It takes a great mind to study science. But one Presentation High School student is proving there are scientific reasons to follow your heart.
17-year-old Presentation High School senior Maya Varma is one of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, a nationwide contest so prestigious it is sometimes referred to as the Junior Nobel Prize. Her invention is a low-cost, wireless, bluetooth-enabled spirometer: a device that detects chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. As it stands now, Maya says, spirometers are too expensive to be used widely in developing countries. “Alarmingly, almost 90% of all COPD deaths occur in developing nations, where the patients have no access to expensive spirometry equipment,” says Maya. “Through this project, I hope to lower the cost and decrease the size of spirometers, while simultaneously improving accuracy and precision.”
Maya’s spirometer is is the latest in a series of projects designed to help others. Previous entries include a motion sensor that detects distracted or impaired driving and a health monitor for diabetes patients.
“Whenever I find a problem, I think about how I can help solve it,” says Maya. “STEM fields excite me because I can take the knowledge I learn in a classroom and apply it to the world around me, hopefully helping to make the world a better place.”
Of course, Maya’s recognition by Intel is just a hint of what’s to come. Maya hopes to pursue a major in biomedical engineering and eventually earn an MD/PhD dual degree. Afterwards, she would live to carve a career path in research, working to better the lives of patients by utilizing her engineering skills. “Someday, I would like to turn my projects into products and actually see them being used by people to improve their lives,” says Maya. “It is always fun to design and build such devices, but I feel a greater satisfaction when these devices can be used to actually help others.”