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Intel Corp. To Sponsor Annual Science Contest

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In a competition almost as fierce as the famed Westinghouse Science Talent Search itself, the Intel Corp. has won the sponsorship rights to the annual high school science contest, beating out bids by more than 70 other major companies and individuals.

Science Service, which has administered the program since its inception in 1942, announced here last week that the Santa Clara, Calif.-based manufacturer of silicon chips will sponsor the program for at least the next five years. Intel has pledged some $6 million during that time for scholarships, teacher training, and education programs.

Aside from the business of running Intel, "our three top priorities are education, education, and education," Craig R. Barrett, Intel's chief executive officer, said in a teleconference from California last week. Mr. Barrett was named the company's CEO the same day, replacing Andrew S. Grove, one of Intel's founders.

"We are going to use our entire corporate muscle to move this search forward," Mr. Barrett said.

The Westinghouse Electric Corp., which has backed the contest throughout its 57 years, folded into the New York City-based CBS Corp. last December, leaving sponsorship of the competition in question. The CBS Foundation said it will continue to underwrite the contest through 1999. ("Westinghouse Losing Sponsor, Meeting Suitors," Jan. 21, 1998.)

Like NFL Draft

After sending out the call for a new booster, Science Service was inundated with proposals from throughout the country. Industry giants such as the Microsoft Corp., the General Electric Co., the Exxon Corp., Lucent Technologies, and others entered their bids to put their name on the elite competition.

"The competition was unbelievable," said Science Service's Donald R. Harless, who was named president last month after 27 years with the organization. "It was like the first round of the draft for the National Football League. All the best players were on the market at the same time. Truthfully, I was worried [when Westinghouse pulled out]. But then the proposals came pouring in."

The Science Service board said it selected Intel for its commitment to education programs, the promise of larger prizes for contest winners, and a pledge to provide more support services for teachers.

"We want to package the magic of master teachers and get that information to the classroom," said Tracy Koon, a spokeswoman for Intel. "We also want to use the Internet and technology more effectively to share research ... and to illustrate the achievements of these students."

The amount of scholarship funding, which had remained stagnant over the past few years, will grow from $205,000 to $330,000 in 2000. The top prize, a four-year scholarship, will increase by 25 percent, to $50,000. Intel, which earned $25 billion in revenues last year, has also promised in-kind contributions for the development of science education programs.

More Involvement Sought

Mr. Barrett said his company hopes to increase participation throughout the United States. The competition is generally dominated by East Coast students. Several states have not had a finalist in the competition in decades.

Intel's home state of California, which had just four of this year's 40 semifinalists and 161 of the 2,281 finalists since 1942, has particular potential for greater involvement, officials said.

This year, more than 1,500 students participated in the contest. Ten winners were named last month.

At least one winner was encouraged by the outpouring of corporate support.

"This shows that they are not just concerned with the money-making end of things, but that they have important social goals and a commitment to developing young talent," said Parker Conrad, a senior at Collegiate High School in Manhattan whose research on synapse formation in the brain won him third place in this year's competition.

Last year, Intel became the first sponsor of the International Science and Engineering Fair, a 49-year-old science-project competition for the world's most promising high school students. That contest is also administered by Science Service.

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