If you see lots of very young people around Pittsburgh this week wearing Intel ISEF name badges, be sure to give them a warm welcome. They’re competitors in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Pittsburgh is one of three cities selected by the Society for Science & the Public to host the prestigious event over the course of this decade. Los Angeles and Phoenix are the other two. Yep, that’s right: Pittsburgh’s the only place east of the Mississippi to host this event.

Intel ISEF 2012 is the world’s largest high school science research competition. More than 1,500 students have been selected from 446 affiliate fairs in approximately 70 countries, regions and territories to share ideas, showcase cutting-edge research and inventions, and compete for more than $3 million in awards.

In addition to welcoming our guests, we also have a “home team” to cheer for; seven Pittsburgh area students are competing with projects such as an improved cancer treatment, a model car that runs on pavement heat and new iPhone-based sensing technology to assist those with sight limitations.

"Best of the World" images are greeting visitors on billboards and PG-TV screens around town.

Working with our partners at VisitPittsburgh and thanks to the generosity of Lamar and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we’ve been able to post welcoming messages on digital billboards on the Parkway West and on PG-TV screens in convenience stores and coffee shops throughout the region. We’re emphasizing our region as a center for higher education, R&D and innovation, and hoping the hundreds of students visiting this week might consider applying to one of our region’s 35 colleges and universities. Something like 25 percent of the science fair contestants already holds patents for their inventions.

Hundreds of Pittsburghers have stepped up to help stage the fair – more than 900 local scientists, engineers and medical professionals have volunteered to serve as judges, and hundreds more people are helping with the hospitality and serving as interpreters. Recently we focused on the effort on Our Region’s Business.

In addition, the Allegheny Conference has organized a Pittsburgh ISEF Symposium – “Energy to the Power of Pittsburgh: Young Leaders and Energy Solutions” — on Tuesday, May 15. In what may be the only Pittsburgh-specific symposium of the fair, Catherine DeLoughry, our senior VP of communication and public affairs, pulled together a crew of local people not much older than ISEF participants to talk about the impact they’re having in the Pittsburgh region, especially in the energy sector. We’ll touch on our region’s energy expertise and then highlight two projects where we can see science and engineering talent at work – the about-to-open Phipps’ “Living Building” (one of the first in the world) and the on-its-way Tower at PNC that’s going to take green building to a new global scale.

One really cool element of all of this is “Pittsburgh Day” on Thursday, May 17, when local companies, organizations schools and teachers bring 4,000 students from more than 50 schools across our region to see the fair, meet the entrants and participate in hands-on science activities. Talk about a great way to set the bar for excellence in achievement in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and math!

Intel ISEF is one of the “big three” national and international conferences featuring thousands of young people that we’ve been targeting this year in partnership with VisitPittsburgh as part of our “Best of the World” initiative. The National Society of Black Engineers held their national conference here in March (check out our blog coverage of it here) and the One Young World summit will provide the grand finale in October. Not only is there signage inside and outside the convention center speaking to opportunity in the region, but in partnership with the Allegheny County Airport Authority, this month we’ve produced an in-flight video about Pittsburgh that’s running system-wide on Delta Air Lines. We’re literally trying to catch these young people coming and going to encourage them to imagine what they can do here.

(It’s worth noting that both Intel ISEF and One Young World trace their decisions to choose Pittsburgh in part to the attention received around the G-20 Summit in 2009. The success of that event demonstrated our region’s ability to host major, international events.)

Please help us spread the word about Pittsburgh as a “Best of the World” magnet for young people in 2012.