At a time when the United States is desperate to halt its slide in the world’s math and science rankings, a growing number of super-competitive math bowls and science fairs are putting the imprimatur of cool back into physics, trigonometry, and hydraulics, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Whether such science project showdowns can truly inspire America’s far-flung talent pools to learn what U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings calls "pocket protector skills," however, still remains to be seen. "I think we have a generation where math and science became uncool," says Jim Hamos, program director of the Math and Science Partnership Program at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va. "People are wondering what’s the galvanizing moment [for math and science education], and competitiveness may be that galvanizer. It’s one way to make science and math cool … as opposed to abstract and minimalist."

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