Indian American whiz kid Rishab Jain was named the overall winner of the 2018 Discovery Education and 3M annual Young Scientist Challenge, held Oct. 17 at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Jain, 13, created an algorithm to make pancreatic cancer treatment more effective by using artificial intelligence to accurately locate and track the pancreas in real-time during MRI radiotherapy, according to a joint 3M and Discovery Education news release.

Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to pancreatic.org. An inherent challenge of radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer resides in targeting the pancreas itself, the release said.

Firstly, it is often obscured by the stomach or other nearby organs, making the pancreas difficult to locate, and second, breathing and other anatomical changes may cause the pancreas to move around in the abdominal area. As a result, radiotherapy treatment can inadvertently target and impact healthy cells, it noted.

Jain developed and tested his algorithm using images of the human digestive system, and found it could correctly detect the pancreas with a 98.9 percent success rate. The innovation aims to improve accuracy, reduce invasiveness and increase efficiency during treatment, resulting in better quality of life and chance for survival among patients, according to the companies.

A seventh-grader at Stoller Middle School in Portland, Ore., Jain competed alongside nine other finalists during a live competition at the 3M Innovation Center. For being named “America’s Top Young Scientist,” the youngster received a $25,000 prize.

During the summer, the finalists – named in June, of which five of the 10 were Indian Americans (see India-West article here) – had the exclusive opportunity to work with 3M scientists to develop their innovations as part of a unique mentorship program.

Jain was paired with Dr. Döne Demirgöz, a 3M corporate supply chain black belt and product development and research expert who takes the products developed in 3M labs and brings them to the marketplace, the release said.

The finalists presented their inventions to an esteemed panel of scientists and leaders from both Discovery Education and 3M. In addition, they competed in two other challenges that combined multiple 3M technologies to solve a real-world problem.

“All of the finalists for America’s Top Young Scientist embody the same curiosity, creativity, and passion that 3M uses when we apply science to life,” said Paul Keel, senior vice president of business development and marketing-sales at 3M. “These talented young men and women are just beginning their lives as scientists. I am excited by the endless possibilities that await each of them. We wish them all the joy and success that comes from a lifelong journey of exploration.”

The nine finalists received $1,000 and a variety of prizes from Discovery Education and 3M. The second, third and fourth runners-up also received a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks, the release said.

Indian American Mehaa Amirthalingam, an eighth grader at Sartaria Middle School from Sugar Land, Texas, was the runner-up. She developed a toilet flushing system that uses both fresh and recycled water to reduce water consumption in the home.

Sriram Bhimaraju, a sixth-grader at Harker Middle School in Cupertino, Calif., took fourth place in the competition. He developed an Archery Assistant app that improves an archer’s accuracy by correcting form in real-time using a Bluetooth sensor.

The fifth through tenth place winners each received a $1,000 prize and a $500 excitations gift card.

These finalists, in no particular order, included Cameron Sharma, an eighth-grader at George H Moody Middle School in Glen Allen, Va., who created uFlu, an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify personalized flu vaccines; and Krish Wadhwani, an eighth grader at DeSana Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga., who developed a medication that could potentially cure Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative condition in the brain that currently has no known cure.

Since its inception, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in student prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real-world insights and delivered much-needed science resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country.

It targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to wane and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.

The annual premier competition recognizes scientific thinking and imagination in students grades 5-8 who dream up a solution to an everyday problem that ultimately could reshape and improve the way we live our lives.

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