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12-year-old Shanya Gill among Indian-origin prodigies who won big at top US STEM contest

Shanya Gill from San Jose, California, clinched the $25,000 Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND Award for her innovative fire detection system project. Keshvee Sekhda, Maya Gandhi, and Adyant Bhavsar were also recognized for their remarkable STEM projects, earning prestigious awards in the competition.

12-year-old Shanya Gill among Indian-origin prodigies who won big at top US STEM contest
First Published Nov 2, 2023, 11:34 AM IST

Indian-origin children continue to exhibit their brilliance in the United States with four of them winning prestigious Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge, the leading middle school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competition in the United States. Taking home the $25,000 Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND (Aspiring Scientists Cultivating Exciting New Discoveries) Award was 12-year-old Shanya Gill from San Jose, California. The Thermo Fisher JIC program, conducted by the Society for Science, engages approximately 65,000 middle school students across the United States and encourages them to pursue their personal STEM interests, potentially leading to exciting educational and professional paths.

The Story Behind Shanya's Project

Shanya Gill, a 12-year-old from San Jose, California, secured the $25,000 Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND (Aspiring Scientists Cultivating Exciting New Discoveries) Award. She earned this honor for her remarkable project that involved the development of a fire detection system, along with her exceptional leadership, collaboration, and critical thinking abilities displayed throughout her research project and Finals Week challenges.

Shanya's project was inspired by a restaurant fire that occurred near her home in the summer of 2022. This incident prompted her to create a fire-detection system comprising an affordable thermal camera connected to a compact computer. She programmed the system to distinguish between human figures (recognized as warm objects moving horizontally) and heat sources, such as active gas burners (identified as stationary hot objects). 

Her system was also configured to send a text message alert if it detected a heat source without the presence of a human figure for a continuous 10-minute period. Shanya's system demonstrated impressive accuracy, detecting human presence 98 per cent of the time and heat sources 97 per cent of the time.

Other Thermo Fisher JIC Winners

Apart from Shanya, three other Indian-origin students claimed awards in the Thermo Fisher JIC:

* Keshvee Sekhda, a 14-year-old from Sugar Hill, Georgia, was granted the $10,000 Broadcom Coding with Commitment Award. Keshvee, in collaboration with her teammate Nyambura Sallinen, developed the IdentiCan smartphone app, designed to identify breast, lung, and skin cancer using images or health scans, audio clips, and personal health data to predict diagnoses. The project combines coding with STEM knowledge to offer a community-improving solution aligned with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

* Maya Gandhi, a 14-year-old from Anaheim, California, earned the $10,000 DoD STEM Talent Award. Maya's project focused on boosting energy output from plant microbial fuel cells, devices that generate electricity using living plants and microbes. She demonstrated excellence in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) and showcased the leadership and technical skills vital for success in the 21st-century STEM workforce.

* Adyant Bhavsar, a 13-year-old from San Jose, California, received the $10,000 Lemelson Award for Invention, granted by The Lemelson Foundation. Adyant designed an affordable and eco-friendly version of a triboelectric nanogenerator, a device that generates electricity when two touching objects separate. The award recognizes young inventors developing promising product-based solutions for real-world problems.

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