Hi, we are Nathan and Denis, last year at the 56th Swiss National Science and Youth Competition we won the special prize offered by the Gebauer Foundation. We were selected to present our project at the world’s largest youth research competition held annually in America. More than 1,400 young researchers from more than 70 countries arrive at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to compete with the world’s elite and win prizes and scholarships.
We were happy and honored to have been able to meet important scientific figures, young people with the same interests as us, but most importantly to be able to represent Switzerland at such a big event.
We find that this experience has been crucial in spurring us to pursue our studies and aim higher and higher.
The fair was a time of learning, competition and dedication, but also a time of fun and personal growth. Science is a universal language, it has no borders and seeks solutions to the world’s toughest challenges, we are pleased to have been a part of this at ISEF.
We arrived Saturday night; Dallas is a huge city, and huge was the hotel as well. Everything is bigger in America! On Sunday we hung our posters, finished our booths, and in the evening we went to the convention center to meet the other finalists. On the first evening it is customary to set aside a time to meet other people eat local specialties and exchange pins of one’s homeland with those of others, we quickly realized that people are all very friendly and enthusiastic to meet and present their work.
As soon as we arrived at the fair, we quickly noticed that various meeting and entertainment times were arranged for the finalists each day, such as visits to museums, lectures with scientists, student parties, and spaces for socializing. At these times we were able to meet a variety of people and form a network of contacts for our future.
The opening ceremony took place Monday evening, kicking off a group of dancers accompanied by music followed by speeches given by various members of the fair. Of particular note was the profound and touching speech by Dr. M. S. Brown (1985 Nobel laureate in medicine) about the cooperation of nations during Covid to develop the vaccine.
Wednesday was the big day, from 9.00 to 16.15 all of us students stayed at our booths waiting for the judges to arrive. Each of us received several interviews with the purpose of testing our knowledge and the soundness of our work. It was a relatively stressful day but, in the end, we were happy with our achievement. The hard work was over!
Public Day and Special Awards Ceremony
On Thursday, the whole exhibition hall was open to the public. This was an amazing opportunity for school kids to get inspired by older students. Both of us had plenty of young children come to our booth and ask tons of questions. After 1 pm public day was over, and it was time for the Category networking sessions. There, the participants of each category attended a presentation held by the category sponsor. This was an excellent opportunity to talk to like-minded people and connect.
In the evening things got more serious again. We dressed up in our suits and headed out from the hotel back to the convention center. Now it was time for the special awards prize giving. The ceremony started in real American fashion with loud music and a light show. The prize giving itself was rather long and took over two hours. Sadly, we didn’t manage to win a special price. However, with the Grand Awards being selected tomorrow, there was still a chance to win. In the evening we joined some new made friends and talked late into the night.
Grand Award Ceremony
The last day had begun, and we were already back suited up and waiting on our seats with great anticipation for the Grand Award Ceremony. Afterwards we just had enough time to tear down our booths and pack up everything before heading out to the airport to fly back home.
Although we walked out of the Grand Award Ceremony without winning a prize, we learnt a lot during this week, broadened our horizons and were able to extend our network internationally!
In the name of Nathan and Denis we would like to thank the Gebauer Foundation and Schweizer Jugend forscht for making this unforgettable experience possible.