North Penn students shooting for the STARS

Hannah Nguyen, Executive Editor

TOWAMENCIN — Last month, 7 North Penn Science, Technology, and Research Students (NP STARS) succeeded in placing in both the Montgomery County Science Research Competition (MCSRC) and the Delaware Valley Science Fair (DVSF).

Due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, there were changes made to accommodate any restrictions, which served as a roadblock in the competitions. However, these students managed to overcome these challenges and come out strong.

YASH PRABHU (10th grade): Computer Science, “Autonomous COVID-19 Screening Using Deep Learning and Low-cost Thermal Imaging” (MCSRC: 2ND PLACE); (DVSF: 1ST PLACE)

In his project, Prabhu used computer vision to detect masks and used an infrared sensor with a custom algorithm to identify forehead temperature and diagnose a fever. 

In addition to placing 1st and 2nd in his category, Prabhu was awarded the Air Force Computer Science Award. As a first-place winner for the DVSF, he competed against the other 14 10th grade category 1st place winners for one of three medals and won gold.

“It was a good feeling to have won an award and placed at the MCSRC. It’s always nice to see your hard work earn results. I am glad I won second place which inspired me to go on and adjust my project so that I could win first place in the entire Delaware Valley Science Fair and now compete in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. This has definitely been a special year for me and I hope that I can experience something similar next year,” Prabhu said. “I have been able to implement my prototype in the Lansdale Public Library. I am really happy that I am able to use my science fair project to have an impact on the community.”

Prabhu’s achievement allowed him to move up to the International Science and Engineering Fair.

RAYAN REDDY, JACOB YIN, and AMOGH DESAI (10th grade): Computer Science, “Newest Methods of Artificial Intelligence in Finite Games” (MCSRC: 3RD PLACE)

This particular project was about the similarities between humans and AI. It required testing chess engines against each other and against themselves. The team compared the types of moves one engine made compared to the other and were able to conclude which engine was more similar to humans.

“We were pleasantly surprised that we got 3rd because we didn’t really focus on the competitive aspect of the project,” Yin said. “We mostly just made the project because we were curious about Computer Science and chess and wanted to make something.”

We are very proud of our achievement and look forward to competing again next year. We thought the competition was a fun and engaging experience that helped people explore STEM,” Reddy added.

VRISHTI YADAV (10th grade): Engineering, “Mechatronic Therapeutic Glove for Arthritis Patients” (MCSRC: 1ST PLACE); (DVSF: HONORABLE MENTION)

Yadav was also awarded the Air Force Engineering Award, Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia Award, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 1st place Award, and the Society of Professional Engineers Award.

ANANYA VENKATACHALAM (11th grade): Behavior and Social Science, “Music Preference: Generational, Cultural, or Intrinsic?” (MCSRC: 2ND PLACE)

Venkatachalam’s project analyzed the correlation between generational divides and music preferences based on historical turning points or events during adolescence.

“I collected data from four generations concerning their youth and current music preference. Using existing research that establishes a connection between experiences during adolescence and adult mindsets, I decided to compare historical turning points such as the Cold War to the stimulation of national culture/music, noticing the unprecedented preference of ethnic music over other genres in Generation X, who were anywhere between teenagers and young adults at the time,” Venkatachalam said.

Venkatachalam also received the University of the Sciences Behavioral and Social Science Award and a $15000.00 scholarship for each of four years to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting to place 2nd in my category, let alone win an award from the University of the Sciences. It was so gratifying to see the results of my work, but I was even more excited to read the comments from the judges to better my analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of experimentation from start to finish, and I’m very excited to learn more about the scientific process and biochemistry this summer through the Summer Science Program,” Venkatachalam said. “I want to give a special thank you to Dr. Leithold, who has not only been an amazing touchpoint for the science fair but a mentor for the last two years. Without her guidance, I would most certainly not be in the place I am today.”

ZACHARY VINITSKI (11th grade): Microbiology, “Safety and Efficacy of Bacteriophage Therapy in Immunology” (MCRSC: 1ST PLACE)

Vinitski was also given the Merck Science Project Achievement Award for the High School Division and a $15000.00 scholarship for each of four years to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

In addition to these students, North Penn was also represented by the team of Jessica Baek and Brianna Baldwin. They competed in 11th-grade Environmental Science with their project “Are Nutrients the New Plastic?”