Romanian Teenager Wins Big for Low-Cost, Self-Driving Car Innovation

Ionut Budisteanu of Romania Wins Top Prize at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

  • The world’s largest high school science research competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, announced its top winners in Phoenix.
  • Ionut Budisteanu of Romania received the Gordon E. Moore Award, a $75,000 prize named in honor of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.
  • Two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards winners – Eesha Khare of Saratoga, Calif. and Henry Lin of Shreveport, La. – each received prizes of $50,000 from the Intel Foundation.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – May 17, 2013

Ionut Budisteanu, 19, of Romania was awarded first place for using artificial intelligence to create a viable model for a low-cost, self-driving car at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public.

Ionut said hisresearch addresses a major global issue. In 2004, car accidents caused 2.5 million deaths worldwide1, and 87 percent of crashes resulted from driver error2. With 3-D radar and mounted cameras, Ionut created a feasible design for an autonomously controlled car that could detect traffic lanes and curbs, along with the real-time position of the car – and it would only cost $4,000. He received the Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000, named in honor of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.

Eesha Khare, 18, of Saratoga, Calif. received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000. With the rapid adoption of portable electronics, Eesha recognized the crucial need for energy-efficient storage devices. She developed a tiny device that fits inside cell phone batteries, allowing them to fully charge within 20-30 seconds. Eesha’s invention also has potential applications for car batteries.

Henry Lin, 17, of Shreveport, La. also received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000. By simulating thousands of clusters of galaxies, Henry has provided scientists with valuable new data, allowing them to better understand the mysteries of astrophysics: dark matter, dark energy and the balance of heating and cooling in the universe’s most massive objects.

“We support the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair because we believe that science and math are the foundation of innovation, which is imperative for global economic growth and dancing society,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “This competition encourages millions of students worldwide every year to explore their passion for math and science while developing solutions for global challenges.”

This year, approximately 1,600 young scientists were chosen to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. They were selected from 433 affiliate fairs in more than 70 countries, regions and territories. In addition to the winners mentioned above, more than 500 finalists received awards and prizes for their innovative research. Awards included 17 “Best of Category” winners who each received a $5,000 prize. The Intel Foundation also awarded a $1,000 grant to each winner’s school and to the affiliated fair they represent. 

The following lists the 17 Best of Category winners from which the top three were chosen: 


CategoryFirst – Last – City – State/Country

  • Animal Services, Michael Shao, Northville, Mich.
  • Behavioral and Social Sciences, Zarin, Rahman, Brookings, S.D.
  • Biochemistry, Savannah Tobin, Salem, Ore.
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hannah, Wastyk, Palmyra, Pa.
  • Chemistry, Eesha Khare, Saratoga, Calif.
  • Computer Science, Ionut Budisteanu, Ramnicu, Valcea, Romania
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences, Gyou Tanaka, Mobara, Chiba, Japan
  • Engineering: Electrical and Mechanical, Zeyu Liu, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering, Samantha Marquez, Midlothia, Va.
  • Energy and Transportation, Evie Sobczak, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • Environmental Management, Shixuan Li, Lynn Haven, Fla.
  • Environmental Sciences, Naomi Shah, Portland, Ore.
  • Mathematical Sciences, Vinay MacAlpine, Portland, Ore.
  • Medicine and Health, Jessie MacAlpine, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
  • Microbiology, David Zimmerman, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Physics and Astronomy, Henry Lin, Shreveport, La.
  • Plant Sciences, Samantha Ryan, Amy DiSalvo, Kenny Vitha, Hewlett, N.Y.


Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, has owned and administered the International Science and Engineering Fair since its inception in 1950.

“We congratulate Ionut, Eesha and Henry on their success at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair this week in Phoenix,” said Elizabeth Marincola, president of Society for Science & the Public. “Their research demonstrates the value of hard work and creative thinking. All the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalists here this week show great promise in harnessing the power of science and innovation to solve problems and create opportunity for our global community.”

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair honorssome of the world’s most promising, rising student entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists. Finalists are selected annually from hundreds of affiliated fairs. Their projects are then evaluated onsite by more than 1,200 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each with a Ph.D. or the equivalent of 6 years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.

This is the first year that all Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalists will receive digital badges recognizing and rewarding their achievements in independent scientific and engineering research. Volunteers, judges and interpreters will also receive badges. Digital badges promote informal modes of education and provide recognition and credentialing for achievements beyond the classroom.

A full listing of finalists is available in the event program. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2013 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. This year, more than $4 million was awarded.

To learn more about Society for Science & the Public, visit, and follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter.

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1World report on road traffic injury prevention, WHO, 2004 (from Ionut’s research)

2A study using British and American crash reports as data (from Ionut’s research)

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Gail Dundas

Intel Corporation


Sarah Wood

Society for Science & the Public


Maria Culp

North of Nine Communications, for Intel