Two Baltimore City public high school students are representing Charm City at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May.
The students, both grand prize winners in the Baltimore Science Fair, are enrolled in a little-known nonprofit, the Ingenuity Project
. The project spends $1 million a year to encourage middle and high school students in Baltimore City public schools to excel in science.
"We're one of the best-kept secrets in the city," says Karen Footner, Ingenuity's spokesperson.
Footner, an educational consultant, says the project dates to 1993 when educators and advocates of the city school system asked why Baltimore had never had a winner in the Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and best known youth science competition.
Acceptance into the project is competitive, based on school grades and multiple tests. Students apply in 5th
grades. The project is held at three middle schools (Roland Park, Hamilton and Mount Royal) and one high school (Baltimore Polytechnic Institute). If accepted into the project, students have to request to attend those schools.
“The money is spent mainly for teachers for accelerated math and science classes,” says Footner, noting that 80 percent of the funding comes from the Abell Foundation and Baltimore City Public Schools.
There are currently 486 students in the program, split evenly boys and girls and of whom half are African-Americans.
Since 2005, seven Ingenuity students have been semifinalists, and three have been among the top ten winners nationally in the Intel Science Talent Search. “For Baltimore City kids, that’s extraordinary,” Footner says.
The Ingenuity Project will host a fundraiser April 17 at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, featuring science writer Flora Lichtman.
Source: Karen Footner, educational consultant
Writer: Barbara Pash