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Designing nutritional games and brains for space

Nikolai Ortiz and Eleanor Sigrest wrote a computer code to turn on a light in one of their challenges.

Nikolai Ortiz and Eleanor Sigrest wrote a computer code to turn on a light in one of their challenges. Photo credit: L. Doane.

Ananya Ganesh and Brendan Crotty waded into the Chesapeake Bay to catch wildlife in large nets.Thirty Broadcom MASTERS finalists from around the United States convened in Washington, D.C. in October. The middle school students participated in team challenges and presented their research to judges and the public during the Broadcom MASTERS Science and Engineering Project Showcase.

Ananya Ganesh, from Georgia, was excited to meet other finalists and check out the competition. “Their projects are just impressive,” she said, wearing several electrodes on her face.

Ganesh has bruxism, a condition which causes her to clench her jaw. She built a device that detects signals coming from a muscle when it contracts and provides biofeedback to the wearer. “As soon as you clench, a light comes on and it alerts someone to stop clenching to help lessen the pain,” she said. Ganesh won the 2016 Science Award at the competition.

Kaien Yang explained his project in a media interview during the Science and Engineering Project Showcase.Kaien Yang, from Virginia, was also inspired to work on a project very personal to him. He studied depression because his grandfather developed mood swings as a result of a shrinkage in his cerebellum. Yang developed an app that can help doctors detect depression based on shrinkage or expansion in certain areas of the brain.

“I’m excited to compete with the other finalists and build lasting friendships that I’ll have for the rest of my life,” Yang said. “It’s fulfilling to engage with all of these like-minded peers.” Yang won the 2016 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation.

During their week in D.C., finalists also competed in several team challenges. Teams built a cloud chamber to visualize background radiation, developed an educational game that encourages a healthy diet and designed a hypothetical brain to endure long-distance space exploration.