New Sponsorship Causes Confusion for Science Contests

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What do the program that was once called the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and the new Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition have in common?

Both award scholarships to some of the nation's brightest teenage science and mathematics students. And both include the name "Westinghouse."

But they are not one in the same, the sponsors of both programs want the public to know.

The Siemens Corp., the New York City-based electronics conglomerate that recently purchased a division of Westinghouse, announced a new competition with almost $500,000 in prizes Dec. 15 at a Washington news conference.

The press release distributed at the event included the following postscript: "This is a new program, not in any way related to the Science Talent Search which has been sponsored previously by Westinghouse."

Meanwhile, Science Service--the Washington-based nonprofit organization that operates the former Westinghouse program--wrote to members of the news media just before Siemens' announcement to clarify that Intel Corp. is now the sponsor of the 57-year-old competition that was underwritten by Westinghouse Electric Corp. before this year.

The latter statement was prompted by an invitation to last month's press conference that said the Siemens Corp. had become the "official sponsor" of the science talent search. The error was quickly corrected, according to a spokeswoman for Siemens and an official at the Washington public relations firm that issued the invitation.

"It was brought to our attention, we corrected it, and that ended it," said Rodney Ferguson, a senior vice president of the Widmeyer Baker Group.

In Transition

The mix-up demonstrates some of the confusion inevitable as one of the nation's premier scholarship competitions is in transition.

Science Service last year sought a new sponsor for the program after Westinghouse--then a division of CBS--informed it that the long-time sponsor would no longer support the scholarship competition. After reviewing proposals from 76 corporations, including Siemens, Science Service selected Intel, a Santa Clara, Calif., computer-chip manufacturer. ("Intel Corp. To Sponsor Annual Science Contest," April 1, 1998.)

The program is continuing on the same schedule and under the same rules as in previous years, according to Ann Korando, the director of development and public relations for Science Service. Judges spent last month grading almost 1,500 applications, and the 40 finalists will be notified on Jan. 24, she said in an interview.

The finalists will be invited to Washington to display their work in March, and the grand prize--$50,000 in scholarships--will be awarded at the end of the week-long event.

The only differences in the competition since the sponsorship change are that the project has a new name and Intel has promised to award $330,000 in scholarships--$125,000 more than last year. Top 10 finishers will receive between $15,000 and $50,000. Other finalists will be guaranteed $3,000.

Intel also funds an annual international science competition operated by Science Service with $2 million scholarships and other prizes.

Siemens, for its part, will distribute applications for its competition in April, according to Ezra Ozer, a spokeswoman for the company. Regional competitions will be held in October; winners will be selected by the end of the year.

The company's new foundation will dedicate almost $500,000 in scholarships to the competition, with the top awards being $100,000 for the best entry by an individual and $90,000 for the best project by a team.

In a separate program, Siemens will reward students and high schools that post the highest scores on Advanced Placement exams. Siemen's first AP scholarships, totaling $118,000, were granted to 26 students, 12 teachers, and 10 schools last month.

Siemens will spend more than $1 million a year on both programs, including awardees' travel expenses.

Siemens officials apologized to Science Service and Intel for any confusion created leading up to the Dec. 15 announcement, Ms. Korando said.

"It's flattering that people keep trying to make different versions" of the science talent search, she said. "We do wish them the best."

Vol. 18, Issue 18, Page 8

Published in Print: January 13, 1999, as New Sponsorship Causes Confusion for Science Contests
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