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America’s Next Generation of Innovators

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After Intel hosted The Innovation Economy Conference last December, I’ve been thinking about one of the four key pillars identified as essential to innovation. People. More specifically, the critical role education, immigration policy, and incentives for advancement play in the development of our citizens and the growth of America’s economy (learn more on TheInnovationEconomy.org).

Education has been in the news due to the Administration’s blueprint to reform No Child Left Behind (via reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – you can read it here). Perhaps closer to home, another education event: the awards dinner for the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search in Washington last week. Every year, 1,600 U.S. high school seniors develop original science projects in hopes of becoming one of 40 finalists to compete for over $1.25 million in awards and scholarships (learn more about the Intel STS here). These students represent our best and brightest young scientific minds – the next generation of American innovators.

Tom Friedman, who spoke passionately at the awards dinner, wrote in his latest Sunday NY Times column:

Gotta say, it was the most inspiring evening I’ve had in D.C. in 20 years. It left me thinking, “If we can just get a few things right — immigration, education standards, bandwidth, fiscal policy — maybe we’ll be O.K.” It left me feeling that maybe Alice Wei Zhao of North High School in Sheboygan, Wis., chosen by her fellow finalists to be their spokeswoman, was right when she told the audience: “Don’t sweat about the problems our generation will have to deal with. Believe me, our future is in good hands.

I couldn’t agree more. This underscores even further the need to nurture young minds, and improve math and science education across the board.