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Homeless Intel science compo whiz off to see Obama

Teen semifinalist gets invite to State of the Union address

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Intel science competition semifinalist Samantha Garvey has been invited to attend US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

Garvey, whose tale of academic excellence in the face of adversity has turned her into a media darling, will have a great seat in the gallery at the President's speech, as the guest of New York representative Steve Israel.

Garvey is one of 300 students named as a semifinalist in Intel's Science Talent Search (STS) 2012, a competition for pre-college pupils in the US. But the 17-year-old's accomplishment has captured America's imagination because she, and her family, are currently living in a homeless shelter.

Unsurprisingly, since her story reached the headlines, her family has been allocated a three-bedroom house, which they will be able to move into in the next few weeks.

Congressman Israel said he was moved by the student's story and has offered her a prestigious gallery ticket for the State of the Union address.

He tweeted "Brentwood HS Intel Semi-Finalist Samantha Garvey will be my guest at this year's State of the Union", referencing the story in the (paywalled) paper Newsday.

Her placement in Intel's competition, the result of a paper on how mussels change when under attack from predators (answer: they harden their shells to stop crabs eating them), will also help the Garvey family since it comes with $1,000 prize money. Her school also gets $1,000 to be spent on science, maths and engineering education.

From the semifinalist list, 40 finalists will be chosen to attend the Intel Science Talent Institute in Washington, DC in March where they will "share $630,000 in awards" with a top prize of $100,000.

But, according to Intel, just getting on the semifinalist list will help a student's college applications.

"Colleges and universities regard the Intel STS semifinalist award to be evidence of exceptional academic promise. Each semifinalist is provided with a certificate of accomplishment, which may be sent with his or her applications for college admission and scholarships," Intel said in its semifinalists document.

The company said that former participants in the competition "hold more than 100 of the world's most coveted science and math honours, including seven Nobel Pries and four National Medals of Science".

Garvey's project was "The effects of a physical environment and predators on phenotypic plasticity in Geukensia demissa", a description of which is available here (PDF). ®

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