CLEVELAND (AP) - About 1,300 young scientists from more than 40 nations have gathered for the world's largest high school science fair.
They will be competing through Saturday at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair for prizes and scholarships, including a $50,000 college scholarship top prize.
The contestants advanced from preliminary competitions involving more than one million students. Contestants had a chance Sunday to set up their projects for Monday's fair opening.
Chloe Farkas and Heidi Schmidt, seniors at Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights, found science project mentors through their parents, who work at Case Western Reserve University.
"It's not necessarily that either of us is more qualified or smarter than anyone else," said Farkas, 18, who did research on biomedical markers of fetal alcohol exposure with neonatologist Cynthia Bearer. "We were just lucky enough to know someone."
Donald Harless, president of Science Service, which runs the science fair, said students with mentors receive more training. But he also said students score better with judges when they do their projects alone, show great understanding for what they've done and are creative.
"It's a tough call," he said. He said that in one year, two students did identical projects, one in a basement and the other in a lab. The student who worked alone received a higher score.
Christine Moravec, judging chairwoman for the science fair and research scientist in the department of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said that it's not where the students do the research that is important, but how well they understand their project.
"What we want to look for is a true depth of understanding in the student for what they've done," Moravec said.
She said judges ask questions that examine the student's grasp of concepts and are designed to discover which students have been working in someone else's shadow, whether it be a mentor or parent.