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Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch, and What It Takes To Win

In the way that Spellbound exposed the hidden world of spelling bees, Science Fair Season pulls back the curtain on the highly competitive world of high school science fairs. Each year, the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair brings together over 1,500 of the most talented students from more than fifty countries, with more than $4 million in prizes and scholarships at stake. Judy Dutton follows twelve of these remarkable teenagers and tells the gripping stories of their road to the big competition. Some will win, some will lose, but all of their lives are left changed forever.

Here are a few of the kids you’ll meet:

• One boy, at fourteen, became the youngest person in the world to build a nuclear fusion reactor that’s now being funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

• A home-schooled boy in Amish country conducted nanotechnology research that led to five patents and a company worth $12 million.

• One girl’s science fair project, which exposed a cancerous chemical being dumped into the water supply by DuPont, resulted in her being investigated by the FBI.

• Another girl, hoping to help her little cousin cope with autism, developed a treatment program that enabled her cousin to read, write, and interact with others. It proved so successful, it was rolled out in schools across the country.

• A Navajo boy scraping by in a rundown trailer with no heat or hot water designed a solar-powered heater out of a 1967 Pontiac radiator, 69 soda cans, and other junk he found around town. As a result of his science fair accolades, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built his family a new house that runs on solar power.

• One pretty, popular sixteen-year-old girl in Louisiana was diagnosed with leprosy. Rather than resigning herself to be an outcast, she researched her disease and turned it into an award-winning science fair project, and a brave publicity campaign to change people’s perceptions of her condition.

• In Arizona, two boys in juvenile detention won national science fair awards and full-ride scholarships to Arizona University, all thanks to a science teacher who showed them the stars.

Science education is also big news right now, as President Obama made clear in his State of the Union Address when he said: “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” In a world brimming with bad news—global warming, nuclear proliferation, America’s alarming decline in the realm of science education and otherwise—science fairs are the silver lining. This book will convince you that maybe we’re not as bad off as you might think. You’ll get to know the most hardworking, humbling, and heartbreaking group of young men and women. They’ll change everything you thought you knew about kids and what they’re capable of, and of what we can all do if our hearts are into it, at eight years old or eighty.