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A catalyst for research inspired young minds

Jillian Parker, left, of Half Hollow Hills High

Jillian Parker, left, of Half Hollow Hills High School West; Arooba Ahmed, center, and Jiachen Lee, both of Half Hollow Hills High School East, celebrate after winning the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology at George Washington University in Washington, Dec. 5, 2017. The trio competed as a team and won the $100,00 top award. Photo Credit: Evelyn Hockstein

Young scientists rewarded by the national Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology have done research into barrier membranes, neural networks and breast cancer metastasis. And that was all in 2017.

Sadly, the Siemens Foundation announced this month that 2017 also will have been the last year of the proud competition, one of the most prestigious of its class. The foundation cited new philanthropic efforts to better serve society.

With the memory of 2017’s winning trio of Half Hollow Hills district students still fresh, the Siemens competition inspired aspiring Long Island scientists, who so often strove for and won college scholarships through the competition. In 2017 alone, Long Island schools boasted 11 regional finalists and 56 semifinalists. Those who participated gained the experience of doing serious research and a glimpse of the possibilities of careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

This shouldn’t be the end for such competitions. Siemens correctly says the educational landscape has changed since the competition began in 1999. A new version might prioritize educational opportunities across broader subjects, and require less structural support from schools.

If Siemens vacates the field entirely, other benefactors should seize the opportunity to resurrect the concept. (Another big science competition — Intel, formerly Westinghouse — survives in a new form with a new patron, Regeneron.) Surely, there are Silicon Valley moguls who recognize how important it is to encourage young minds and teamwork. Painstaking work in education and research might not lead quickly to a result like an Elon Musk rocket, but we know it’s necessary to pave the road to the future we want. — The editorial board


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