Emily Sohn, SNK's intrepid reporter, goes to Washington.
I didn't know what to expect when I arrived in Washington, D.C., to cover the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge. Luckily, there weren't video cameras recording my getting off the airplane, taking a cab to the hotel, or checking in. That's the kind of attention the kids had to deal with all week.
Emily kneels by various gliders as the black team keeps on working at the end of the second day of challenges.
Normally, when I interview people for a story, I can ask all the questions I want whenever I want to ask them. For this event, I was constantly worried about getting in the way of the film crews or interrupting the students as they focused on their challenges. I couldn't ask questions too loudly or the production team would yell at me to be quiet.
I was extremely impressed with all 40 of the finalists. They were smart, enthusiastic, hardworking, and articulate. Every one of them had a deep passion for learning about science and taking on challenges, no matter how difficult. They were also fun to hang out with.
By the end of the competition, I was fully immersed in the drama. I was rooting for certain teams, and I had come to know and care about some of the kids. I was even making predictions about who was going to win. I managed to get on a bus with the judges at the end of the second day's challenges, but they knew I was there and they kept their mouths shut until they could meet in private later that night.
The awards ceremony was quite moving. Famous and important people took turns giving words of advice to the kids who sat in the first few rows of the auditorium. I could feel the anticipation oozing from their direction.
When Judge Jake finally announced the awards, I had tears in my eyes. I felt happy for the winners and somewhat disappointed for everyone else. They had all worked so hard and come so far. It's too bad everyone couldn't have taken home a prizethough all of them certainly were winners just to make it to the finals.