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Intel Dropping Out of Prestigious Science Talent Search

The nation's biggest science and math contest for high schoolers, the Intel Science Talent Search, won't have Intel inside beginning in 2018.

The Society for Science & the Public, the Washington, D.C., nonprofit that has run the competition for 75 years, confirmed Wednesday that Intel Corp. is dropping its sponsorship after the 2017 competition. Intel's decision was first reported by The New York Times.

But the talent search will go on with a new sponsor and bigger prizes after Intel's involvement ends in two years, according to a request for proposals the science society provided on Wednesday.

The new sponsor will be only the third in the competition's 75-year history; Intel took over in 1998 from Westinghouse Electric, which supported it for its first half-century.

Intel this year splashed out more than $1.6 million in awards to scores of high school science and math stars, including three $150,000 first prizes. The new sponsor will be expected to provide at least $1.7 million in prize money as part of a minimum $6 million-a-year commitment.

Maya Ajmera, the society's president and chief executive, said whoever becomes the competition's third sponsor "will play an integral role in informing, educating and inspiring students across the nation, while reaping the benefits associated with this extraordinary competition."

Intel said in a statement that it is "proud of the legacy we have helped create around the Science Talent Search in partnership with the Society for Science & the Public” and expressed confidence that "the society will continue to provide outstanding leadership in recognizing the best and brightest science students in America."

The Science Talent Search isn't remotely like your local high school science fair — top performers produce research that would be the envy of any tenured university research scientist. Previous finalists have won eight Nobel Prizes, three National Medals of Science, two Fields Medals (essentially the equivalent of a Nobel for math) and 12 MacArthur Foundation "genius grants."

This year's winners — Noah Golowich, 17, of Lexington, Massachusetts; Andrew Jin, 17, of San Jose, California, and Michael Hofmann Winer, 18, of North Bethesda, Maryland — produced original work in advanced research areas like macrostructure computer and biological math systems, machine learning algorithms to identify mutations in the human genome, and the fundamental interactions of quasi-particles of sound.

Previous top participants — whom the science society calls alumni — include Ray Kurzweil, Google's director of engineering; Ted Hoff, co-creator of the microprocessor; and Natalie Portman, a 1998 semifinalist who chose a different career path for some reason.