An exciting moment for women in STEM: Presentation High School Senior Maya Varma recently won the First Place Medal of Distinction in a science competition so prestigious it’s known as the “Junior Nobel Prize.” Maya is one of three Intel Science Talent Search winners picked from a pool of 1,750 students nationwide. Her winnings include a $150,000 scholarship.
Maya is one of three national winners in a pool of 1,750 students who entered the competition. Intel says this year’s competition is particularly significant for young women. “In addition to honoring two female top winners, this year’s competition is the first in the Science Talent Search’s 75-year history in which more than half of the finalists are female,” said Rosalind Hudnell, vice president in Human Resources, director of Corporate Affairs at Intel Corporation, and president of the Intel Foundation. “This milestone is an inspiring sign of progress toward closing the gender gap in technology and engineering. We hope these finalists’ outstanding work will inspire young people from all backgrounds to develop their interests in these fields.”
Maya’s winning entry is an inexpensive, portable spirometer – a device that diagnoses respiratory illnesses such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Currently, spirometers are too expensive to be used widely in developing countries (currently $1,000-$4,000 each), and they require the assistance of a health care professional. Maya’s spirometer would cost $35 and could be used at home; she has engineered a wireless transmitter that uses Bluetooth to connect to a micro-controller. She has also developed an app for the device.
According to Maya’s research, 64 million people in the world are afflicted by COPD; total deaths from COPD are expected to increase by 30% within the next decade. Currently, it is the 4th leading cause of death worldwide. COPD is not curable, but early detection can slow down the progression of the disease.