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Intel Winner Michelle Hackman

Michelle Hackman, a North High School senior, has been named a winner in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search. She won second place among the top 10 winners chosen from the 40 finalists who had competed in a week of rigorous judging, held in Washington, DC. 

“The creativity and leadership of these Intel scientists and mathematicians hold tremendous potential to move our country forward…as they address real-world problems,” said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini.

Michelle’s award-winning project, “Communication Underload: Validating the Existence of Disconnect Anxiety,” grew out of a personal observation she made while sitting with friends. She realized that just about everyone around her was texting. What would be their reactions, she thought, if students were completely separated from their cell phones? Would they experience disconnect anxiety or withdrawal symptoms typically associated with addictions? She decided to measure and analyze mobile phone dependence, a topic not extensively discussed in scientific literature.

After analyzing the reactions of 150 participants, half separated from their mobile phone for 45 minutes and half not, she found that the term “disconnect anxiety” (coined by a professional research group in 2008) did not apply. Rather than becoming anxious, the students without their cell phones felt understimulated or bored. She observed that they simply had lost the ability to “entertain” themselves.

Michelle’s work was completed in-school under the guidance of Alan Schorn, science research teacher. She was also assisted by South High behavioral science teacher Michelle Sorise, who contributed significant advice on the design of the project.

Michelle plans to attend Yale University in the fall.

Intel (the former Westinghouse competition), begun in 1942, is the country’s oldest pre-college science competition and is considered by many to be the most prestigious.