• 'Whiz Kids' profiles three young scientists as they compete in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search
ALEXANDRIA, VA, June 9, 2009 -- Kelydra Welcker, a state winner and U.S. finalist of the 2007 Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) competition, is one of three young scientists profiled in an upcoming documentary about their journey to the Intel Science Talent Search (STS), the oldest and most prestigious science competition in the United States. First premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January, "Whiz Kids" will be released worldwide on June 16, 2009.
Created by producer Michael Duca, director and former STS competitor Tom Shepard, and executive producer Greg Little, "Whiz Kids" aims to bring attention to the decline of funding and support for math and science programs in the United States. Currently ranked 24th in the world, U.S. teens lag behind countries such as China and India, both of which have received increased funding for these programs over the past eight years while U.S. support has remained stagnant. The film shows that despite this handicap, American students are still able to meet the challenges of helping to secure our nation's future in an increasingly competitive global economy.
An environmental scientist from Parkersburg, W.Va., Welcker spent several years researching the potential health effects of perfluorooctanoate (APFO), a surfactant used to make Teflon that is allegedly being dumped into the Ohio River by a local Dupont plant. She set out to prove whether the plant had been filtering out as much APFO from its industrial wastes as claimed and in the process developed an alternative filtering technique using non-exotic materials -- research for which she would later get patents. In addition to the patents and entry into the STS competition, her research, "Quantification, Removal, and Recovery of the Teflon® Surfactant APFO," was a winning SJWP entry and is published in the Journal of the U.S. SJWP.
According to the film's Web site, the filmmaking team was "especially drawn to the tension between how Kelydra navigated the space between industry, the environment and her idealistic drive to protect her community." For her part, Welcker states that there are certain moments in a person's life that defines who they are..."if you ask my friends who I am, they'll tell you: I'm the scientist."
In addition to Welcker, the film also follows the experiences of Pakistani-born paleontologist Harmain Khan and Ecuadorian-American Ana Cisneros.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) is the most prestigious international youth award for a high school water science research project. In the United States, the Water Environment Federation and its Member Associations organize the local, state, and national competitions.
Formed in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization with 35,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. WEF and its Member Associations proudly work to achieve our mission of preserving and enhancing the global water environment.