Area high school students show off projects at international science competition

WASHINGTON — They are some of the smartest kids in the world, and they hail from the D.C. area. This weekend, three high school students are taking part in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.

It’s a week-long science fair to which only the best and brightest are invited. Conor Maddry, 17, from Langley High School, is one of them.

His project?

“Basically it’s an exoskeleton that makes the wearer stronger,” Maddry says.

If it sounds complicated, just wait.

“It uses pneumatics, which is a type of actuator which uses air pressure to move all the joints. It’s an aluminum frame and uses sensors to figure out if you’re flexing or not so it moves with you,” Maddry says.

The full-body suit could be used to suggest movements as a physical therapy tool or in a military or industrial setting, he says.

“It is used to make it easier for you to lift things, because it adds rotational torque to your joints. So it makes it easier to lift heavier supplies,” he says.

There are some incredible engineering feats on display at the fair. Last year’s winner used artificial intelligence to create a low-cost self-driving car.

Rather than pushing imagination, Montgomery Blair High School’s Daniela Ganelin, 17, explores the mind with her submission.

“I worked on the problem of aphasia — in particular, when people, after having strokes, suffer a degree of language loss,” Ganelin says.

While many patients deemed as recovered can access vocabulary, some still can’t carry on conversation, she says.

“I was looking for differences in word-use patterns between these patients and control subjects, and an approach similar to the one I developed could be used to create a diagnostic tool,” she says.

More than 1,000 students are competing in the event to share research and win prizes. The grand prize winner at the event receives $75,000.

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