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Meet the Science in Action Finalists, Part 3: Wearable sensors to aid the aging, a device that helps people with developmental disabilities communicate, and converting wasted heat from a kitchen stove into electricity

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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On August 6, the winner of the third annual $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award, powered by the Google Science Fair, will be announced. In this blog series we ask the students behind the projects to describe their work and themselves.

Name: Kenneth Shinozuka
Age: 15
Country: United States
Project: Wearable Sensors: A Novel Healthcare Solution for the Aging Society

Why did you decide to enter the Google Science Fair?
I entered the Google Science Fair to reach out to the tens of millions of wandering patients and their caregivers worldwide. Being acknowledged in the fair certainly gives my project the recognition and the needed visibility. More importantly, I hope to use the Google Science Fair as a global platform to spread awareness of wandering and other medical conditions associated with our increasingly aging population, and inspire young people to find innovative solutions to address such societal challenges. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, more than 65% of whom wander. Furthermore, in 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion, not to mention the significant mental and physical stress of these caregivers. The numbers are shocking and the healthcare burdens are overwhelming.

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?
My grandfather is one of the 5.2 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t think I will ever forget my shock at seeing Grandfather in his pajamas, accompanied by a policeman who had found him wandering on a nearby freeway in the middle of the night. He was lucky to have been spotted by the police because some  wandering cases end in fatality. Since then, my aunt has become his primary caregiver. She struggled to stay awake at night to keep an eye on him but still failed to catch him leaving bed and causing accidents on many occasions. Many caregivers in the nursing facilities where my fellow Boy Scouts and I volunteered told me that they faced the same problems.

I invented the wearable sensor device to protect the safety of wanderers and alleviate the burdens on their caregivers. The sensor, worn on a patient, wirelessly triggers a sound alert in the caregiver’s smartphone the moment he or she steps onto the floor. My prototypes have been successfully tested on Grandfather for eight months, and now my aunt can sleep much better at night. I recently made a demonstration of my wearable sensor device at a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and a number of care facilities. I was delighted to receive positive responses from care experts and caregivers, who are eager to use this device. I am in the process of initiating a beta test at these facilities.

Do you have a favorite band or song?
I love film and enjoy listening to film soundtracks. In particular, I cherish the works of John Barry, who wrote the scores for such films as the James Bond series, Out of Africa, and Somewhere in Time. In addition, I am fond of the Beatles and their final album, Abbey Road.

Name: Arsh Dilbagi
Age: 16
Country: India
Project: Talk: An Innovative AAC Device for People with Developmental Disabilities

How does your project help the community you grew up in?
The Talk device helps people who have speech impairments communicate when they otherwise could not. With a population of more than 1.3 billion, India has a large number of such people. Current AAC devices are not only expensive, they are fairly bulky and cumbersome to use. Talk is the world’s first and only wearable AAC device for people who are almost entirely paralyzed.  It is affordable, fast, portable and generic. Talk will mark a beginning of a whole new life for people with developmental disabilities.

If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule, and why?
The one that does it for me is penicillin, the “wonder drug” discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. If it were not for its discovery and the millions of lives it saved, then many of the people who went on to invent and discover would not have lived to do so. Penicillin has definitely reduced human suffering like no other medicine ever did.

What is your favorite color?
#ff5e3a, which is a “cool” orange. It is the current theme color of my website. It is synonymous with energy, and I am always in need of a lot of that when working on my projects and studying.

Name: Terrance Li
Age: 13
Country: United States
Project: The Charging Pan

How does your project help the community you grew up in?
Every household in the world uses a stove or range of some kind. Every stove releases waste heat after cooking, so the Charging Pan can be used in any household to save energy. I hope that my project can impact the world by helping people save waste energy.

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?
Albert Einstein has always been my scientific role model. That is not because he is smart, it is for his curiosity and undying passion for science. His famous equation did not come to him as a thought in an instant, but through many months or even years of continuous thinking.

Also, the Wright brothers were a great inspiration for me. I have always been fascinated by heavier-than-air flight. People teased them about building an aircraft, saying that they would never succeed. However, through perseverance and trial and error, they succeeded and built the first aircraft, thus changing the world.

What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years, and why? The past 10 years?
The turbojet aircraft was the most revolutionary invention in the past 100 years. Invented in 1930, it made the world smaller as it allowed people to travel faster and further.

YouTube, invented in 2005, changed the way people learned and shared ideas. Instead of having to walk two blocks to the library, one can almost instantly access more videos than a library can hold books.

Ayla Hutchinson
Age: 14
Country: New Zealand
Project: Kindling Cracker

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?
My project is now helping so many people, and not just in my community. It makes it easier and safer for everyone to cut kindling which is great to have when you fire up a wood fire, pizza oven, brazier etc.  It also gives people with disabilities or physical impairments the freedom to cut their own kindling again and it gives them their independence back which is making a really positive impact in many people’s lives.

If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule and why?
Electricity, mainly earth friendly ways of generating it like wind or solar power, and also the technology to build electric cars, then all the cars on the road now would be electric and we would not be using up all of our fossil fuels and polluting the world.

What is your favorite hobby?
Sports especially netball, I also love computers and designing things like houses, and I like photography

 

Rachel Scheer About the Author: Rachel Scheer is the Corporate PR Manager for Nature Publishing Group. She handles the PR efforts for Scientific American including writing press releases, facilitating partnerships and organizing media opportunities for the editorial team.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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