Nysmith School for the Gifted seventh-grade student Kaien Yang, 14, won the Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation at the sixth annual Broadcom Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars, or MASTERS, science fair held Oct. 29 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.
His winning app, iDiagnostic, analyzes the shrinkage or extension of various parts of the brain to determine the likelihood a patient might have depression. The award came with $10,000, which Yang plans to save most of it for college.
“Words can’t describe how excited I was,” Yang said of his win. “I was really ecstatic for what lies ahead of me and for all these opportunities.”
Yang developed the idea for his project after his mother underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm in 2011. That experience, along with a time when his grandfather got headaches and mood swings from a shrinkage of his cerebellum, prompted his interest in neuroscience. He plans to expand on his iDiagnostic project by researching neurotransmitters.
Yang hasn’t committed to neuroscience as a potential field of study for his long-term future and lists astrophysics, math and chemistry among his other interests.
“Everything’s based on science, so the more background knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology you [have], the more you can connect those dots,” Yang said. “Connecting the dots for me gave me such wonderful joy in knowing that I can actually apply science to life.”
While the judges weren’t made available to media, a press release said Yang won his award “based on his aptitude and skill in technical and mathematical concepts while demonstrating superior teamwork.”
Yang was selected as one of 30 finalists in the 2016 competition. A panel of scientists and engineers culled those finalists from 300 semifinalists and 2,342 total applicants from around the country.
“The 30 finalists … are exemplars of the millions of young people who are pursuing their passions in science, technology, engineering and math,” Broadcom Foundation President Paula Golden said. “Celebrating the success of our winners gives us a chance to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of young people everywhere who are pursuing their dreams to become scientists, engineers and innovators.”
The Broadcom Foundation and SSP organize a yearly, national science fair for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students to support their interest in STEM fields.