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Intel and Society for Science and the Public Badges

Intel winners

Intel and Society for Science & the Public (SSP) are pleased to present a badge system proposal for the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition: Open Badges.  The initiative will feature SSP’s premier high school science competitions, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) and the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS), which reward independent scientific and engineering research.  Success in either program demonstrates the highest level of achievement in the conceptualization and implementation of scientific research.  Intel and SSP believe that a badge system based on the Intel STS and the Intel ISEF will enable and reward independent research and encourage participation in science fairs.


The Partners

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is a world leader in computing innovation. The company designs and builds the essential technologies that serve as the foundation for the world’s computing devices. Additional information about Intel is available at  and

Intel believes that young people are the key to solving global challenges.  A solid math and science foundation coupled with skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving are crucial for their success. That is why we promote education programs, ambitious policies, and technology access to enable tomorrow’s innovators.

Intel has invested over $1 billion, and its employees have volunteered over 3 million hours to improve education around the world over the last decade. In the United States, we firmly believe that maintaining the country’s competitiveness in today’s global economy will in large part depend on the success of our nation’s students. Intel’s education programs span across the United States and reach students in all 50 states. 

Diverse perspectives, abilities and experiences have always been key to Intel’s success. Our education programs reflect a commitment to excellence.  We strive to ensure that all communities including those that are underserved   have access to technology.  Our goal is to inspire students in every community to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

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Society for Science & the Public (SSP) is one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in the U.S. dedicated to public engagement in science and science education. Established in 1921, SSP is a membership society which builds understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement.

Through its acclaimed education competitions, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the Intel Science Talent Search and the Broadcom MASTERS, and its award-winning publications, Science News ( and Science News for Kids (, SSP is committed to inform, educate, and inspire. For 70 years, SSP education programs have launched generations of science enthusiasts, including Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science recipients, and nearly 100,000 other distinguished program alumni. The Society believes that supporting the young scientists of tomorrow, whose vision will usher in new solutions to global challenges, is vital to our common future. Learn more at


The Programs

The Intel®   International Science and Engineering Fair,®  (Intel ISEF), a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world's largest international pre-college science competition for students in grades 9-12 and provides an annual forum each May for more than 1,500 high school students from 65 countries, regions, and territories to showcase their independent research as they compete for over $4 million in awards and prizes. The finalists of Intel ISEF have been selected at 443 affiliate fairs. Accounting for students competing at feeder fairs, Intel ISEF affiliated fairs involve annually an estimated seven million secondary school students worldwide.  The Intel ISEF is funded jointly by Intel and the Intel Foundation, with additional awards and support from dozens of other corporate, academic, governmental and science-focused organizations.

The Intel®   Science Talent Search® (Intel STS), a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the nation’s most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors. Since 1942, and in partnership with Intel since 1998, SSP has provided a national stage for the country's best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists. 

The Intel Science Talent Search encourages students to develop the skills to solve the problems of tomorrow and to tackle challenging scientific questions. Projects submitted for consideration include all disciplines of science, including biochemistry, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, behavioral science, and medicine and health. Students submit a 20-page research paper in the fall of their senior year of high school as well as transcripts, teacher recommendations, test scores and essays.  Three hundred national semifinalists and their schools are honored and rewarded with $600,000 annually; 40 finalists attend the Intel Science Talent Institute in March and compete for an additional $630,000 in awards, including the top award of $100,000.

SSP also reaches middle school students through the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology & Engineering Rising Stars) and publishes, an award-winning site focused on bringing the important content of Science News to students aged 9–14, their parents and teachers.  Moreover, the Society provides training and support to teachers in underserved communities through the SSP Fellowship, enabled by generous funding from the Intel Foundation. 


Goals of a Badge System

A key goal of an Intel/SSP badge system is to provide an incentive for engagement and participation in independent research and science fair competition for middle school and high school student researchers, teachers, mentors, judges, volunteers and the community at-large. 

Currently, winners at the Intel ISEF and Intel STS proudly list this accomplishment in their student resumes and on college applications.  A digital badge system that provides a visual demonstration of achievement will enhance and further elevate accomplishment in the eyes of the students themselves as well as college admissions officers looking for achievements that set these students apart.  Likewise, teachers, who often support student researchers above and beyond normal duties and without compensation, will be rewarded for their dedication, as will scientists and engineers who volunteer by mentoring, judging and supporting the future generation of scientists and innovators.  

Scientific inquiry is the basis for the National Science Education Standards published in 1996. Badges will support the larger badge ecosystem by requiring badge earners to articulate the process of independent research.  The 2010 National Academy of Sciences, “Framework for K-12 Science Education” links content knowledge to the skills necessary to explain the inquiry process.  The eight essential practices outlined in the framework are:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics, information and computer technology, and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Intel ISEF and Intel STS represent the student’s comprehension and execution of the scientific inquiry process.  The existing assessment process for these competitions serves as an excellent vehicle for the assessment and awarding of badges for mastering framework skills as established by the National Academy of Sciences.  

The Intel and SSP badge system has immense potential to reward students for educational growth and development in science, mathematics, and engineering.  A badge system that incentivizes independent research, mastery of the core practices of inquiry, and participation in science fairs can encourage an appreciation for science in our daily lives.  It can lead to more interest in science majors, the pursuit of scientific careers and, perhaps most importantly, can result in a citizenry that is better equipped to consider many of the science-based issues facing our global society.


Case Studies

Educational content, technical considerations and badge criteria for a preliminary set of badges based on the Intel ISEF and Intel STS follow:

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) Case Study

Learning Content

The Intel ISEF badge system begins with badges that parallel the current award structure of the competition.  Intel ISEF finalists are evaluated onsite by hundreds of judges, each with a Ph.D. or the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one or more of the 17 scientific disciplines represented by the Intel ISEF. This thorough assessment and direct competition among the most selected young scientists around the world ensure that winning projects at the Intel ISEF are worthy of the distinction of a badge. Appendix A is a table of suggested Intel ISEF badges with audience, assessment process and potential number of badge recipients in a year. Beyond student finalists, the Intel ISEF badge system will reward the many adults who support finalists: teachers, mentors, judges, interpreters, etc.   

A second phase will take advantage of and recognize science fair participation at the affiliated fair level and, by extension, to “feeder” fairs through which students qualify to participate in Intel ISEF-affiliated competitions.  Students win the right to become a finalist at one of 443 affiliated fairs from 65 countries, regions and territories (including fairs in 46 U.S. states).  Each of these regional, state or country fairs represents a population of students, teachers, judges, and volunteers who will earn badges proportionate to those whose badges are earned through the Intel ISEF.  Although the Intel ISEF is limited to students in the 9th-12 grades, many of the feeder fairs also serve middle school students. SSP’s middle school program, the Broadcom MASTERS, engages with this audience and affords a reach into this younger audience.  A badge system for this younger age group will emphasize the skills and practices of scientific inquiry as represented by the NAS framework. This will provide the added value of encouraging the natural curiosity and interest in science and engineering of younger students.

Finally the Intel ISEF badge system will include peer-to-peer badges.  One of the core values of attendance at the Intel ISEF is to bring together 1,600 talented science students from around the world who share an interest in math and science.  Peer-to-peer digital badges exchanged among finalists and the broader universe of students doing independent research might represent skills and abilities valued by their colleagues such as collaboration or leadership.  Such a peer-to-peer connection within the existing social media channels used by Intel ISEF finalists is perhaps the most effective means of popularizing and publicizing the entire badge system to its core audience of students.

Technical Considerations

SSP has developed custom registration software to maintain the records of each finalist and affiliate fair, and to provide the mechanism to submit information required for review and approval of scientific projects.   

Likewise, SSP, with Intel support, has developed an active alumni database built within a Net Community website interface with Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge software. 

SSP and Intel are positioned to make any necessary technical adjustments to implement a badge system within the current infrastructure and/or to create additional integrated systems as warranted.  

Branding Considerations

Intel ISEF badges will be distinguished by the look and feel of the Intel ISEF brand, currently enjoyed by those who achieve finalist distinction. This includes the Intel ISEF logo shield, which currently appears on official Intel ISEF publications and signage.  Various levels of accomplishment will be demonstrated graphically through color and/or design. For example, a Best of Category award might be designated “Platinum” or “Gold”; grand award status might be designated “Silver”, or further distinction could be made for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places within the grand awards.  Award rosettes, currently distributed at the Intel ISEF awards ceremony, might suggest a color coding scheme for different levels of accomplishment.

Badges awarded by affiliate fairs will also be branded appropriately and differently in turn from badges earned at a”feeder” fair.  Among all badges, some will be more generic designating, for example, a skill or practice, such as “planning and carrying out an investigation,” one of the eight practices in the NAS framework.  In contrast, the more exclusive and custom-branded badges are reserved for Intel ISEF finalists and participants (judges, interpreters, volunteers, etc.).


Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) Case Study

Learning Content

The Intel Science Talent Search is uniquely positioned by its long, distinguished history going back to 1942. In the ensuing decades, the Intel STS has established an identity as a launch pad for students who become leaders of our nation’s scientific community.  Because it is limited to high school seniors, being named an Intel STS semifinalist or finalist represents a crowning achievement for students who have most often dedicated their high school years to scientific research.

While the Intel STS badge system does not enjoy the reach of the Intel ISEF, it benefits from similarly robust assessment by Ph.D. scientists and engineers of entries. This includes a 20-page research paper, standardized test scores, transcripts, recommendations, essays, other accomplishments and publications of a student researcher.  This comprehensive scientific history provides the opportunity to assess and reward a series of badges that would attest to the skills achieved by the student through the existing review framework. Badges could be awarded at the semifinalist and finalist level, and extended at a tertiary level to those entries not placing in the top 300, but showing exceptional skill and/or vision in particular aspects of the scientific process.

While a badge system for the Intel STS would focus on high school seniors who demonstrate mastery of science practices and skills, it could also reach into a broader community of others critical to achievement at this level.  Mentors, teachers, parents, and peers who provide guidance could receive badges through entrant-to-adult and peer-to-peer nominations for their essential contributions. Their role is articulated by Craig R. Barrett, former President and CEO of Intel and current member of the SSP Board of Trustees, as follows:

"While the [Intel STS] program provides a showcase for excellent students, it also highlights a formula for success in our schools. The important ingredients of that formula are motivated students, caring teachers, and a supportive education system, community members and parents who stay involved and close to the educational process. There is nothing really magic about that list – and yet some really impressive results come about when those ingredients are combined as they are in the Science Talent Search.

Appendix B suggests Intel STS badges including audience, assessment and potential reach.  

Technical Considerations

Society for Science and the Public uses the Hobson’s ApplyYourself software for Intel STS submission.  Students are guided through the extensive application process ( which includes uploading a 20-page research paper.  Students are asked to identify those who have assisted them in their science career; badge implementation would build on the identification of these supporting players. This year custom evaluation will be introduced, allowing for easy collection of scoring data that could be used to identify non-selected entries nonetheless deserving of recognition in one or more area of scientific skill and practice. 

Alumni of the Intel STS include many distinguished scientists and engineers, including seven Nobel Laureates, two Fields Medalists, and four National Medalists of Science.  The alumni database resides within a Net Community interface with Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge technology. It allows SSP to maintain contact with STS alumni back to 1942, and would allow for potential retroactive awarding of badges. 

SSP and Intel are positioned to make the appropriate technical adjustments to implement a badge system within or in addition to the current technical infrastructure.  

Branding Considerations

Similar to the Intel ISEF badges, Intel STS badges would convey the look and feel of the Intel STS brand, including the shield logo, for those who achieve semifinalist, finalist and top 10 award levels.  These designations could be represented in color or design, for example using a “platinum” designation for a top 10 winner, “gold” for finalists and “silver” for semifinalists.  Badges outside of these existing categories would be branded differently so as not to confuse or dilute the high level of prestige enjoyed by the highest Intel STS achievers.  

Extended Badge System Opportunities – Independent programs

Intel and SSP administer a wide range of science programs that enables both organizations to extend the open badge system beyond Intel ISEF and Intel STS. 



Intel has identified additional programs for students and teachers that could be extensions of the STEM Badge project:

Design and Discovery is a free curriculum for students ages 11-15. The inquiry-based curriculum offers an interdisciplinary approach to engineering through design. Design and Discovery can be implemented in a variety of settings—as an after-school club, a summer enrichment program, or as part of a science curriculum. Design and Discovery includes the free, printable curriculum manuals for students and facilitators. In 18 sequential sessions of two to four hands-on activities each, students follow the design process, from identifying a design opportunity to developing a working prototype

Intel ISEF Middle School Science Fair  A Guide for Teachers:  This free curriculum offers a comprehensive curriculum and planning guide. It provides teachers with a detailed road map, outlining planning considerations and hands-on activities for the 30 weeks leading up to a fair. Downloadable files include the complete teaching guide, plus an accompanying set of resources and student handouts. The guide has been developed by a team of experienced science teachers and used in middle school outreach efforts in connection with the Intel International Science and Engineer Fair (Intel ISEF).

Intel Teach Elements: Intel Teach Elements is a series of high-interest, visually compelling e-learning courses that provide deeper exploration of 21st century learning concepts. Elements courses can be taken online as self-study for personal professional growth experience. Intel Teach also supports integration of the course into online and face-to-face professional development programs, and provides facilitation materials (see links below). The facilitation materials promote a deeper experience for teachers as they work through the e-learning modules. In a facilitated experience, small group discussions and Action Plan sharing builds professional learning communities around the course content.  Whether self-paced or facilitated, the instructional design includes:

  • Animated e-learning tutorials
  • Interactive learning exercises
  • Offline activities to apply concepts

Intel will continue to evaluate its programs that may be good candidates for the STEM program.


SSP’s Broadcom MASTERS competition, for middle school students, allows the Society to award badges to younger students who demonstrate good scientific practice at a more basic level. Recognition will also extend to teachers, mentors, and parents supporting these students.  The SSP Fellowship provides training and monetary support to teachers in underserved communities to implement a high-quality independent science research program for students in their schools.  The Fellowship requires multiple assessments of student participation in science outside of the classroom. 

SSP’s two publications, Science News and Science News for Kids (SNK) could lend themselves to the presentation of badges involving a student’s progress in reading and comprehension of science content through current articles at varying reading levels.  The SNK website would lend itself to being an appropriate portal for a number of science skills badges that would introduce students to the concept of independent research.  

Appendix C includes visuals (logos, pictures, etc.) to compliment the content submission.  



The partnership of Intel and Society for Science & the Public is dedicated to the promotion of the highest level of scientific research for students. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the Intel Science Talent Search are ideal platforms to raise the visibility and credibility of student research through a badge system that rewards student researchers and those who help enable their work.  





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