THINK 2016 Winners

National Finalists

A Smartphone Application for Early Cancer Screening via Aqueous Nitric Oxide Detection

Anagha Krishnan and Kevin Ong, Grade 12, Texas Academy of Math and Science, Denton, TX

Cancer is the second deadliest disease affecting humanity, and, despite advances in oncological science, researchers predict that the number of people dying from cancer will increase in the next five years. To address this problem, we take an unconventional approach towards cancer research by focusing on early cancer detection instead of improved cancer treatment, as early-stage cancers have a high cure rate with current treatments. We seek to create a cost-effective, noninvasive diagnostic that can detect cancer accurately in an outpatient setting using nitric oxide (NO) as a salivary cancer biomarker. Increased NO in saliva is an early sign of cellular stress caused by cancer, but there are currently no inexpensive, accurate ways to detect NO aqueously. In this model, the addition of NO to Diaminofluorescein-FM Diacetate (DAFFM), zinc oxide (ZnO), graphene oxide (GO), and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) changes the absorption properties of those materials, facilitating easy measurement of NO concentration. We then suggest a simple camera-based phone application that will take photographs of the resulting chemiluminescent reaction between NO and the probe and then analyze the pixel brightness to determine NO concentration and cancer presence in the body. The app will also print the NO concentration and cancer stage and alert users of abnormal results.

Anagha: I am a senior at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science in Denton, Texas. I am the secretary of RESOLV, an idea-incubator, and I am an Aspire Science Fair coach, where I help middle-school students with science-fair projects for Intel and Broadcom MASTERS. I also run varsity and intramural cross-country and volunteer with special education students at local elementary schools. I am an Intel STS Semifinalist, won first place at the Texas Junior Academy of Science as well as the Texas Science and Engineering Fair, and am the second author of two research papers. In my free time, I enjoy singing obnoxiously loud and off-key, chugging gallons of orange juice, and fangirling over Feynman. I hope to graduate with a B.S. in chemical engineering and an MD/PhD in oncopharmacology and embark on a research career. I am honored and excited to be a part of the MIT THINK program!

Kevin: I am a senior at the Texas Academy of Math and Science. Born and raised in the Plano-Dallas area, I have developed a life-long passion for anything STEM related! From FIRST Robotics and space history to hackathons, I am an extremely active advocate for technology within my community. For fun, you might find me teaching JAVA to students with MINECRAFT in a program I started or making videogames with my friends. I even wrote a graphics engine in my spare time! My devotion to community and STEM fields has driven me to make technology more accessible in our everyday lives. This is a quote that I live by: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

A Novel Approach to Air Purity through Hydrolysis in a Compact Device Powered by Induction in Bicycles 

Matthew Kim, Grade 11, and Andrew Lee, Grade 12, Woodbridge School, Irvine, CA

Air pollution continues to increase today as a result of industrialization and by the burning of fossil fuels by various industries. Although pollution is evident in all parts of the globe, it is most severe in China: home to twenty percent of the world’s population. Industries in China burn organic matter and produce thick black smoke full of amorphous carbons. These solid pollutants end up trapped in the humid air in China. Due to the excessive emission of harmful pollutants, there have been multiple incidents of premature death and severe respiratory illnesses.Through this project, we hope to develop a device that utilizes untapped power sources to their fullest potential in order to purify air. We hope to create a compact device that is practical and applicable to any bike. Our device may be used easily by recreational bikers, long­distance cyclists, and by bikers in high­pollution areas such as China. As a side effect, our device may motivate more bike usage and consequently decrease pollution. With these in mind, we developed a mechanism that utilizes the rotational movement of pedaling on bikes as a source of energy. We combined part of current technology that uses eddy currents induced from the spinning of the bike wheel to create electricity. This will power a dehumidifier to condense the water in the air. After extraction, the water will be electrolyzed to release clean hydrogen and oxygen gas. The device will leave behind solid amorphous carbons which were initially contained in the water vapor.

Matthew: I am currently a junior at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, CA. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, and I moved to the US in 2005. Ever since I was a child, I have always enjoyed building things, from paper weapons to bows/arrows out of chopsticks. I have a strong interest in all the sciences and am driven towards a future in the STEM field. During my first two years in high school, I developed a passion for chemistry and physics. In my junior year, I immersed myself in the world of computer science. At school, I participate in a variety of academic competitions like Chemistry Olympiad, Science Olympiad, and Science Bowl which allow me to apply and strengthen my knowledge on a competitive level. In my spare time, I enjoy practicing viola, performing with my AINOS ensemble, volunteering for the Irvine Police Department, and playing Hearthstone. Through my project and MIT THINK, I hope to hone my research skills and expand my scientific intellect.

Andrew: I am a senior at Woodbridge High School at Irvine, CA. I am a Canadian-born Korean who is currently interested in STEM fields such as electrical engineering, computer science, and physics. It seems I was led to science/engineering because of my early habits of racing on mental math worksheets with my peers. I am now a “Mu Captain” for the Mu Alpha Theta club, physics columnist for the school science newsletter, and am working on developing a computer game for my school’s JCL latin convention. I am also a bando at heart, playing trumpet since the fifth grade and now a dedicated member of marching band, lead trumpet for jazz band, and a trumpet in wind ensemble and musical pit. In my free time, I enjoy playing tetris at high speeds, listening to jazz and DCI (look it up!), and having profound discussions about life.

A Novel High Efficiency System for Infant Warming through Secondary Heating Mechanisms

Swathi Srinivasan, Grade 11, Beachwood High School, Cleveland, OH

Each year, 15 million infants are born premature and face the obstacle of hypothermia. Hypothermia is characterized by a severe reduction in the mean body temperature and negligence of a stable environment can lead to neurological complications and death. Thermal stability is a necessity for survival, yet current incubators using high power forced-air heating are extremely expensive, and those using a less-expensive phase change material (PCM) can only maintain heat for four hours at maximum. The goal of this project is to create novel system for infant warming through secondary heating mechanisms. By using this low-power method of resistance heating for continuously warming a gel-like material, thermal stability can be maintained for durations of 20-24hrs as opposed to the 1-4 hours previously mentioned. This is a low-cost solution to increased health care quality for at-risk infants and, if successful, can minimize the instability of repeated transportation premature infants face throughout the world. To achieve this goal, I plan to design a two-dimensional resistive heating element grid, suitable for efficient, secondary heating of the gel and/or PCM substrate. Two car batteries would power the resistance heating mechanism. Warming tests will be executed to determine the surface temperature of two materials over a period of time, one material being sodium acetate-based gel, the other an organic PCM, with 37-38?C transition temperature. Completion of this project allows for a cost-effective, energy-efficient method for warming the millions of at-risk infants facing moderate and severe hypothermia, especially in locations of limited resources and poverty.

Swathi: I am a junior at Beachwood High School, and I like to think of myself as a STEMinist. I am avidly interested in neuroscience and electrical circuitry, and wish to become a neuroscience researcher or neurosurgeon. I have created award-winning projects in the field of Alzheimer's research, and have worked in labs at Case Western and Harvard Medical School. My largest project thus far, aside from my THINK project, has both examined and determined epigenetic relationships between diet and Alzheimer's pathology. In school, I am actively involved in Debate, Math Club and Science Olympiad, and serve as the Vice President of my class, as well an executive board member of the Pre-Med Club. I enjoy playing the violin for my school orchestra, and have also gained acclaim for various Indian classical dance (Bharatanatyam) performances. Aside from school, I follow Vogue fashion, make jewelry and love to read/watch Harry Potter!

A Water-Soluble, CO2-Capturing Ionic Liquid Electrolyte for Reducing Inefficiency of CO2 Electroreduction

Irena Gao, Grade 10, Illinois Math and Science Academy, Aurora, IL

Carbon dioxide electroreduction has the potential to balance our skewed carbon cycle, but its low thermodynamic and Faradaic efficiencies block widespread implementation. The process’s inefficiency stems from insufficient CO2 surface concentration at the electrode. This research plan proposes a novel electrolyte and a redesigned electrode to significantly increase surface concentration. Ionic liquids have been previously investigated for CO2 capture because of their special affinity for dissolving CO2. This affinity makes ionic liquids potentially valuable electrolytes that could dramatically increase CO2 surface concentration at the electrode, but their insolubility in H2O makes them impractical to use. This proposal offers a solution in [M-IM-C4-SO3H][BF4]. Because of its added sulfonate group, [M-IM-C4-SO3H][BF4] uniquely maintains water solubility and the ability to transfer H+ ions. If implemented alongside a 3D porous gas diffusion electrode with a large surface area, [M-IM-C4-SO3H][BF4] could significantly enhance efficiency. By coupling ongoing enhancements to the primary metal catalyst with an efficient co-catalyst and electrode architecture, we can finally eliminate CO2 reduction’s lingering obstacles.

Irena: Though I may appear to be a human sophomore from the Illinois Math and Science Academy, I’m an explorer at heart with insatiable curiosity. My special attachment to elegant redox reactions in nature sparked an addiction to all things electrochemistry, including this current fascination with artificial photosynthesis. Previously, my work with electrolytes in bacteria-powered microbial fuel cells earned the Illinois Junior Academy of Science’s Best in Category gold medal. I am also an avid biology and physics student. Besides the physical sciences, I am also passionate about design thinking, philosophy, programming, and social entrepreneurship. I have been a National History Day finalist twice, and I am currently working on an Illinois student social innovation incubator. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to fully explore artificial photosynthesis with THINK, and I hope to continue a lifetime of ambassadorship between theory and impact.

Luminescence-Assisted Search & Rescue Operation

Seth Talyansky, Grade 9, Catlin Gabel School, Portland, OR

In 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 vanished somewhere over the Indian Ocean. The disappearance triggered the largest search & rescue (SAR) operation in the history of aviation. More than twenty countries dispatched aircraft and ships to search for debris from the allegedly crashed plane, but all emerged with no substantial leads. Time and valuable resources were wasted, while the fate of the passengers is still unknown to relatives today. This particular case likens to hundreds of other disappearances. I intend to create an accurate, efficient, and inexpensive way of optimizing search and rescue efforts. The proposed method involves detection of floating objects through a unique luminescent signal emitted by a special optical material - a phosphor - present on the surfaces of the objects. The phosphor absorbs a particular wavelength of light and then emits light at a different wavelength. This light conversion is possible only through the phosphor excitation and is thus inimitable. The phosphor may be contained in certain components of a plane. Following a crash, the phosphor surfaces with the debris, which carries a unique optical mark. The excitation light source will be a powerful scanning laser installed on search aircraft, which will also host the detection equipment. Once a response has been detected, the search area can be greatly reduced. The proposed method, if found practical, may revolutionize the search process by allowing greater areas to be searched more efficiently. If covered with the phosphor, terrestrial objects could be located more easily as well.

Seth: I am a ninth grader at the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, who’s passionate about real-world applications of math and science. In the fifth grade, I learned that the Ancient Greeks used elementary geometry to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Since then I have sought mathematical and engineering challenges. I was motivated in this project to come up with an engineering solution to find a missing plane. I do well in math competitions including MATHCOUNTS, AMC, and ARML. I participate in Project Euler to solve mathematical programming problems. Languages are my other love and connection to math. I also enjoy playing competitive chess. In 2012 and 2014, I was Elementary and Middle School State Champion, respectively. I started a chess club in my school. We host city-wide tournaments with the mission of raising the profile of chess in the school and Portland-area communities.

Honorable Mentions

  • A Novel Device for Eliminating Airborne Pathogens
    Swathi Pavuluri, High Technology High School
  • Development of the First Ever Low-Cost Open-Source Hearing Test and Hearing Aid
    Mukund Venkatakrishnan, duPont Manual High School
  • Triboelectric Nanogenerators for Large-Scale Energy Harvesting of Ambient Vibration
    Jameson Doane and Jacob Lyons, Avanti High School
  • Shadow-based microscopic imaging: a potential method to reduce errors in histopathology
    Stanley Rozentsvit, Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
  • CADmeum Machine Simulator
    Jamie Graham and Shawn Hice, McMinnville High School
  • The Green Highway Project: Electromagnetism and Thermocouple Technology
    Olivia Colombo, Sacred Heart High School
  • Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Measurement Using A Laser Light Source and Calculation of Scattering Coefficient
    Seth Matthew Louis Younger, Horace Mann High School
  • Molecularly Imprinted Polymers: A Novel Theranostic System for Detecting and Neutralizing Endotoxin
    Sriharshita Musunuri, Henry M. Jackson High School
  • Increasing Environmental Awareness by Creating a Cost-Efficient Smart Water Intake Meter (SWIM)
    Anna Nixon, Westview High School