A few years ago I had the pleasure of being a judge for the regional round of a science fair.
As cliche as it sounds, it really was a fun event. All of the students were very nice and had interesting ideas. As I walked around the poster session once thing stuck in my mind. There seemed to be a huge variation in the amount of resources each student had. At one point I talked back to back a student who was working in a university lab, "collaborating with a postdoc" , and another student who lived on a farm far from university only got help from his dad to lift heavy things. The contrast couldn't have been sharper. One was polished and screamed (not literally) future grad student. The other just seemed like a 17 year old kid with some nice ideas.
To me the impression was less about them, because I really only talked with each for about 10 mintues. And more about the gaping differences in what resources they had on the table. Of course the the university lab student's project is going to be more sophisticated, more polished.
I don't think that ever it occurred to me as a possibility to work in a university lab. When I was in high school I thought I was a badass because I sometimes worked in the university library (parent was an alum so I could check things out).
I was just reading over the recent NY times article on the Intel Science Talent Contest. I always wonder with those things how much a student from less rescourced background could do. Some of the finalist have things like access to university super computers. How many high school students, no matter how talented can get that?
There's a good discussion of this sort of thing over at PLoS blogs.