award | the Westinghouse Science Talent Search

Ray Kurzweil's historic teen science project: photos + interview
November 10, 2018


— a quote from Ray Kurzweil —

“All science + technology projects ultimately affect people. The leap to being an inventor is when you move away from formulas on paper — I found real joy in seeing changes in people’s lives. And the key to being a good inventor is timing. You have to aim inventions at the coming world that you can’t yet see.”

Ray Kurzweil


group: the Society for Science + the Public
competition: the Westinghouse Science Talent Search
count: the 24th annual competition
year: 1965
contest age range: teen

project title: Simulation of the Creative Process by Computer Circuitry
entry: by Ray Kurzweil
age: 17 years old

project description: A computer program that studies the patterns of songs by famous composers — and then composes original melodies in a matching style.

look + listen | video: Ray Kurzweil’s science project up-close


name history: of the historic competition

  • aka:  the Regeneron Science Talent Search — 2016 to current
  • aka:  the Intel Science Talent Search — 1998 to 2015
  • aka:  the Westinghouse Science Talent Search — 1942 to 1997

—  about the famous competition —

The Regeneron Science Talent Search Is a youth science competition in the United States for high school seniors. It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious science competitions. Youth who enter the competition conduct original science research — sometimes at home and sometimes by interning with teams at universities, hospitals, and private labs. The selection process can include: the research paper, letters of recommendation, essays, test scores, extra-curricular activities, and high school transcripts.

The Society for Science + the Public began the competition in year 1942 with the Westinghouse Electric co. The competition was known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. In 1998 Intel co. became the sponsor. In May 2016 Regeneron co. became the new title sponsor. Historically 147,000 students have entered the competition.


— a conversation with Ray Kurzweil —

interview: the Society of Science + the Public
year: 2014

Ray Kurzweil was a finalist in competition year 1965 for his project titled “Simulation of Creative Process by Computer Circuitry.”  He was 17 years old. Since then, he’s followed his dream of becoming a successful author and inventor, and has won many honors: including being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and receiving the National Medal of Technology. Kurzweil created many inventions to enhance human abilities based on the computer science technique called pattern recognition.

Kurzweil said: “It seems like only yesterday that I was a science fair finalist like these youth today — but it was half a century ago! I decided to be an inventor when he was just 5 years old. My parents gave me all these enrichment toys. I knew they were enrichment toys, because they had all these little pieces.

“So I took them all apart, and then I went around the neighborhood and found all these other things — like parts of broken bicycles — and added them to my inventory. I just had this feeling that if I could just figure out how to put them all together — that I could make something transcendent.

“My first invention was a puppet theater, and then he discovered computers when he was 12 years old. At the time, there were only 12 computers in all of New York, NY. I was fascinated with the linkages between a computer and the human brain, and my science fair project was based on how I imagined the brain worked — humans use pattern recognition, but computers use logical thinking. For my project, I created a program that could take existing melodies and create an original melody using the same pattern. That really began my life-long interest in pattern recognition.”

In the 1970s, Ray Kurzweil was working on creating a computer software program that could recognize printed text in any font or type style. The printed letters, numbers, and symbols are called characters — so the technology is called “character recognition.” The software combined with a printed materials scanner is able to recognize the characters: identify words, phrases, and whole sentences.

He said: “It was a solution in search of a problem.” Until he sat next to a blind man on an airplane, who complained about being unable to read print materials without assistance, since only 3% of printed books were available in Braille.

Kurzweil then applied several of his inventions, including a flat-bed scanner, speech and character recognition programs to create a print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, low vision, or disabled people. The amazing device could read aloud any printed material placed on the machine.

Kurzweil said: “That’s when I first deeply noticed the trend in science + technology progress I call the law of accelerating returns, where you apply an exponential trajectory to expectations for technology’s growth. For example: when I was at MIT, they all shared one computer and now an individual mobile phone is several billion times more powerful.

“Another big example: mapping the human genome — the complete pattern of DNA that all human biological cells contain — took 7 years to get to 1% complete, but was finished 7 years later. And now you do things to DNA like turn proteins on + off to combat diseases.

“Here’s a good example of the power of rapid progress in technology development. In 1968: 1 transistor was available for $1.00 — but now you can get a billion time better quality for the same $1.00. Society has more than doubled our consumption of digital tech because of inventors and innovators, like the science fair finalists, coming up with new ideas by predicting what people will want and need in the future.”

He predicts that in the near future: 3D printing will become common and popular — as people figure out how to use these personal-size “solid object” printers to affordably make new household goods or parts for equipment. He imagines robotic devices the size of blood cells that can enter the human body for therapies like delivering medications.

He also says humans will become smarter — because we will invent ways to expand our minds + bodies, by adding-on digital devices and assistive technologies. But there are also down-sides and risks to humanity as our knowledge and abilities increase. For example, as we hack the unknown world of biology we could accidentally create a super-virus. We have to keep up with our inventions through new safety guidelines and security.

Kurzweil said: “All science + technology projects ultimately affect people. The leap to being an inventor is when you move away from formulas on paper — I found real joy in seeing changes in people’s lives. And the key to being a good inventor is timing. You have to aim inventions at the world that you can’t yet see.

“I encouraged students to remember the always-accelerating pace of progress in your plans. Life will be very different when you finish a project — from how it was when you began your endeavor. Especially with science + technology projects. So the new tools you’re developing will need to make a contribution to a society that will have a futuristic infra-structure, marketplace, risks, needs, opportunities, and politics — compared to the world you started out with.”

— end of interview —


photo collection | below

year: 1965
featuring: Ray Kurzweil + other youth finalists
event: the Westinghouse Science Talent Search
venue: Washington, DC • US

official photos: by the Society for Science + the Public


photo | no. 1
Ray Kurzweil on a field trip w. the group of young competition finalists.


photo | no. 2
Ray Kurzweil w. the group of young competition finalists at the White House w. US President Lyndon Johnson.


photo | no. 3
Ray Kurzweil w. the group of young competition finalists at the White House w. US President Lyndon Johnson.



image | below
Awards brochure for year 1965 Westinghouse Science Talent search.


on the web | pages

the Regeneron Science Talent Search | home

Society for Science + the Public | home
Society for Science + the Public | YouTube channel

Society for Science + the Public | the Regeneron Science Talent Search
Society for Science + the Public | science talent through the years: home
Society for Science + the Public | science talent through the years: 1965

Society for Science + the Public: science news | home
Society for Science + the Public: science news for students | home
Society for Science + the Public: science news for students | blogs

Society for Science + the Public: science news for students | blogs: Analyze This
Exploring science through data, graphs, visualizations.

Society for Science + the Public: science news for students | blogs: Technically Fiction
Finding facts in the fantastic.

Society for Science + the Public: science news for students | blogs: Scientists Say
Weekly words defined in a sentence and in context.

Society for Science + the Public: science news for students | blogs: Eureka! Lab
A place for discovery.


on the web | learning

Wikipedia | the Regeneron Science Talent Search
Wikipedia | the Society for Science + the Public


— finalists from year: 1965 —

student name — home city + home state | in the United States

  • Patricia Ader — Anchorage, AK
  • Eric Anderson — La Grange, IL
  • Michael Anderson — Portland, OR
  • William Bagnuolo • junior — Mount Prospect, IL
  • William Barker — Louisville, KY
  • Ann Bigelow — Galion, OH
  • Robert Brock — Fort Worth, TX
  • Albert Choate — Alden, NY
  • John Cross • junior — Memphis, TN
  • Robert Ephraim — Little Neck, NY
  • Nancy Fering — Sleepy Eye, MN
  • Arthur Frankel — Austin, TX
  • John Gott • 3rd — Louisville, KY
  • Helen Greer — Brooklyn, NY
  • Joyce Gudaitis — Cleveland, OH
  • Joseph Harabin — Philadelphia, PA
  • Edwin Hassid — San Francisco, CA
  • Larry Howard — Canoga Park, CA
  • Randy Johnson — Sheboygan, WI
  • Thomas Knight • junior— Wakefield, MA
  • Raymond Kurzweil — Jamaica, NY
  • Martin Lechowicz — Villa Park, IL
  • Jerrold Levinson — Brooklyn, NY
  • John Loewenstein — New York, NY
  • Linda Magid — Omaha, NE
  • Caroline Mayer — Sheboygan, WI
  • Robert Miller — Bettendorf, IA
  • Polly Moore — McLean, VA
  • James Nathanson  — West Hartford, CT
  • David Pensak — Princeton, NJ
  • Donald Rosenblitt — Flushing, NY
  • Christopher Roth — Brunswick, GA
  • Louis Rowen — New York, NY
  • Mary Schaps — Bethesda, MD
  • Michael Siegal — Bayside, NY
  • Stuart Silverman — Chicago, IL
  • Albert Smith • junior— La Mesa, CA
  • Evalyn Spitze — Bergenfield, NJ
  • James Strauchen — Rego Park, NY
  • James Truitt • junior — Orlando, FL

— top winner: Larry Howard
— 2nd place: John Gott • the third
— 3rd place: Louis Rowen
— 4th place: James Strauchen
— 5th place: Helen Greer

— gala speaker: Donald Frederick Hornig PhD


* LBJ is former US President Lyndon Baines Johnson
* MIT is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


[ story file ]

story title: award | the Westinghouse Science Talent Search
deck: Ray Kurzweil’s historic teen science project: photos + interview
year: 2018
posted: by managing editor
section: the Kurzweil legacy: awards