THINK 2015 Winners

2015 Press Release

Artificial Musculature: A New Approach to the Linear Solenoid

Emma Morgan, Grade 11, Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, CA

Advancement in biologically based robotics is the key to better prosthetics and more lifelike robots. This requires linear motion like that of natural musculature. Currently, the major types of electromechanical linear actuators are solenoids and pneumatics, which are not well adapted for use as musculature. This paper proposes a redesign of the linear solenoid to form linear actuator cells. Consisting of a permanent magnet and an electromagnet, these modular cells will expand and contract based on the direction of the current through the electromagnet. Each cell can connect to another identical cell and form a chain or “muscle”. I will test several sizes of cells, types of electromagnets, and materials for the outer membrane to determine which has the most contraction capacity and efficiency. Later research will focus on miniaturization of the most efficient model.

Emma: I am a junior at Stevenson School in California. I love math and science and all types of problem solving. Two summers ago I took an intensive course in electrical engineering and since then I can’t get enough of robotics projects. The school tech center occasionally calls me if they have a broken piece of equipment that I might want to dismantle for parts. This year I started an unofficial robotics club, and I hope to build enough interest to create an official team and compete next year. In addition to science interests, I am the captain of my school’s varsity water polo team, and I compete in equestrian events year round. I have served on student council for the past three years, and I am the president of my class in National Charity League. I love reading science fiction novels and writing for my school’s literary magazine.

Cooler Photovoltaics Using Phase Change Materials

Aditya Jog, Grade 10, William Mason High School, Mason, OH

Photovoltaic cells have the potential to utilize the planet’s most plentiful renewable energy source, yet their widespread use has been impeded because of relatively low efficiency. The solar to electrical conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices suffers when they operate at elevated temperatures. Current solutions rely on active heat dissipation, increasing both capital and operating costs. This proposal offers an alternative, passive heat dissipation system that employs a solid-liquid phase change material as a temperature regulator. During daytime, the phase change material will absorb wasted heat from an attached solar panel, thus keeping the photovoltaic cells near optimal temperature. At night, the liquid phase change material will freeze; this process will repeat daily. The major advantage of this system is that it requires no additional energy consumption at little extra cost. This project aims to produce a cost effective thermal energy storage system to increase the conversion efficiency of photovoltaic cells.

Aditya: I am currently a sophomore at William Mason High School in Mason, Ohio. From a very young age, I have been interested in applying science to the world around me. Though my childhood Lego models have not all remained intact, my passion for engineering has only developed further. In the past few years, I have worked on projects in a vast range of areas – from thermoelectric materials to electrowetting to water purification – to contribute to a better, more sustainable future. The opportunities I have received to present my findings have allowed me to meet people with unique ideas from across the country. At school, I have learned to work with a team, think critically, and problem solve as a member of the Science Olympiad and Speech and Debate teams. I hope to continue my involvement in scientific research to improve people’s lives now and in the future.

Thermoelectric Gloves: An Ergonomic and Sustainable Solution

Sharon Lin, Grade 10, Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY

While conventional gloves may be able to insulate heat, they rely solely on pockets of air left between the fabric and the user’s skin. Worse, many are bulky and do an insufficient job of protecting the hands from cold conditions. The aim of this project is to create a thermo-regulating polymer glove powered by the wearer’s own body heat. A thermoelectric generator (TEG) will generate energy based on the difference in external and internal temperatures, storing the energy in a flexible, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) battery. The battery will be nestled between layers of breathable membranes with stainless steel threaded through to provide full circulation for the heat. All of the electrical components of the thermoelectric glove will be wired back to a circuit board, on which an Arduino microcontroller will wirelessly monitor the performance of the heating system. The finished product will have numerous applications in commercial, medical, and industrial fields.

Sharon: I am a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School, and I am incredibly passionate about science and technology. I founded the Technology Students Association at my school, and I currently serve as the New York State Sergeant-at-Arms. I am working on coordinating a Metropolitan Regional Competition, as well as middle school mentorships to help younger kids gain an edge in technological literacy. I am also a She++ Scholar and an NCWIT Aspirations National Runner-up, as well as a member of Science Olympiad and the Urban Barcode Project, where we are conducting research on algal bodies around the five boroughs of New York. Apart from the sciences, I love music, and have sang in the MEANYC Honors Choir and in Avery Fischer Hall. I am very excited to begin my project with the MIT THINK team, and I hope that my endeavors will have a great impact on the greater community!

THINK 2015 Finalists

Automated Illustration of Text to Improve Semantic Comprehension

Suvir Mirchandani and Konrad Urban, Grades 10 & 11, Fox Chapel Area High School, Pittsburgh, PA

Over a million Americans suffer from aphasia, a disorder which severely limits language comprehension. Medical professionals suggest that individuals with aphasia have a greater understanding of pictures than of the written or spoken word. We propose a communication system that automatically converts text to images to augment lingual communication. Prior systems are limited to highly constrained input strings and predefined output templates. To incorporate a variety of input strings, we will train a 2D human model to illustrate human action verbs with a dataset of human actions annotated with their physical attributes. We have developed an image processing algorithm that finds simplified images of concrete nouns, and will use a graph-theoretic approach to translate abstract nouns into representative concrete nouns. To generically lay out image components, our system will learn spatial relationships from real-world images. We will conduct human tests of the system’s efficacy in communicating text using images.

Suvir: I am passionate about low-cost technological solutions that improve our quality of life. Besides this THINK project, I've worked on a "social robot" designed to help the elderly cope with isolation or depression. I have also developed a multimodal web browser for motor-impaired users for which I received the Web Innovator Award at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. I believe strongly in environmental sustainability, and I was featured in Science magazine last year for research I conducted which showed that switching typefaces can save a significant amount of ink and toner. Outside the science world, I'm an avid student of piano, and I've performed three times at Carnegie Hall in New York City as a winner in the World Piano Competition. In my free time, I enjoy cricket, writing, and photography.

Konrad: From a young age, I’ve loved solving problems. In elementary school, I designed a light system to ensure kids did not forget their books in their lockers. Engineering, and later, computer science, have greatly influenced my future: I participated in my first robotics competition in middle school, started a FIRST Tech Challenge team called Fourth River Robotics in high school, and coauthored a paper on multi-robot path planning in a robotics lab at CMU before my Junior year. In ninth grade and tenth grade, I was part of a team that won first place in the state in the TEAMS competition and qualified for the national competition. I love to share my knowledge with others: I founded a series of robotics classes called RoboClass for middle school students. Beyond technical fields, I enjoy running cross country, playing violin, debate, and reading pretty much anything.

Creating a Dual Photocatalytic Air Purifier and Hydrogen Fuel Source for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Lauren Kim, Grade 11, Woodbridge High School, Irvine, CA

Air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk, and an increasing dependency on fossil fuels brings worries about the sustainability of our future. The need for renewable energy sources is more important than ever and photocatalysis has the potential to tackle both these problems while being low-cost and environmentally-friendly. Only needing sunlight, water, and a catalyst, photocatalysis can split water to produce hydrogen gas that can be used in a fuel cell and can oxidize harmful air pollutants into harmless substances. Ultimate goals for this project is to create a dual photocatalytic air purifier and hydrogen fuel source that is affordable, can be used in a variety of environments, and produce enough energy to pay off the initial cost of the device. The successful completion of this device will produce a renewable source of energy while simultaneously destroying 95% of pollutants in the air.

Lauren: I am currently a junior at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, CA. I have a great interest in sustainable energy and finding ways to save our environment. I truly believe the sustainability of our energy sources is key to our continued survival on earth and it would mean the world to me if I can help other people through my research. I have conducted research on wave energy, wind turbines, and now focus on photocatalytic air purification and water splitting. I am also conducting research with the SCAS RTP program. I have been a student researcher at UCI since 2013 and I am actively involved in Science Fair, Science Olympiad, and Student Government. Additionally, I run for my school's track team, enjoy playing the piano, and love to read books. Being part of the MIT THINK program is an honor and I am so excited to be a part of this.

Proposal for Detecting Bruxism with an EEG Device

Brian Singer, Grade 11, Byram Hills High School, Armonk, NY

My intent is to develop a proof of concept for a device that identifies and treats bruxism. Bruxism is a disorder in which a patient excessively grinds or clenches his teeth. Bruxism symptoms include tooth wear, headaches, back pain, and neck pain. The device will detect Bruxism using electroencephalograms (EEG). I plan to use the EEG signals as input to a non-invasive brain-computer interface for early detection of bruxism — even before the jaw muscles fully contract. The current available bruxism detection or symptom alleviation devices are intrusive. I plan on developing an algorithm to detect bruxism using a minimal number of electrodes. Next I will test a prototype device on sufferers of bruxism to gauge effectiveness and obtain qualitative user feedback. Minimizing the number of electrodes will enable the design of a miniaturized, commercially viable device that is both comfortable to wear and unobtrusive.

Brian: I am currently a junior at Byram Hills High School in Armonk, NY. I have a strong interest in computer programming and I have taught myself multiple computer languages. I program computers and microcontrollers. I have recently done some projects in web development using Node.js. I am a TA for AP Computer Science at Byram Hills High School and I also teach a programming class once a week. I enjoy physics and science research. I am a sprinter on my high school track team and I enjoy playing ultimate frisbee on the weekends. I enjoy hiking and last summer I graduated from NOLS outdoor leadership school.


Honorable Mentions


  1. A Novel Paper Sensor for Mobile Surveillance of Water Quality

    - Jack Andraka, Grade 12, North County High School, Crownsville, MD

  2. Development of a Low-Cost Audiogram and Hearing Aid

    - Mukund Venkatakrishnan, Grade 10, duPont Manual High School, Louisville, KY

  3. Engineering a Solar-Heating Method For Outdoor Plant Enclosures

    - Tiffany Chen and Aparna Ragupathi, Grades 11 & 9 , High Technology High School, Lincroft, NJ