Scottsdale BASIS teen shows science prowess Kasyap Chakravadhanula

Kasyap Chakravadhanula, a sophmore at BASIS Scottsdale, created a smartphone app that tests for a diabetic condition that is the world's leading cause of blindness.

Joining thousands of teens from around the world at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Scottsdale and East Valley students showed off their skills and won prize money while exploring ways to create a better world through their knowledge.

In all, 1,800 finalists representing 80 countries, gathered recently to have their projects judged by industry professionals with a Ph.D. or equivalent degree in one of the 22 scientific disciplines. The students were among some of the world’s most accomplished and most had already won championships in state, region or national science competitions this year.

Each project started with a bolt of inspiration.

Kasyap Chakravadhanula, a sophomore at BASIS Scottsdale, created a smartphone app that tests for diabetic retinopathy — the world’s leading cause of blindness — and cardiovascular risk.

Kasyap was inspired to create his project after his biology teacher told the class he had to get a test for diabetic retinopathy and was “complaining about how tedious and costly it was.”

The app is fully automated, and unlike traditional testing, does not require blood or a week-long wait.

A snapshot of the retina and some background information from the patient is all that is necessary to receive results back with 80 percent accuracy. At just $15 per test, Kasyap hopes to one day see it in a clinical setting.

“I want to increase doctor’s confidence in the model, so right now what I’m doing is further explaining how this model is doing what it’s doing. If a doctor can see that, they will find this is a trustworthy model we can use,” said Kasyap.

Kasyap is currently in contact with a professor at Stanford to refine the test hand improve its accuracy, and won fourth place and $500 for his project at ISEF.

After Mindy Long’s grandmother passed away partly because there weren’t enough doctors at her hospital in China, the Hamilton High School senior found smartphones could relieve physicians of some basic duties.

Mindy created a sensor and phone application that tracks a patient’s blood for iron deficiencies and excesses.

Anemia and hemochromatosis tests cost around $150 and take five to six hours to obtain results. Mindy’s sensor and app work together to gather instantaneous results.

“This is especially beneficial to those that live in the rural U.S. or those that live in countries around the world where doctors aren’t readily available, because you can track everything you need to know about your body’s iron levels right from home,” said Mindy.

Though many of the projects aimed at improving the world of medicine in some way, Ella Wang and Breanna Tang, both freshmen at BASIS Chandler, set out to overcome food shortages and reduce waste through the use of soybean residue.

The girls were inspired after Ella’s mom used soybeans at home, and she realized how difficult it was to dispose of the waste in an environmentally responsible way.

After testing nitrogen and potassium levels — as well as soil permeability and water holding capacity — Ella and Breanna found that not only can soybean curd residue be repurposed for crops, but it increases their yields.

“We know that farming on a large scale poses a lot of environmental risks, but hopefully we can sort of combat that with our project or at least show people that there are places we can start improving,” said Ella.

Red Mountain High School seniors Arianna Comes and Julie Larsen, created autonomous detection system that tests for E-coli in the Oak Creek Watershed in real time.

The current testing method used on the water takes 18 hours to complete, risking a change in the state of the water by the time the test is complete. Arianna and Julie’s test takes under two hours from start to finish.

Pia Wilson-Body, president of the Intel Foundation, said the fair serves as a platform for young innovators to collaborate, learn and expand their understanding of their surrounding world.

She added the fair is also a great way to highlight diversity and inclusion work and empower communities.

In addition to the record female participation rate at almost 50 percent, Wilson-Body said having representatives from around the world enables the “experience [to go] beyond the competition; it is an opportunity to develop cross-cultural connections.”

Over $5 million in scholarships and awards were distributed to the fair’s participants, in hopes of continuing their education or careers in STEM fields.

Wilson-Body said the work of Intel would not be possible without the constant support of parents, teachers, mentors and administrators, “who provide opportunities for students to engage and explore the world of STEM, and ultimately reach their full potential. It takes a village.”