There have been several discussions recently about how to get your children outside to enjoy the natural world and gain an appreciation for it’s complex web. The notion is that this exposure would spark an interest that could provide the young adult the fundamentals for understanding man’s place on this planet or even a path to more active work in the conservation or environmental fields.
It’s not too often that one gets the pleasure of meeting an incredibly talented young person who is so into the study of birds that after a couple of years into birds, he made concerted efforts to elevate his studies way beyond basic birding skills. I have the pleasure of being acquainted with Benjamin Van Doren, and not only is he into birds, he is really (really) into the technology that will take ornithology in to the electronic future. He can capture calls from night flying migrants, record the calls and match them electronically to species and essentially sample the migration over a point source for a period of time. At the age 16 and 17 years, he took these skills and launched a scientific inquiry on migrant songbirds that added measurably to the scientific record.
So congratulations are in order. Benjamin Van Doren, 18, of White Plains NY, presented the results of his study and won fifth place in the prestigious National Intel Science competition awards that took place in Washington DC on March 14, 2012.
Benjamin Van Doren related that project set out to prove the assumption that birds migrating in autumn, get their bearings during the morning, and tend to fly into the wind. This project took over three years to accomplish and required many trial and error efforts.
Benjamin took the train down to Washington, DC, Thursday, March 8, 2012, to spend five days with the other 39 finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search. They stayed at the St. Regis hotel in DC, only two blocks from the White House.
The Judging was comprised of two parts, interviews and presentations. In the interviews, the judges asked questions about math and science–often unrelated to one’s project says Benjamin. The interviews were tough but they were meant to promote and measure creative thinking and problem solving. On Sunday, each of the individuals set up their presentation displays at the National Geographic Society and presented their project to the judges and to the public.
The whole atmosphere was great–not competitive really, but friendly and supportive reported Benjamin. The other finalists were nice, interested, and interesting. Besides judging, there were many other activities and special opportunities. Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, spoke to the group, and each all had minor planets (asteroids) named after them. The finalist went bowling and met President Obama, and the NY students met both senators (many other students also met their representatives).
The awards gala took place in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum and was magnificent. Benjamin ended up winning 5th place, with a $30,000 award!
Keep your eye out for this young man. We do expect that interesting things will come from anything he decides to do in his adventures through life. I personally wish Benjamin well.