. DeBenedictis, 18, of Albuquerque, N.M., won the top award of $100,000 in the Intel Science Talent Search for her project developing a software navigation system to make travel through the solar system more efficient. Her optimizing search algorithm identifies energy-minimizing routes in specified regions of space and allows spacecraft to adjust flight paths en route.
DeBenedictis titled her paper "Traveling the Interplanetary Superhighway: An Autonomous Spacecraft Navigation System." DeBenedictis explains her project in a YouTube video.
As a finalist in the 2007 Intel Science and Engineering Fair, DeBenedictis had an asteroid named after her: 23131 Debenedictis.
Second place went to David C. Liu, 18, of Saratoga, Calif., for developing a system to recognize and understand digital images. Liu's project was titled "Semantic Image Retrieval and Interactive Exploration of Large Image Collections." More information about Liu is available on the Lynbrook Robotics Blog.
Akhil Mathew, 18, of Madison, N.J., earned third place with a mathematics project on Deligne categories, a setting for studying a wide range of algebraic structures with ties to theoretical physics, particularly string theory. Mathew wrote a paper on "Deligne Categories and Representation Theory in Complex Rank." Video.
In fourth place, Lynnelle L. Ye received her award for a project that combined game theory and graph theory, providing winning strategies for a computer game known as "Graph Chomp." Her paper was titled "Chomp on Graphs and Subsets."
Ye was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 2008 Chinese Girls Math Olympiad, where she won a gold medal. She also took part in the 2008 and 2009 USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) contests, and she attended the 2008 Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP).
Erika DeBenedictis (right) of Albuquerque, N.M., won top honors at the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search and a $100,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation. David Liu (middle) earned second place and Akhil Mathew (left) placed third.
Katherine R. Rudolph, 18, of Naperville, Ill., was awarded eighth place for a project that combined her interests in mathematics and chemistry. She studied dense packings of spheres of uniform size in n-dimensional space: "Maximal Densities of High-Dimensional Sphere Packings." Video.
Rudolph competed in the 2008 and 2009 USAMO contests and attended MOSP in 2008.
Two other students among the 40 finalists entered math projects. Joshua W. Pfeffer of Plainview, N.Y., studied "Super Kahler-Ricci Flow." Arjun R. Puranik did a project on "Finite-dimensional Irreducible Representations of Rational Cherednik Algebras Associated to the Coxeter Group H3."
Three of the finalists with math projects, Mathew, Puranik, and Ye, had participated in the 2009 Research Science Institute (RSI), a six-week summer program hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for high school students.
The top 10 winners from among 40 finalists in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search were announced at a gala awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on March 16, 2010.
Sources: Intel, March 16, 2010; Science News, March 17, 2010.