- Shanya Gill, 12, from San Jose, California, received the $25,000 Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND Award for her fire detection system.
Shanya Gill of San Jose, California was inspired to create a fire-detection system when a fire destroyed a restaurant behind her house in the summer of 2022. The sixth grader at Stratford School – Sunnyvale Raynor Middle School designed the system by connecting an affordable thermal camera to a compact computer, and then programmed it to differentiate between people and heat sources. She programmed the system to send a text message when it detected a heat source but no human presence for a continuous 10-minute period. The system accurately detected human presence 98% of the time and heat sources 97% of the time.
The project won her the top award at the inaugural Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge. The 12-year-old received the $25,000 Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND (Aspiring Scientists Cultivating Exciting New Discoveries) Award for “her project designing a fire detection system as well as the leadership, collaboration and critical thinking skills,” Thermo Fisher Scientific and Society for Science announced yesterday (Nov. 1).
Gill plans to deploy the system at a large scale, and is doing experiments where “the device would be placed on the ceiling like a smoke detector,” she said on the Society for Science website. “ There, the device can draw power from existing electric lines and view a wider area.”
Gill was joined by three other Indian Americans who won awards at the nation’s premier middle school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competition.
Keshvee Sekhda, 14, Sugar Hill, Georgia won the $10,000 Broadcom Coding with CommitmentTM Award; Maya Gandhi, 14, Anaheim, California, won the $10,000 DoD STEM Talent Award; and Adyant Bhavsar, 13, San Jose, Calif.; won the $10,000 Lemelson Award for Invention.
The winners were chosen from the 30 finalists, who were selected from nearly 2,000 applicants from 49 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.“The top winners of the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge have exhibited boundless curiosity,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science and executive publisher of Science News Media Group. “Their remarkable research not only reflects their talent but also paves the way for an exciting new future.” Awards were presented at a Nov. 1 ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Sekhda and her teammate Nyambura Sallinen developed a smartphone app called IdentiCan to identify breast, lung, and skin cancer. It uses photos or health scans, sound clips and personal health information to predict diagnoses. “I believe the next step would be to collaborate with professional doctors and front-end developers to receive a different view on our app,” said the eighth-grader at North Gwinnett Middle School. She and her teammate would also continue refining their algorithms and developing specialized surveys from symptoms.
Gandhi, an eighth grader at Fairmont Private School, explored different substances to boost the energy output of plant microbial fuel cells, which generate electricity using living plants and microbes. She also won the Thermo Fisher Scientific Leadership Award, bestowed upon one finalist, recognizing the students elected by their peers to speak on behalf of their Thermo Fisher JIC class at the Awards Ceremony.
Bhavsar, a seventh-grader at Challenger School – Strawberry Park created a low-cost, eco-friendly version of a triboelectric nanogenerator. This device generates electricity from the mechanical energy of two touching objects when they separate. He said on the Society for Science blog that he’s “figuring out how to amplify to power high-voltage electronics would further optimize my triboelectric nanogenerator.” He might also try connecting several of them and explore other methods of generating triboelectricity.
In addition to the top prizes, Thermo Fisher and the Society announced first- and second-place winners in each of the STEM categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, as well as the Team Award.
Advait Badrish, a seventh grader from Redmond, Washington, won first place in the technology category. He developed a smartphone app prototype called Heart NN that lets people check their heart sounds.
The first place Engineering Award went to Krishna Bhatt, an eighth grader from San Jose, California, for a prototype wearable device that can help people with balance issues.
Amrita Praveen won the second place Mathematics Award. The eighth grader from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, designed software that personalizes music therapy by automatically filtering songs based on a person’s heart rate and skin electrical activity.
Gill and Bhavsar were also part of the ‘Silver Team’ that won the Team Award along with Akshadha Mehta, Colin Beckner, and Venice Parnell. For their “ability to work together and solve problems through shared decision-making, communication, and scientific and engineering collaboration.”
(All photos, courtesy Society of Science)