Top winners named at Pittsburgh's Intel science fair

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A 15-year-old Maryland student took the top prize of $75,000 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2012 with his creation of a non-invasive pancreatic cancer detection tool, while two local students also received cash awards for their research in an anti-tumor cancer treatment and a iPhone navigational tool for the visually impaired.

Top-prize winner Jack Andraka of Crownsville received the Gordon F. Moore Award named in honor of the Intel co-founder, and former chairman and chief executive officer.

The fair, the world's largest high-school science fair, was held Downtown and involved 1,549 international high-school students this week at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Based on diabetic test paper, Jack created a simple dip-stick sensor to test blood or urine to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer.

His study resulted in more than 90 percent accuracy and showed his patent-pending sensor to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and more than 100 times more sensitive than current tests.

Nicholas Schiefer, 17, of Pickering, Ontario, Canada, and Ari Dyckovsky, 18, of Leesburg, Va., each received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000.

Nicholas studied what he calls "microsearch," or the ability to search the fast-growing information medium: small amounts of content such as tweets and Facebook status updates. Through his research, he hopes to improve search engines' capability, which will in turn improve access to information.

Ari investigated the science of quantum teleportation. He found that once atoms are linked through the process called "entanglement" information from one atom will just appear in another atom when the quantum state of the first atom is destroyed.

Using this method, organizations requiring high levels of data security, such as the National Security Administration, could send an encrypted message without running the risk of interception because the information would not travel to its new location, but instead, simply appear there.

The three were chosen from the winners in 17 science and engineering categories.

Natalie Nash, 17, of Allison Park, a senior at Vincentian High School, won $8,200 in prizes for her iPhone navigational tool that can help the visually impaired to walk unimpeded through a room full of furniture or other places with obstacles.

She received the First Place-Fondazione Bruno Kessler award for $5,000; the Ansaldo STS Third-Place Award of $2,000; the Third Place Grand Award in the Computer Science category for $1,000; and a $200 award for her fourth place finish in the Association for Computing Machinery award.

Chareeni Kurukulasuriya, an 18-year-old senior at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, received the Third Place Grand Award in the Cellular and Molecular Biology category and a $1,000 prize for her research that combined DHA, an omega 3 oil and the drug cetuximab to enhance the anti-tumor effects that each produces on its own.

Intel ISEF includes some of the most promising rising student entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists from around the world. Finalists are selected annually from hundreds of affiliated fairs. Their projects are then evaluated on site by more than 1,200 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each with a doctoral degree or with the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.

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David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578. First Published May 18, 2012 1:15 PM


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