i-5967dc2922afde9f1adc0df6992156ff-isef_logo_newsm.gif As I write this, the special awards ceremony for ISEF 2008 is wrapping up. Tonight, awards are being given by professional organizations, corporations, colleges and universities, and branches of government. Almost all of the major professional societies are represented, from the American Meteorological Society to the Vacuum Technology Division of the American Vacuum Society. (Each professional society, as well as the other special awards organizations, contribute their own judges to the fair, so that’s another way you could get involved. Requirements for being a special awards judge may vary.)

Highlights of the special awards include 21 $8,000 scholarships from the Office of Naval Research, 1 $10,000 scholarship from IEEE for an outstanding electrical engineering project, 2 $25000 scholarships from Ricoh for projects contributing to sustainable development, and six $20,000 from the Department of Homeland Security. Other special awards include trips science conferences or institutes in London and Japan given by the Army and a four week trip to Israel (given by American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science). Talk about the trip of a life-time!

UPDATE: To see a list of the students and projects who received special awards tonight, click here.

Tomorrow, I hope to bring you some selections from the special award and grand award winners. (Do you think I managed to photograph any of the display boards?) So check back here around noon or shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, I thought I’d step away from the projects and awards and share a few pictures and stories of my whirlwind trip to Atlanta.

I wasn’t in the country during the weeks that the 1996 Olympic Games were being held in Atlanta. (Oddly enough, I was on a trip I’d won at a science fair!) But now I can say I’ve been to the Olympic site, as the route from my hotel on Peachtree Street to the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) took me straight through the Centennial Olympic Park.
Centennial Olympic Park

I was pleased to see that water conservation measures were still in effect from the exceptional drought that the southeastern US has been experiencing. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any information in my hotel room urging me to conserve water, but at least my hotel defaulted to not washing bedding every day for multi-night guests.

2008-05- 078Remember the tornado that swept through downtown Atlanta while one of the NCAA basketball tournament games was going on there? Well, signs of the storm were still clearly visible in the GWCC. Lots of glass had been blown out and was replaced temporarily by plywood. Outside the building, the carpenters union was on strike complaining about hiring of non-union workers in the area. I don’t know if the two things were related, but I’m guessing they were.

I don’t have any pictures, but at midnight the night before judging a 50-story downtown hotel was evacuated because of a fire and chlorine leak. One of the judges in my category was staying in the hotel, and he was thankful to report that there didn’t appear to be any students amongst the evacuees. He did say that some people wear pajamas that belie their personalities during a two-hour wait on an Atlanta street.

This story was also making internet headlines while I was in the area, but I am relieved to report that as of 10 PM EDT 5/15/08, the tide has turned against those that think it’s fine to sell t-shirts equating Barack Obama and Curious George. (I wonder how much of the swing in votes though is due to blogospheric influences.)

And that’s pretty much all I saw or heard while I was in Atlanta. It was a whirlwind trip, and the vast majority of my time was spent in the pleasant confines of a fabulous science fair. Whether at the fair or not, though, I felt just like the sign from judging morning (below) indicates.

Judging Day