Washington County student named finalist as a top young scientist
A student in Washington County is celebrating after being named one of the top young scientists in the nation.
Ishan Ahluwalia was named one of the most promising middle school STEM students in the country for the Broadcom Masters, a national science, technology, engineering and mathematics middle school competition. Ahluwalia earned the honor while attending Stoller Middle School in Bethany.
The 14-year-old created a real-time system for detecting tire-road friction in different weather conditions that would prevent hydroplaning. The project landed him a top 30 honor out of 3500 applicants.
All finalists receive a $500 cash award and will participate in a virtual competition, encompassing multiple team challenges, where they will have a chance to compete for prizes and awards.
"I created a simulated car, because I wasn't allowed to use a real car," explained Ahluwalia about his project. He was then, he added, "able to predict the friction and give the driver (an) indicator if it's safe to drive at that speed based off the friction, or if they should slow down."
Ahluwalia remembers driving with his family in rainy conditions when the car slipped and crashed into a curb on the road. He was curious as to why it happened, and whether he could create a device to detect it.
Two years after his original idea, he was able to get the device to work.
"The hardest part was implementing the DTW analysis, which is a dynamic time warping that is able to detect the different weather conditions," he said. "It had to go through a bunch of testing."
Ahluwalia's favorite part of the project?
"When it worked," he said. "When I was finally able to give the display of green, red or yellow, which is one of the main parts of my project. It shows how it can work in the future. It can (tell) drivers to start slowing down in dangerous conditions."
Ahluwalia's device can measure changes in acceleration due to gravity. That, in turn, provides information about the device's orientation or positioning.
As a finalist, Ahluwalia will be able to compete in the first-ever virtual Broadcom Masters, where students will participate in project-based learning to test and demonstrate their critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration in each of the STEM areas.
"We've completely pivoted all of our programs into virtual competitions, including in-person judging, which is virtual judging," said Maya Ajmera, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Science & the Public. The competition is founded and produced by the organization.
Ajmera added, "One of the things we're doing to make sure that there's equity involved is that every finalist will get the same computer and hotspots. That way they're all working with the same technology."
Ajmera is interested to find out how the group projects will play out virtually, but she is confident in a positive outcome.
"We're looking for a well-rounded person as well as an extraordinary project," she noted.
The competition includes students from 29 schools across 16 states, and Ajmera hopes the program will inspire those same students to continue in STEM.
For Ahluwalia, he plans on continuing STEM competitions and projects while attending Jesuit High School in Beaverton. He agrees with Ajmera that this can help inspire students to follow their dreams.
"The competition is pushing me to keep on working on my project because I see a future in it," he said. "For all of the kids that competed, I think it's a nice opportunity to learn more."
Ahluwalia will compete in the virtual Broadcom Masters competition from Oct. 16 to Oct. 21.
One of the top honors includes a $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, a gift of Susan and Henry Samueli, for the student who demonstrates mastery of all STEM fields.
For more information, visit broadcomfoundation.org.
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