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Updates, Adventures at Intel ISEF, and More!

22 May

It has been a long time since I have posted a blog as I have been very busy with AP classes, SAT test, Robotics, Science Fair and much more, but I am back and will be posting regularly as my adventures in Science and Technology continue into my senior year of high school!

Here is a quick update on my recent science journey! I have continued to participate in competitive robotics competitions through FIRST Robotics. I have now been to the Regional Championship five times, the West Coast Super Regional Championship one time, and the FIRST World Championship in Houston Texas two times. I have developed my engineering and programming abilities which have encouraged me to continue to pursue an Aerospace Engineering Degree after graduating from high school. Along with robotics, I have been granted the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award for my work with Raspberry Pi as well as Arduinos as of recently. This award allowed me to go to Charlotte, North Carolina and meet other young women who have a fascination with programming and other STEM fields. I was also able to meet programmers from numerous companies such as Bank of America who is actively working to improve cybersecurity programs and support young students in programming. NCWIT provides large amounts of opportunities for young women, such as myself, to enter careers in computing. I was given the opportunity to apply for a grant that would allow me to teach computing skills to other girls as part of a summer institute. Fortunately, I was awarded the grant and will be conducting a computing course through aerospace engineering this summer for middle and high school girls in my area. We will be learning how to program Arduinos, and utilizing these skills to program air swimmers and sensors that will be implemented into a high altitude weather balloon that we will launch at the end of the session. During all of these activities, I continued to conduct science fair projects on various topics and moved onto the county, state and as of this past week, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. This brings us to the subject of today’s blog post which will be regarding my partner, Tanner Packham, and my science fair project from the 2018 science fair, and the electronics utilized in this project.

**Tanner Packham is a graduating senior at my high school that will be attending MIT to major in electrical engineering. He has a youtube channel that has over ten thousand subscribers, where he posts electronics videos and tutorials on creating interesting technological gadgets. Tanner Tech posted a youtube video about ISEF and the electronics in our project on his youtube channel so be sure to go and check his video out!**

The International Science and Engineering Fair is a competition that has over 1700 students participating from over 81 countries worldwide. Students gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to compete and interact with other students that have similar interests to learn about different cultures, different languages, and different impactful scientific research being conducted. During the course of this week, we were able to attend symposiums of entrepreneurs, Nobel Laureates, ISEF alumni, and more. There are also many activities available to encourage students to interact and create friendships and relationships through dancing, exchanging pins associated with your country or region, and interactions with new technology in the Intel quad.

Tanner and I conducted research regarding Alzheimer’s Disease, testing methods to stimulate gamma wave production in the brain that is correlated to the decrease in beta-amyloid plaques that are responsible for many symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as memory loss and difficulties formulating sentences. We were selected from our county fair along with 2 other students to advance to the International Fair.

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Pictured (left to right): Spencer Krock, 11th Grade-Norco High School; Yushan Su, 12th Grade-Martin Luther King High School; Dr. Judy White, Riverside Superintendent of Schools; Krystal Horton, 11th Grade-Western Center Academy High School; Tanner Packham, 12th Grade-Western Center Academy High School; Yamileth Shimojyo, Riverside STEM Coordinator

Tanner and I attempted to stimulate gamma waves by adapting an MIT research project where Dr. Li-Huei Tsai implanted a fiber optic cable into mice brains and flashed a light at 40 Hz (the optimum frequency of gamma waves in the brain) to stimulate the production of gamma waves which leads to microglia to activate and clean the curvatures of the brain to remove these plaques. Blinking lights and implanting fiber optic cables into human’s brains may be dangerous and potentially harmful for humans, so Tanner and I wanted to develop a different external stimulus that could be used to stimulate gamma waves in the brain using 40Hz. The stimulus that we focused on as it was demonstrated to have the greatest effect after conducting many tests on subjects from our school, was vibrations to the chest cavity at 40Hz. This was performed by having subjects wear a GoPro chest mount with a wooden block attached to hold the motor with a counterweight and a piezoelectric disk that could be connected to an oscilloscope to ensure that the motor and counterweight were producing a precise 40Hz vibration. As seen in the images below:


The gamma waves in the brain being produced were measured using a modified kids game called a Mindflex that we hacked to act as an EEG utilizing the Neurosky chip inside the headset. The headset would be worn on the subjects head and the serial output data would be sent to an Arduino Uno where we developed code that filter out the data being sent from the headset to isolate the high gamma and low gamma readings as those were the only ones we were interested in. This data would be stored onto an SD card using an SD shield on the Arduino so that we could implement these text files into Microsoft Sheets to create our graphs along with the time and signal data also provided by the headset. After obtaining a three-minute baseline for each subject the stimulus was applied for another three minutes to gather data regarding the gamma wave activity in the brain. Tanner and I found that the gamma wave activity had a statistically significant increase following the application of the stimulus to the subject. Tanner and I plan to expand our research by collecting more data and hope to test our technology on patients who currently suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

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In the International Fair, Tanner and I won a special award from the Sigma Xi Society of $2000 and a membership to their society for our exemplary work and promising research.

Aside from our project, I enjoyed the activities that Intel ISEF provided. My favorite activity was the pin exchange on the first day of the competition because I was able to talk to students from all over the world while exchanging pieces of our cultures. In this picture, I have pins from many different countries and states as well as a koala stuffed animal that I received from a former Broadcom MASTERS International student that I met in 2014.


I also enjoyed interacting with new technology in the Intel Quad. There were many virtual reality stations and a DIY circuit board pin station, along with musical stations, photo booths, and an Arduino robot soccer arena.


During the event, I diverged from the ISEF festivities to interact with the 2018 Broadcom MASTERS International students and talk about my experience as a Broadcom MASTER and how it helped me achieve the goals I have reached today. I was able to do a scavenger hunt in the Heinz History Center with another Broadcom MASTER from 2013, Cameron Jones, who was also an Intel ISEF finalist in the Physics and Astronomy category.

I was able to attend an entrepreneurship symposium where I listened to many business owners who started technological companies from the ground up. I talked with Felipe Gomez del Campo, who is an aerospace engineer and the founder of FGC Plasma Solutions. I also got to attend a Nobel Laureate symposium and was able to talk to Elissa Hallem about her journey through science.

Overall the International Science and Engineering Fair was an exciting and inspirational trip that has further encouraged me to pursue a STEM career. I look forward to conducting yet another science fair project next year in hopes of qualifying for Intel ISEF yet again.

I will be blogging about the NCWIT Aspire IT summer institute on this site so that others can follow the curriculum that we will be conducting utilizing programming and Arduinos, so be sure to check those out in the next month! I will be posting individual blogs regarding Arduinos and Raspberry Pi throughout the summer so watch on my twitter for updates on when those will be posted (@kid_pi). Please check out Tanner’s ISEF video and his other technology videos at

Aspire IT Logo


Sensors and Relays, Raspberry Pi, and Python

6 Jan

My school has a Computer Programming/Raspberry Pi club that my dad and I host.  Each time, we teach a lesson about the Pi, Python, Scratch,, binary/hex, etc. and then students break into groups to learn about a topic of their choice.  Some choose to go deeper into Scratch, others work on Raspberry Pi projects, and others use websites like codeacademy or EdX to go learn a different programming language.  We spent a couple of classes talking about what the different languages are used for.  For example, we said that HTML and CSS are good for making websites, Python is good for making MineCraft hacks on the Raspberry Pi, and Javascript is good for making web apps.

We’ve also had several guest speakers who are experts in computer programming come to our school and speak.  For example, we had a Google intern, we went and visited Google, and we had a programmer from JennaSys Engineering speak to us.  We asked each one what programming language they would recommend that we start with.  The Google Intern said “Python or Java,” the Google engineer said “Anything but Python, it’s too far from the hardware,” and the JennaSys engineer said, “Python.”  So, we decided that our lessons would focus on Python.

Below is the script that I wrote for our most recent lesson.  For this lesson, we used a GrovePi to take input from a light sensor and send output to a relay.  The circuit spins a motor if the light level gets too low.  So, this could be used to open and close your window blinds as the sun rises and sets, but that’s not very realistic.  In reality, there are many, many devices that use this exact same structure.  For example, your thermostat turns on the heater if the temperature gets too low and the AC if the temperature gets too high.  Some cars turn on the headlights when it gets too dark.  Your refrigerator compressor kicks in if the fridge gets too warm.  Some cars have windshield wipers that turn on when they detect moisture.  Grocery store doors open when they detect a person nearby.  An alarm goes off when a door is opened.  What these systems all have in common is that there is a sensor that triggers a relay to do something.  There are hundreds of other examples of this, too (3D printer micro switch, printer jam detection, phone overheat protection, laptop turns off when the lid closes, etc.) so we decided to look at an example of code that can make this happen.

I have to put a picture of the code because my spacing in the program gets messed up on WordPress for some reason:


A “relay” is a switch that you can turn on and off with code.  The click that you hear when you turn on a device with a remote control is the relay switching on.  They have one side that is “Normally Open” and you can use code to close it (turn it on) and another side that is “Normally Closed” and you can use code to open it (turn it off).  It gets confusing because generally, when you send a value of “1” to an output, you are turning it on.  But if that device is plugged into the “Normally Closed” side of the relay, then it’s already on and you turn it off by sending the value of “1.”

So, although the circuit that we had that day was only slightly cool, the applications to other areas are powerful.  This project also demonstrates why a Google engineer told us that Python isn’t the best language to learn.  The libraries make it so easy.  If you were writing code for a car’s computer, you wouldn’t be able to take the shortcut by importing the GrovePi library.


Raspberry Pi Starter Kit:  $69.95

GrovePi board and sensors:  $75.00

DC Motor:  $5.00

Variety of batteries, clips, and wires