Past THINK Winners


THINK 2012 Winners

Green Viper 2.0
Justin Lipkvich (12), Mount Desert Island High School

According to the EPA, air pollution can irritate asthma, damage the inner lining of lungs, and constrict the amount of air taken in with each breath. Not only does pollution effect breathing, but it also creates a green house effect from green houses gasses, this means heat gets in through the atmosphere, but can't get out. There is an obvious correlation between increased air pollution and climatic flux, as more pollution is pumped into the atmosphere sea levels rise, ice caps melt, and temperatures across the world increase. My solution is to start my own line of EV's (electric vehicles), that will be fast, functional, and consumer friendly. There are EV's on the market, but the manufacturers are missing the point. They are not pushing their vehicles to the limits they can achieve, and that is the only way a new technology can be improved, and accepted. I know an electric motorcycle is technically feasible, because I have built two, and every time I have done a rebuild they get better.

Cristo Rey IT Department Planning
Kareem Elhadidi (12) and Ryan Strat (11), Woodward Academy

Our project aims to create the ideal, low-cost IT infrastructure for a developing school. We will be working with both Leadership Woodward and the Cristo Rey Network. These two organizations are currently working to found a new school for underprivileged students in Atlanta, Georgia. Creating the core IT infrastructure for this school is our Independent Computer Science Research Project. This includes everything from selecting/soliciting hardware to finding the right platform(s) and software for the students. We will optimize our end product to be easy to use for students and teachers, as well as easy to maintain for IT administrators. In addition to all of the previously mentioned attributes, we will also strive to set up infrastructure that is scalable, flexible, and extensible all while continuing the goal to remain as affordable as possible. One of the key points in keeping the costs to a minimum is making the infrastructure so that it can be maintained with a small staff. Currently, we plan to investigate several different models of computing: desktops and laptops, for example. In addition, we also plan to investigate less traditional technologies such as Chromebooks and centralized network computing. What makes this project exciting for us is that not only do we have the chance to research all of these technologies and gain hands-on experience with a variety of technologies, but the decisions we make will have a lasting, real world impact.

Fiber Fab
Christi Durham (12), Meridian Technical Charter High School

The effects of the two-dimensional printing press were phenomenal, changing history forever. Yet, more than a decade after the invention of the three dimensional printer, they have not pervaded society the way the printing press did. What is holding the three dimensional printer back? To put it crudely, it is because they are currently more novelty items than true machines of manufacturing. The Fiber Fab would test a possible improvement in the technology of three dimensional printing by changing the way thermal plastic is handled. I plan to implement this by building my own printer, which will twist plastic in order to eliminate issues caused by normal layering of thermal plastic. The goal of the project is to test a possible new technique and will utilize pre-existing electronics and mechanisms.

THINK 2012 Honorable Mentions

Application of Hyperthermia for Surface or Near-Surface Infection Therapy: A Combinatorial Approach
Ashwin Ramachandran (10), Randolph School

Considerable work has been done in hyperthermia therapy in the past couple decades, however, not much research has been done in using it for treatments other than cancer. My idea is to use hyperthermia therapy to treat several other infections, such as gangrene and MRSA, along with conventional medicine to achieve quicker healing and thereby find a more effective treatment for them. It is hypothesized that hyperthermia therapy along with administering antibiotics simultaneously will result in the more efficient work of the antibiotics and thus faster treatment of the infection. To conduct this experiment I wish to use readily available, nanometer sized magnetic particles which provide a source of heat to help facilitate the body's immune system. This project aims to specifically study the heat generation process using a radio frequency field and a responsive topical application material in a simulated tissue model.

Bicycle Automatic Continuous Variable Transmission
Ramin Khajeh (12), Ulysses S. Grant High School

The motivation of the design I have in mind arose from my intense interest in bicycles. When encountering a steep hill, I noticed that I had to change the “speed” (the gearing ratio in fact) beforehand. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to adjust the gearing ratio while riding up the hill. The cyclist should be exerting a lot of force to maintain a same velocity on pedals if the “speed” is not well-adjusted. Besides, regular bikes manual transmission and interval-based gearing system (where gearing ratios are fixed) have a smaller durability and accuracy in the shifting process. Therefore, the goal of this design is to eliminate the interval-based gearing system in bicycles, and create an automatic continuous variable transmission, thus maintaining a constant torque input on the pedals.

Erasable Printing
Vicki Lam (10) and Kaitlyn Shin (10), Jericho High School

This project was conceived through an innovation of something we already have, just to make life more convenient for some of the people in our society. We are trying to provide a cheap, cost-effective printer that prints with graphite so that it's erasable, and yes, cheaper because it doesn't use ink. By the end of the project, we are hoping to have an easy and simple printer, similar to an LED printer, print with graphite so that people who like pencils and artists can use them with ease for their everyday lives, and as a cheap first-draft alternative to using expensive printers and ink. We plan to implement our project idea first by building this printer and then testing it, before applying for patents and marketing it.

Sigmabox
Ian Reynolds (11), Cretin-Derham Hall

If you visit Sigmabox today, you'll see a prototype version of my vision for a new kind of tool for students, educators, and ordinary people alike. It could be described as a glorified graphing calculator - after all, most of my time spent on the project thus far has been in re-implementing functions found on my TI-84 - but I'd like to continue to expand the project to improve the graphing capabilities, implement a dimensional analysis engine, and add numerous plugins for subjects as diverse as chemistry and finance. My goal is to create an application (FOSS, of course) that people will like using, whether they're learning, teaching, or just playing around with numbers. As a high school student I've spent enough time doing homework to know how current tools can be improved upon, and made both more engaging and easier to use.


THINK 2011

Ideas Proposal

Finalist: Zachary Porter (High Technology High School, Manalapan, NJ)
The Utilization of Binaural Beats as Anxiolytic Agents in Emergency Medical Care

Auditory stressors are especially abundant on ambulances, where external stimuli, like sirens, radio call signals, and road noises, readily contribute to patients' anxiety. Anxiety manifests in increased blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rates, which deteriorate an ill patient's health. Recent neuroscience studies have noted the anxiolytic effects of binaural beats: pure tones played through both ears that cause an audible beat in the pons reticular formation of the brainstem. Brain waves entrain to these binaural beats when they are of frequencies associated with different states of consciousness. Certain frequencies of binaural beats, played through noise-canceling headphones, can be utilized on board an ambulance to negate external auditory stimuli while inducing calmness in patients. The utilization of digital audio players to produce binaural beats reduces the anxiety associated with emergency care. This proposal has other, far-reaching applications in the community such as use during pre-operative care and therapeutic interventions because it is inexpensive and easily implemented. 

Semifinalist: Grace Kim (Jericho Senior High School, Jericho, NY)
A Novel Approach for the Development of Dendritic Cell-Based Malaria Vaccine: Aritificial Fusion between Dendritic Cells and Parasitized RBCs 

Malaria is a major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, ranking third among the major infectious diseases in causing deaths. A malaria vaccine, especially for P. falciparum malaria, is widely considered as a priority. A global effort in development of malaria vaccine has focused on subunit vaccines based on a limited number of Plasmodium proteins, and directed towards formulation of recombinant proteins. So far, a safe, effective and practical malaria vaccine is yet not available. This idea aims to study an artificial fusion method in vitro to load up parasite antigens onto dendritic cells (DCs), instead of via natural phagocytosis. This method may be able to produce parasite-loaded DCs, which can be more mature and functional than DCs that actively capture parasite material via natural phagocytosis. This project may set preliminary foundations for further study on the development of a whole parasite and dendritic cell-based vaccine against blood stage malaria.

Semifinalist: Ha-eun (Angela) Hyun (Jericho Senior High School, Westbury, NY)
Analysis of Diabetic Retinopathy: Resveratrol and Proanthocyanidins as Mechanisms of NF-Kb Inhibitor 

Diabetic retinopathy (DR), a complication of diabetes is the leading cause of acquired blindness in western countries. Photocoagulation is a current treatment; however, accompanied by sometimes pernicious side effects and is ineffective. The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of antioxidant phenolic compounds resveratrol and proanthocyanidins, in preventing DR. Hyperglycemia in diabetic patients cause pericytes to undergo accelerated apoptosis, which allows blood to leak into the retina, cause inflammation, and in frequent blindness. This pro-apoptotic process is carried out by activating Nuclear Factor-kB (NF- kB). Antioxidants resveratrol and proanthocyanidins, found in Red wine and Grape skins, respectively, inhibit NF-kB. Human retinal pericytes purchased from ATCC will be cultured in three solutions; no antioxidants, 100µL resveratrol, 100µL proanthocyanidins + 100µL resveratrol. Apoptosis will be measured by Detection of translocated membrane component via Annexin-V-FLUOS Staining kit purchased from Roche after 8weeks. Cultures treated with antioxidants will show less retinal apoptosis. 

Homegrown Project

Finalist: Luke Andraka (North County High School, Crownsville, MD) 
Electrochemical Remediation of Acid Mine Drainage

Acid mine drainage (AMD) from abandoned coal mines has poisoned the whitewater river running through my community, coloring the rocks bright orange and killing aquatic life. This project mitigates the adverse environmental effects of AMD by using electrochemical treatment to raise the pH, harvest dissolved metals and produce hydrogen as an energy source. AMD is very acidic due to the high concentration of hydrogen ions. By using electrolysis the free hydrogen ions are removed from the AMD and collected as hydrogen gas while reducing acidity. Raising the pH precipitates metals out of solution, removing them from being an environmental pollutant. Using a two-chamber electrolysis cell with a removable ion exchange membrane, tests were performed to compare the change in pH and conductivity when the AMD was placed in the anode, the cathode, or both cell chambers. Hydrogen gas production was also measured. Placement of the AMD in the anode or both chambers produced minimal change in pH but when the AMD was placed in the cathode the pH rose quickly. This caused metals to precipitate and settle out and hydrogen gas was produced. This technique can raise pH, precipitate dissolved metals and produce hydrogen gas, mitigating the effects of AMD, which is a serious environmental problem.

Semifinalist: Jeffery Wang (Auburn High School, Machesney Park, IL) 
Designing Epidemic Containment Strategies Using Stochastic Cellular Automata

Projecting the progression of an epidemic is vital for evaluating and optimally controlling its impact in a community. The objective of this work is to design, implement, and evaluate a computationally efficient, adaptive, and robust methodology for the spatial spread of an infectious disease. This project covers the three stages of fighting epidemics: estimation of strength, prediction of spread, and analysis of containment strategies. Previous techniques employing complex social networks are based upon a set of partial differential equations, which requires a substantial amount of data and computation time to evaluate. The proposed model uses stochastic cellular automata, representing a discrete form of the SIR (Susceptible-Infected-Recovered) compartment model. It is versatile and yields a quantifiable confidence level This new methodology was verified using actual surveillance data from the 2009 H1N1 Epidemics published by the Illinois Department of Public Health. It was shown that the model is capable of generating an estimate for the infection rate β that confirmed the literature using data from Winnebago County. Then, the simulation for Illinois demonstrated it could calculate an expected case number that agreed with the published data quite well (p=0.695). Several simplified cases are presented to demonstrate the ability to simulate external intervention, such as quarantine and vaccination. It is envisioned that this model can facilitate the planning and deployment of containment strategies. 

Semifinalist: Arjun Balasingam (Archbishop Mitty High School, San Jose, CA)  
An Electronic Cabinet Designed to Help the Elderly Take their Medications on Time 

This paper describes a low-cost, electronically-enabled medicine cabinet which solves a pressing problem the elderly in our society face today. The population of older people in the U.S. is increasing rapidly, and as people grow older they develop memory difficulties, and forget to take their medications on time. I was motivated to invent a product to solve this problem, because, as a volunteer at a retirement home in my local community, I have personally observed the effects of declining memory on older people. I designed and built an electronic system, which can be installed in a medicine cabinet to keep track of a person's intake of medications. This system consists of three main components, (a) homemade sensor circuits on the shelves of the cabinet, (b) a microcontroller, and (c) an x86 computer. My sensor is based on the voltage divider concept, and it is built using readily available, inexpensive components such as copper mesh, and resistors. Two independent, but cooperating programs run on the microcontroller and the x86 computer. The microcontroller, which powers the shelf electronics, receives sensor information via its analog pins, and communicates this data to a second program running on the computer. The program running on the computer uses the information it receives from the microcontroller program to interact with the user using audio and visual messages. These programs were developed using Open Source tools, and libraries which helps the keep lower the cost of the overall system. 

Lab Project

Finalist: Christie Wang (Roslyn High School, Roslyn, NY)
A Novel Role of Cold Shock Protein in Mediating Hypoxia-Induced Inflammation in Microglia: Implications in Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder in the elderly which results in the loss of bodily functions. There is no effective treatment for AD. Neuroinflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of AD and hypoxia can trigger neuroinflammation. The capability of delivering oxygen to the brain is reduced with aging. The hypoxic stress causes production and release of many proteins including cold inducible RNA binding protein (CIRP). In my current study, I investigated the role of CIRP in neuroinflammation under hypoxic stress. Murine microglial BV2 cells were exposed to 1% O2 (i.e., hypoxia) for 20 h, mRNA and protein levels of CIRP increased significantly. Correspondingly, mRNA and protein levels of proinflammatory cytokine TNF-a also increased markedly. Addition of recombinant CIRP (rCIRP) to BV2 cell culture directly induced TNF-a release in the absence of hypoxia, and TNF-a induction was blocked by co-administration of anti-CIRP neutralizing antibodies. Furthermore, rCIRP increased the expression of CD14, a cell surface receptor, and anti-CIRP antibodies effectively inhibited CD14 expression induced by rCIRP and hypoxia. In summary, CIRP can mediate through CD14 receptors to activate TNF-a release for initiating brain inflammation under hypoxic stress. Thus, CIRP may serve as a new target for future development of anti-AD therapies.

Semifinalist: Nidhi Mann (Plainview Old Bethpage JFK High School, Plainview, NY) 
Emulsification of Crude Oil by Modified Sophorolipid Analogs 

Hydrocarbons, one of mankind's most important energy sources, are often hazardous to entire ecosystems. Oil spills have detrimental effects on wildlife, coastal fishing, and the economy. Currently, a broad range of techniques exist to clean up hydrocarbon contaminations; however, these are often inefficient, toxic, and expensive. With their ability to emulsify hydrocarbons, biosurfactants, which are compounds extracted from natural sources, provide a non-toxic alternative to aid in the cleanup of oil spills. In this study, two new analogs of the biosurfactant sophorolipid were synthesized and their emulsification efficiencies were measured. Sophorolipids were extracted and purified from the yeast, Candida bombicola. Through an enzyme mediated regioselective acylation procedure; I formed two novel compounds sophorolipid-ethyl ester and sophorolipid-butyl ester, confirmed through NMR spectroscopy. To test the emulsification efficiency in crude oil, these novel compounds were added to varying amounts of Arabian Light, Southern Louisiana, or Prudhoe Bay crude oil. The chemical surfactant, Triton X-100, was used as a measure for comparison. I found that both novel biosurfactants were efficient emulsifiers, with the sophorolipid-ethyl ester being more effective. Therefore, sophorolipid-ethyl ester is strongly recommended to be used in environmental remediation due to its emulsification efficiency, non-toxicity, and biodegradability.

Semifinalist: Matthew Kim (Commack High School, Dix Hills, NY) 
Optimizing Flux in RO Membranes 

The world water crisis is one of the most pressing issues of the modern world. This problem, which affects 1.2 billion people worldwide, is currently being alleviated with pressuredriven filtration techniques. On Long Island, these issues are exemplified through the saltwater intrusion of aquifers. Filtration methods are characterized by three factors: rejection, which is how well the undesired particles are filtered out, and flux, which is the flow rate through the membrane. The purpose of this investigation was to synthesize a high-flux, high-rejection, and reverse osmosis membrane, which is used to filter monovalent salts from water. The membrane consisted of three layers: a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottom layer, a polyacrylonitrile (PAN) middle layer, and a nanoporous polyamide top layer. The polyamide was synthesized by the dynamic interfacial polymerization of mphenylenediamine (MPD) and trimesoyl chloride (TMC). The optimized membrane was fabricated from a 2% MPD solution, 0.15% TMC solution, and 8 cycles of dynamic interfacial polymerization, and exhibited 98.2% rejection, 14.8L/(m2hr) flux, and a low energy cost, making this membrane the forefront of reverse osmosis technology. 


THINK 2010

Ideas Proposal

Finalist: Saumil Jariwala (North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Raleigh, NC) 
Science Education Outreach through iPS Generation in High Schools

Although stem cells serve as a powerful medical treatment, there are many misconceptions about stem cells that come from a lack of public access to these cells. Recently, scientists have developed an uncontroversial method for transforming differentiated cells into embryonic stem cell-like cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). By making the creation of iPS feasible at the high school level, stem cells could become a more viable teaching tool in high school classrooms. An optimized protocol has been engineered that involves the reprogramming of mouse embryonic fibroblasts to an iPS phenotype by introducing retroviruses that encode for three transcription factors. By optimizing the method for equipment and cost instead of efficiency, an inexpensive, simple, and reproducible procedure has been engineered for many different lab settings. The implementation of this procedure in high schools across the country could not only increase general awareness about stem cells but also excite students about stem cell biology, molecular cloning, and research.

Semifinalist: Courtney Wong (Jericho Senior High School, Jericho, NY) 
Understanding the Efficacy of Brassinosteroids as a Novel Approach to Induce Disease Resistance in Pea Plants  

Plants undergo several abiotic and biotic stresses during their development, including possible attack from pathogens. Brassinosteroids, a recently discovered series of steroidal plant hormones, have been shown to promote overall growth in plants as well as disease resistance. This project seeks to test the plant pathogen resistance of brassinosteroids. By exposing the pea plant Pisium satvium to common agricultural bacteria and fungi, the ability of brassinosteroids to increase plant resistance to various phytopathogens can be evaluated. This exposure to various phytopathogens would be done with in vivo methods, and which a prepared brassinosteroid solution would be applied exogenously to the leaves of the plant. Plausible outcomes for this project would be that plants applied with different concentrations of brassinosteroid solution would develop different levels of disease resistance. Brassinosteroids could easily be a sensible solution to resisting various phytopathogens in plants and carry a wealth of potential for real-life application. With very minimal disadvantages, the study of brassinosteroids can greatly improve the efficiency of growing crops. 

Semifinalist: Robert Guber (Jericho Senior High School, Jericho, NY)
Two Fold Proposal: Wetland Preservation While Removing Pharmaceuticals From Wastewater 

Pharmaceuticals in the environment and in our water supply are an increasing problem for our aquatic ecosystem, while continuously disrupting neighborhood wetlands. Currently there are no laws, regulations for appropriate levels of pharmaceutical waste or residue in water. Waste water treatment plants in the US and around the world do not remove pharmaceuticals when they purify their water. Pharmaceuticals leech into the environment/ecosystem and harm the aquatic life. Designing the creation of a life-cycler system to remove possible pharmaceuticals while only using Spartina alterniflora as phytoremediators, is the focus. If the remediation method is deemed efficient the success would be two-fold: It might encourage preservation of wetlands, and Encourage removal of pharmaceutical waste using bioremediators that don't disrupt the ecosystem. If the grass works, it would be able to be planted around waste water facilities to help purify the pharmaceuticals and help the fish and aquatic ecosystem.

Homegrown Project

Finalist: Albert Cui (Hillcrest High School, East Midvale, UT)
Novel Demonstration of CO2 Enhanced Precipitation Treatment of Heavy Metals in Wastewater 

Kennecott Copper Mine in Utah is the world's largest open pit mine. Because of this, Kennecott produces large amounts of CO2 and wastewater containing heavy metals This requires a method to treat the wastewater and a means of reducing or utilizing the CO2 produced from the mining and refining operations. The objectives of this project were (1) to determine the optimum pH to remove heavy metals from synthetic wastewater, (2) to observe the effects of CO2 reaction on heavy metals removal, and (3) to identify the most efficient means of removing heavy metals from synthetic wastewater. This study was conducted through inducing of metal precipitation with three different precipitants, hydrated lime (Ca(OH)2), soda ash (Na2CO3), and Polythiocarbonate (PTR-1). Carbone dioxide was also introduced into the lime treated water in order to improve the metal removal efficiency. And ferric chloride (FeCl3) was used to increase the arsenic removal. The results indicated that solubility of the heavy metals is highly pH dependent. When pH was at 10.8, Na2CO3 had 98% of total metal removed. Furthermore; introducing the CO2 bubbling procedure into lime treated sample at pH8.3 increased the metal removal efficiency from 24% to 94%. The combination of the CO2 emitted from the mining and refining processes and lime to treat the waste water, creates a nearly closed loop industrial system. And as lime is a relatively cheap reagent, this produces both a cost effective and environmentally friendly solution.

Semifinalist: Tanya Petach (Fairview High School, Boulder, CO) 
Mitigation of Soil Liquefaction with Magnetic Fields 

New Zealand straddles two tectonic plates, has high water tables and steep slopes, and is thus prone to liquefaction following earthquakes. Existing structures are difficult to protect during intense earthquake activity. My study attempted to mitigate liquefaction by applying magnetic fields to soils containing iron particles. Liquefaction was studied in a shaking chamber which emulated the shaking frequency/magnitude of an earthquake. The magnetic force reduced liquefaction in sandy soil by 50% during the 80 second test and delayed the onset of liquefaction in a blended silt/sand soil. A remote sensing study of Gisborne, New Zealand identified soil slides that occurred during the earthquake. Slide areas were similar to the sandy soil studied in the shaking chamber. The magnetic force mitigation strategy that reduced liquefaction in sandy soils would be applicable to regions that exhibited liquefaction during the New Zealand earthquake.

Semifinalist: Sagar Rambhia (Jericho Senior High School, Jericho, NY)
Computerized Diagnosis of Myocarditis Utilizing Conventional Electrocardigraphs to Augment Current Clinical Practice 

Approximately 70 million Americans live daily, inflammation of the myocardium. Unfortunately, present methods for detecting myocarditis, such as blood testing and cardiac catheterization, are invasive and inaccurate. Additionally, myocarditis is commonly misdiagnosed, further adding to the economic and societal burdens of current practices. In this study, a robust algorithm was devised, using MATLAB 7.5.0, to identify abnormalities in the electrical activity of the myocardium. This algorithm was applied to electrocardiograms (ECG) from patients with myocarditis in order to attenuate interferences within the signal and filter the signal based on specific morphological alterations of the R-component within the QRS waveform. This automated test is completed in 2 minutes; able to distinguish between healthy and afflicted patients with a success rate of 95.6 %. The implications of this study include the optimization of current detection methods, making them efficient, non-invasive, and more accurate. This study holds immense promise for the effective detection of myocarditis, as well as other prevalent diseases.

Lab Project

Finalist: Brandon Li (Jericho Senior High School, Jericho, NY) 
Pore Size Reduction of Electrospun Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) Scaffolds for High Performance Microfiltration 

Phase immersion membranes suffer from low porosity, low flux, and difficulty of production. Electrospinning, a process that creates continuous and uniform nanofibers and microfibers, can overcome these limitations, though large pore sizes have limited its application in microfiltration. This study sought to reduce the pore size of electrospun polyacrylonitrile (PAN) through controlling fiber diameter, tip-to-collector distance, and membrane thickness. Electrospun PAN was compressed under deionized water for 0-4 minutes to further reduce the pore size. Pure water flux and rejection percentage of .2 µm carboxylate microspheres of electrospun PAN was compared to that of commercial Millipore Millex-GS microfilters both before and after water compression. Though not optimized, the PAN membranes (after 4 minutes of compression) exhibited significantly higher flux (p = 5.65 x 10-7), rejection (p = 1.12 x 10-7), and porosity (p = 2.49 x 10-15) than Millex-GS. A new class of high performance electrospun microfilters was developed.

Semifinalist: Ghazal Erfani (Plainview Old Bethpage JFK High School, Plainview, NY)
Surface Modified pH-Sensitive Liposomes for Targeted Cancer Therapy  

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer with an estimated 14,000 deaths projected by the end of 2009. Due to the limited effectiveness of conventional drug delivery methods, an optimized targeted drug delivery system is essential in the advancement of chemotherapeutic means. Since liposomes are nontoxic amphiphilic molecules of natural origin, they are often used in the creation of nanocarriers. Polyethylene glycol (PEGylated) pH-sensitive liposomes were prepared and loaded with the chemotherapeutic drug, Doxorubicin. Herceptin, a monoclonal antibody which binds to receptor--HER2--commonly overexpressed on the surface of certain cancer cells, was attached to these liposomes to target SKOV3 ovarian cancer cells. Fluorometer measurements were used to show an increased efficacy of liposome targeting, binding, and internalization and a faster, more efficient drug release rate. Furthermore, (MTT) assays were used to quantitatively assess that greater concentrations and uptake of drug initiated significantly higher cell death rates. In the future, liposomes will be exposed to breast cancer cell lines SKBR3 and BT474, which both also overexpress HER2, to further confirm the efficacy of this novel liposomal chemotherapeutic strategy.

Semifinalist: Daniel Chun (Plainview Old Bethpage JFK High School, Plainview, NY) 
Modification of PET via a Biocatalyst 

Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is widely used in textile and medical industries because of its superior physical, mechanical, and chemical properties. However, its hydrophobic surface significantly diminishes its versatility. Previous studies utilized harsh chemical methods and conditions to increase its hydrophilicity, raising numerous environmental concerns. Thus, a need exists for a "green chemistry" inspired biocatalyst that can catalyze the modification of PET. In this study, PET was modified through transesterification and transamidation reactions using an amine media, Humicola insolens Cutinase (HiC), and a new HiC-AOT complex synthesized through ionpairing. Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy showed that only the HiC-AOT functionalized the PET with both hydroxyl and amine groups, proving that transesterification and transamidation occurred. Contact angle measurements confirmed that PET modified using HiC-AOT was more hydrophilic than the other modified polymers without sacrificing mechanical stability. Through the enhanced biocatalytic activity of the HiC-AOT complex, the commercial applications of the modified PET are drastically improved. Now, the direct application of dyes onto polyester fibers is feasible, greatly reducing chemical wastes in textile production.


THINK 2009

Ideas Proposal

Finalist: Paul Masih Das (Long Island, NY)
LB Trough-Assisted Graphene Synthesis

Currently, computer processors are made faster by adding additional silicon transistors, which take up more and more space. Graphene, a two-dimensional carbon sheet, is a recently-synthesized material found to be able to transport electrons at speeds thousands of times faster than any current material. Therefore, graphene transistors might increase computer speed and computational ability without increasing processor bulk. However, current methods of synthesis are tedious, expensive, and produce small, fragile samples. A novel method of graphene synthesis using a Langmuir-Blodgett trough to produce graphene sheets supported on a substrate that could be easy, efficient, and relatively cost-effective is proposed.

MIT THINK is much more than a competition. It's a life-changing experience that allows you to become part of a community composed of the most intelligent, warmhearted people in the world. At MIT, I felt at home; from watching the Superbowl with complete strangers to playing ping-pong in the dorm. MIT has something unique. It has an extremely diverse community of outstanding individuals who, ignoring all differences, come together as one. Being able to see the best research labs and smartest professors in the country only enhanced my MIT experience, one of the best I've ever had. 

Semifinalist: Zipeng Zhao (Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, MD) 
LAO Capable Spacecraft Propulsion System Design  

As an extension to the current research conducted at Cornell University, this project seeks to develop a power-efficient implementation of Lorentz Augmented Orbit capable spacecraft. Instead of establishing a potential using power supplied by the spacecraft to expel electrons for charging, this project takes upon the engineering approach of using an artificially generated and maintained magnetic field to deflect electrons in the ionosphere onto a charge capacitive module, ameliorating the demanding power requirements. Several quantitative parameters limiting the performance of the spacecraft have been derived and included as functions.

Through this project, I learned to apply knowledge taught in school to practical concepts of engineering. I also learned to take initiatives in networking with people who share my interest in fields of science. I have become more resourceful in seeking opportunities related to frontier scientific research, and more adept at gathering information from library collections and online databases. The rewards of this experience lie not only in the acknowledgment of my contributions in aerospace engineering, but more importantly in the undertaking of an independent project that stems from a passion to invent and improve. 

Semifinalist: Nikhil Anand (Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA)
Database Compression through FastOp 

A new algorithm for compressing static databases and improving operations on these compressed databases is presented. Static databases can be formatted into bitmap indices, which have been used extensively in the past because of their efficiency at answering queries on only low cardinal attributes, such as true or false, male or female, yes or no, and other non-unique values. The author presents a compression algorithm which utilizes a bitmap index compression technique to greatly improve the time performance of search queries. The new search scheme is also shown to work well with high cardinal attributes, which include ID numbers, codes, unique values, etc. This algorithm, called FastOp, compresses a bitmap index through a run-length encoding scheme before processing the search query. These compressed regions are divided into 31-bit groups which are then stored as hexadecimal words, which are inherently less demanding on computational units than bytes or bits, greatly increasing search performance. The efficiency of the algorithm was evaluated by performing logical operations on randomly generated bitmaps (generated by the Markov process) consisting of 10,000, 100,000, and 1,000,000 bits and by comparing time-performance with an existing compression technique known as BBC. The linear scaling of the results shows that the compression algorithm is not only efficient pragmatically, but is also theoretically optimal. FastOp (and in turn, the compression algorithm it implements) has implications in a plethora of fields, but is especially relevant to astronomical physics, particle physics, engineering, and computational science where large databases are usually generated to house scientific information. 

I learned several lessons from my project, having overcome all of the obstacles I was presented with. Perhaps the greatest hurdle I faced was the debugging of the program code. I spent nearly four weeks debugging the program and getting it to perform optimally, and at times it felt like I was trying to push down a rug larger than the floor: each time I set one corner correctly, a bump would come up somewhere else. Also, the mathematical analysis of the program proved very difficult, at least in the early stages. Mathematics is usually the best way to represent the theoretical efficiency of a program and setting up equations to describe my program was definitely a challenging experience. Finally and perhaps the most important lesson that I gleaned from this project: that optimization of an algorithm can be a mathematical and programming monster that truly tests one's endurance. As Dr. Donald Knuth once said, "If you optimize everything, you will always be unhappy." 

Homegrown Project

Finalist: Andrew Yang (Gretchen Whitney High School, Cerritos, CA)
System to Improve Hospital Sanitation 

In health care institutions, an increasing trend of Superbug infections, such as C. Diff and MRSA, have resulted from inadequate sanitation standards, specifically, hand hygiene. While past systems to encourage hand washing were either too intrusive or lacked accountability on an individual basis, my proposal of registering the time of each hand wash for later administration review by a simple barcode system showed promise: in just six weeks, a resulting 13.8% increase in hand washing led to a 9.09% decrease in MRSA infections per 100 patients. On a nationwide scale, a comparable 10% decrease in MRSA infections can save 3,295 lives, $981 million, and free over 700,000 hospital bed days annually.

I applied to the MIT THINK competition unassuming and nonchalantly, figuring I might as well since I had already completed a project semi-worthy of submission. I came back home blown away. After the thrill of discovering I had won a trip to MIT, the chance to meet actual professors, tour the facilities and town, and present my project, the memories of my week-long experience are still ingrained in me, and probably will be for a lifetime. This is something worth applying to and in retrospect, I'm almost embarrassed seeing the discrepancy between my initial reluctance and the subsequent unforgettable experiences. 

Semifinalist: Ashutosh Patra (Sunset High School, Portland, OR) 
Low Cost Microbial Fuel Cell 

An attractive solution to the pressing issues of energy production and wastewater treatment are Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs). The goal of this project was to build low-cost MFCs that harvest electricity and produce pure water from wastewater. MFCs were constructed from cheap alternatives to traditionally-used, expensive Nafion membranes made by DuPont and platinum cathodes. Some alternatives used were household containers, Gore-Tex and agar for membranes, and metal screens for cathodes. Furthermore, a novel anode-membrane-cathode assembly design was shown to produce at least 4.33 times the amount of energy per dollar than the typical, current laboratory MFC.

I learned several things from this project. The first was how widespread the problem of water sanitation actually is around the globe. The background research showed that new and improved energy and water techniques are needed to keep pace with growing demand. I worked at home and wanted to construct a Microbial Fuel Cell from readily available materials. This forced me to learn how to think creatively and adapt to resources at hand. Lastly, I gained a deeper understanding of how microbial fuel cells function and how this technology could help benefit the world as we move further into the 21st century.

Semifinalist: Scott Betz (Bellbrook High School, Bellbrook, Ohio) 
Virtual Wiiality 

Fully functional virtual reality systems are not realistic for practical applications such as video gaming and architectural modeling due to their astronomical prices. A cheaper and more accessible system was designed using all consumer electronics for less than $250 without sacrificing functionality. Virtual reality systems can incite more applications and markets when cheaper and more accessible. The system uses three Nintendo Wii remotes precisely tracking movements of infrared emitters on video glasses. Resultantly, the user can freely move within a small room and interact with the program. Virtual reality systems can be made cheaper. Future explorations include virtual reality systems using only internal sensors.

For a few years I wanted to build a virtual reality system but had been unable due to lack of money and resources until I had the idea of using Wii remotes. In calculating the equations, I had to teach myself many math concepts, which built upon the math concepts I learned in school and thought I would never see them again. Since I had never taken a computer class, the programming presented an obstacle. I contacted a local computer programmer who contacted another out of excitement, and before I knew it I had a number of programmers teaching me how to write a program using my equations. Through this project I learned that nearly any idea can be realized regardless of how much education, money, and resource one lacks; the right blend of enthusiasm and determination is far more effective. 

Lab Project

Finalist: Kevin Guo (Parkway Central High School, Chesterfield, MO)
Merging Radionuclides and Fluorophores

A novel diagnostic platform based on the combination of fluorescence and radioactivity modalities in a synergistic fashion is proposed to significantly improve the accuracy of existing diagnostics in medicine. We fused fluorescence and radioactivity by inserting a radionuclide into a fluorescent system. For the first time, we demonstrated that the radioactive decay of 64Cu to 64Ni and 64Zn, chelated to a fluorescent probe, led to the significant increase of fluorescence. We investigated metal modulated fluorescence both experimentally and theoretically and established the mechanism of interaction. Potential applications capitalizing on the benefits of combining radioactivity and fluorescence are discussed.

Participating in the THINK competition was an extremely rewarding experience that I am truly thankful for. The process itself challenged me to consider how I could have a meaningful impact on society, and in doing so, let me discover how fascinating and interesting science can really be. During my week at MIT, I was simply stunned by the raw brilliance of the environment. In particular, I was humbled beyond words at the TechFair as I presented side by side with the most remarkable and recent technologies being developed. I can honestly say that this experience will stay with me the rest of my life. 

Semifinalist: Peter Li (Carmel High School, Carmel, IN)
HPD: Online Integrated Human Pathway 

The computer era boom gave rise to bioinformatics, systems biology and personalized medicine but over 250 diverse web-accessible biological pathway and network resources make a comprehensive pathway analysis unfeasible. My research created the Human Pathway Database (HPD), an efficient user interface connecting to an integrated data warehouse with multiple analysis tools for biologists to use. Rigorous pathway analysis uses algorithms to cluster and merge network pathways from multiple online databases based on similarities among their molecular components. The HPD thus provides the means to reveal complex mechanisms of drug actions and may yield biomarkers for monitoring drug effects in patients.

From this project, I finally discovered that computer science is only a tool used to further other fields of science and mathematics. I learned knowledge from the field of bioinformatics such as database management/integration, interface design, and mathematical algorithms and visualization to conceptualize analysis for pathways. Furthermore, I also learned how to approach higher level research projects and write research papers.  

Semifinalist: Bryan Huang (Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, MD)
The Effect of Retinal Proximity to Stimulus Electrodes from Visual Prostheses: 3-D modeling of the Rabbit Eye  

Visual prostheses offer benefits to the blind, but a lack of safe standards could lead to devices that cause permanent damage to the retina. The experiment investigated the effects of different types of electrodes on the retina by creating and using 3-D model simulations. The models tested three kinds of electrodes, flat and bullet-shaped epiretinal electrodes, along with subretinal electrodes. A bulletshaped electrode placed 100 µm away from the retina was concluded to be the ideal location for an electrode in this simulation. Future work will refine the 3-D model and incorporate live-tissue experiments to develop a safe standard.

Though this project has been educational, the biggest lesson I've learned from this experience is not something related to biology or engineering, but related to how effectively I work alone. I've discovered, through a summer of working solely with my mentor, the importance of working with others. Although my mentor was certainly helpful and encouraging when I needed help, for the majority of the project I worked alone in the lab with no other interns around. I discovered that every project has more contributors than the name you see on the research paper. There are undergrads, post grads, post docs, primary investigators that can contribute their knowledge and help you on a project. My only regret in this project is that I did not meet and interact with more people more knowledgeable than myself.


THINK 2008

Finalist: Steven Castellano (High Technology High School, Lincroft, NJ)
Acupressure Induced Attention in the Teenage Brain

Since viable methods for modifying attention are somewhat lacking, acupressure induced attention was analyzed. Thirty-six teenage subjects applied acupressure to stimulation areas, relaxation areas, or no areas each day, and their visual attention skills were measured via enumeration tasks every two weeks after an initial test. There were significant differences among the mean scores of all three groups after each period of fourteen days (a = 0.05). The results suggest that acupressure can modify attentiveness. Despite my enthusiasm to measure acupressure induced attention via enumeration tasks, the concept was not initially well received. My friends were skeptical that alertness could be modified by acupressure, my teachers warned me that research with human subjects was frustrating, and my parents dissuaded me from using expensive software. Nevertheless, I persisted and ultimately obtained significant results. I realized that I was much more motivated when I was researching a topic that interested me.

Finalist: Chun-Kai Kao (George School, Newtown, PA)
Nanoparticle Enhancement of PEM Fuel Cell Power Output

PEM fuel cell, a clean energy source, is one of the best future alternative energy sources. Its relatively low power output compared to its high price has hindered it from practical applications. My project concerned synthesizing gold and palladium nanoparticles and depositing them onto the fuel cell to enhance the power output. The power output eventually increased 5.5 times. I then created a model on identifying the maximum output using nanoparticles. I have been interested in helping pollution problems due to my own allergy. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is patience. Many times I had to wait several days for a reaction to occur, or wait for technicians to fix the machine when it's unavailable for use. In the future I hope to further increase power output and decrease costs to popularize fuel cells and reduce pollution.

Finalist: Matthew Alpert (Lawrence High School, Cedarhurst, NY) 
Electron Transport Through Gold Alkanethiol Self-Assembled Monolayers: The Observation of Coulomb Blockade at Room Temperature 

Currently, the smallest transistors are 100 nanometers in size. However, further decreasing their size inhibits their function. My project dealt with an alternate form of the transistor called the singleelectron transistor (SET) which has the potential to decrease the size of transistors to approximately 40 nanometers. However, the typical SET can only function at extremely cold temperatures (10 K). Through the use of gold nanoparticles I was able to find a way to enable the function of the SET at room temperature. Working on this project was an incredible experience. It was exciting to work on such current research which holds applications to the technology industry. I really enjoyed doing research and collaborating with scientists in a professional laboratory. I felt it gave me a first hand taste of what it is like to be a research scientist. Also, I initially suffered a long period of setbacks before achieving significant results, making the experience all the more gratifying.

Semifinalist: Tyler Swenson (Dickinson High School, Dickinson, ND)
Novel Soluble Polypyridyl Ligands: Catalyst Building Blocks of the Future

Semifinalist: Melissa Oppenheim (Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale, FL)
The Opp-Guide to Community Service

Semifinalist: Lina Colucci (Lexington High School, Lexington, MA)
Getting to the Pointe: Development of Innovative Pointe Shoes

Semifinalist: Albert Kim (Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA)
JENKII: A Wireless Data Transmission System through Sound Waves with the Use of OFDM