Best and brightest compete at elite science fair

President Obama will meet Wednesday with some of the country's brightest young minds at the Intel Science Talent Search in Washington. Forty high school seniors vied for a $150,000 top prize for their experiments and discoveries, but their contributions may be priceless, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

The end of the competition was like the final round of a reality show, except that the finalists on the stage were not singers, they were scientists; America's very best high school scientists.

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Jin of California won a $150,000 award for a method he developed to scan DNA for genetic mutations, including the genetic source of deadly diseases.

"Hepatitis, or influenza, or even HIV," Jin said.

For years studies have said that American teenagers lag behind students in other countries in science and in math, but that's an average. These are America's elites. Almost every one of these finalists has invented a breakthrough idea.

Kalia Firester developed a tomato plant resistant to pests, Jesse Zhang found a new way to predict the polar vortex and 17-year-old Kriti Lall invented a kit that removes arsenic -- which poisons almost 140 million people every year -- from water.

"In terms of saving people's lives and improving the quality of life, I think it really has huge implications and I'm really excited about that," Lall said.

The competition and all the pageantry is part of the annual Science Talent Search, which for 17 years has been sponsored by the Intel Corporation. The company's President Renée James said she was amazed at this year's level of innovation, and hopeful about the future.

"These kids are thinking about things, not just little science projects, they're thinking about global issues and solving environment and medical -- I mean big world kinds of things," James said.

On any other day these students are teenagers -- high school kids involved in sports teams, concerts and student government. But on that special night, they trade textbooks for tuxedos, experiments for evening gowns and are recognized for their research and ideas.

America's got talent all right, in the form of a generation that will reinvent everything.