The Regeneron Science Talent Search Competition 2020 for high school students recently gave away $1.8 million to a group of ten finalists. These finalists showcased exceptional acumen whilst solving great problems and guiding everyone towards a solution. America’s oldest and renowned STEM competition was held virtually for the first time since its inception in 1942. But global lockdown protocols failed to sink the excitement around the competition.
Lillian Kay Patterson from New Mexico won the first place and awarded $250,000 at this world’s most prestigious and oldest science fair. This teenager created a model to predict crop yields of every country in Africa 3 to 4 months before the harvest using satellite imagery. This method would potentially work to create an efficient food distribution system to reduce starvation in Africa.
Removing Starvation in Africa
Nine years ago Lillian’s family adopted three kids. All of her younger siblings faced food insecurity in their childhood and struggled with developmental delays. The landlocked eastern country Ethiopia faced a major drought and 18 million people were at risk of starvation. She became motivated to help aid organizations respond to droughts in real-time.
The 17-year-old teen first tested her method by analyzing the satellite imagery daily and appropriating it with accepted measures of vegetation health. After that, she tested it out on several African countries where she found that her method works too precise and accurate when comparing the present yield.
“I would advise any young student interested in science to learn computer programming, it opens the doors to anyone so that they can participate in real science at a young age,” said Lillian.
Machine Learning Algorithm
In the real world, not everything fits into nice neat theoretical boxes and one of those things is machine learning. The second place was awarded $175,000 to Jagdeep Bhatia, New Jersey. Jagdeep devised a set of two algorithms that were fast and simple. He created data-efficient machine learning algorithms to help computers learn newer concepts under another computer or an individual. What exceptional is, his algorithms make computers ask intelligent questions that would just ease the process.
When Jagdeep was a kid, he thought computer science was just about programming but later he discovered a whole new mathematical and theoretical side to computer science. Jagdeep’s AI can actually be used by enterprises to better train robots, chatbots, and others. And that’s what he hopes to be doing in the future. He wants to improve these algorithms so that people can have trustworthy machine learning algorithms that are reliable, consistent, free from bias, and discrimination.
“Stay curious, don’t be afraid to ask ‘why’, don’t be afraid to question the approaches that other people have taken because that’s how you think outside the box and come up with something totally new,” suggested Jagdeep.
The Eco-Friendly Burner
NOx pollution is considered one of the most dangerous and controlled combustion byproducts in the world. It is responsible for acid rain and can harm plants and animals. It is also caused by the degradation of structures such as buildings and concrete. But, who thought skills like computer coding and metal casing would be the solution for it. Well, thanks to the third-place winner, Brendan Cotty from Oklahoma whose award value is $150,000
The 18-year-old, home-schooled Brendon has developed an ultra-high temperature lower NOx burner system for the materials’ processing and power generation industries. His invention would be used in reducing NOx emissions during manufacturing and power generation that will help cure the environment. Interestingly, his burner work at a much higher rate than normal burners.