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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — From all over the world, 1,800 young scientists have come to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

They are competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

“They compete at maybe their high school science fair, and then they go on to perhaps a state science fair, and then they come here,” explains Gayle Kansagor of Society for Science and the Public.

Their projects range from a robotic guide dog to a 3D printed moving arm to a search-and-rescue machine, and span the sciences from molecular biology to chemistry and engineering. They are judged in 22 categories by hundreds of science, engineering and industry professionals with advanced degrees.

Robotic guide dog (Photo Credit: KDKA)

There is big money at stake — tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases — in scholarships, educational trips, or cash prizes. The awards come from from the Intel Foundation and from corporate, academic, government and science-focused sponsors.

From the Pittsburgh area, four students are competing.

Benjamin Cummings is focused on rapid testing for common viruses.

“Maybe you could go to the urgent care and you’d breathe into a bag,” he explains, “and then you would drop that on the chip, and they’d say, OK, you have influenza A or you have influenza B.”

Nicole Munne has a drug-screening model for new liver disease treatments.

“You can test 384 drugs at once,” she says, “which is very efficient.”

Thomas Kim looks at the chemical changes at the very start of cancer.

“It’s really great how we’re really trying to focus on individualized treatment methods,” he says.

Mia Pelligrini is working on ways to highlight cell proteins.

“Pretty much any disease you can think of,” she says, “it has some form of application.”

The competition organizers and sponsors hope to foster these brilliant, young minds from the U.S. and abroad, to find ways of solving the world’s important and complex issues.

“This has sort of been like a dream come true,” Kim said.

“It has been amazing. This is hands down the best experience of my entire life,” Pelligrini said.

Dr. Maria Simbra