HomeNews & PublicationsPress ReleasesASPIRE Students Win Big at Intel Regional Science Fair 

June 7, 2017

ASPIRE Students Win Big at Intel Regional Science Fair

ASPIRE student Sabahat Fatima with her mentor Michael Jin, of the Research and Exploratory Development Department
ASPIRE student Sabahat Fatima with her mentor Michael Jin, of the Research and Exploratory Development Department.
Credit: APL

ASPIRE student Suzie Byun with her mentor, Josh Steele, of the Space Exploration Sector
ASPIRE student Suzie Byun with her mentor, Josh Steele, of the Space Exploration Sector.
Credit: APL

The talents of ASPIRE (APL’s Student Program to Inspire, Relate and Enrich) students were on full display at the Intel Science Fair on March 26 in Baltimore, as interns Suzie Byun and Sabahat Fatima earned awards for innovative ideas that could potentially improve lives and deliver power more efficiently.

Back and Better Than Ever

Now a senior at Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Sabahat Fatima is no stranger to winning awards at this fair. She earned honors at last year’s fair for her work on “Sensitization of Solar Cells Using Dyes from Food Waste,” when she studied the feasibility of using dyes from peels from fruits and vegetables in place of hazardous metal complex dyes to capture sunlight in dye-sensitized solar cells.

“This was my fourth and final year at the science fair,” she said. “I have continuously participated for the opportunity to present my research and get feedback from experts and gain exposure to competition outside of my school.”

Building on last year’s project, Fatima used a peel dye with anthocyanin — water-soluble pigments that appear in red, purple and blue foods (especially in blueberries, raspberries, black rice and black soybeans) — and came up with a transparent solar cell by replacing the opaque graphite catalyst that she used last year with a transparent, conductive polymer. The idea turned into this year’s Grand Prize winner, “Catching the Sun with Transparent Solar Cells: Application of Natural Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells as BIPVs (Building Integrated Photovoltaics).”

“Winning the grand prize came as a pleasant surprise, as there were numerous students with amazing and impactful projects competing for the award,” she said.

She mentioned that the silicon solar cells seen on rooftops can only be applied to limited surfaces, but this technology increases potential renewable energy-generating surfaces, making total reliance on renewable energy more achievable. When the solar cells are installed as windows, they will serve dual purposes of clean power-generating devices and harmful-radiation shields.

Her mentor, Michael Jin, of the Research and Exploratory Development Department, provided her with a lab environment and trained her to use machines and devices specific to solar cell fabrication and analyses. Jin also provided Fatima with constructive feedback that she said was integral to her work. “I am grateful for the time he took out of his schedule to help me plan and pace my work so that I was able to complete my internship assignments and succeed with my project,” she said.

“The only thing I helped Sabahat with was to show her how to spend 90% of her time planning her lab work and other logistics associated with a formal review process and presenting her work externally,” said Jin. “It was also a learning experience for me because it took a while for me to figure out how to scope a rewarding independent project for a high school student. The important thing is that this experience has motivated me to continue work with high school students.”

Help for Headache Sufferers

In today’s society, phones and apps are all the rave; you can find an application for almost anything. And now, thanks to ASPIRE student Suzie Byun, there is an Android app to help those with chronic migraines. Her project, “Development of an Android Mobile Application to Aid Chronic Migraine Treatment,” won first place for the NSA Research Directorate Award at this year’s Intel Regional Science Fair in Baltimore.

Byun, a senior at Centennial High School in Howard County, joined ASPIRE in summer 2015. She started working with her mentor, Josh Steele, of the Space Exploration Sector, that fall on her project to develop the application.

“I knew I was interested in either computer science or the health care field, and I really liked that this project was able to do both,” Byun said.

After Byun expressed her interests in computer science, engineering and health care, Steele gave her the idea for her project. “Josh asked if I was interested in the opportunity he was offering,” she recalled. “After talking with him over the phone, I decided it would be a great experience and agreed to work on the project.”

Steele introduced her to Android programming, which uses Java, something that Byun had used before but in a different setting. She made an Android version of the iOS app that Steele had previously developed to collect data from patients of chronic migraines to help their physicians treat them. He helped Byun figure out how to create the app’s back-end and let her work relatively independently, but was readily available to help when she ran into problems she had trouble figuring out herself.

“Suzie’s strong work ethic made my job easy,” said Steele. “I was able to give her very high level guidance on what tasks to tackle next, and she was able to go and work independently, asking questions where needed along the way.”

“Although the project was definitely focused on programming and mobile development, it was a great opportunity to see how developing technologies have a place in the health care field, which I am now very interested in,” she said.

In the meantime, she will continue to develop the app, and expects the Android version will be ready for internal beta testing in the coming months.

For more information about ASPIRE, visit http://www.jhuapl.edu/STEM/Students/ASPIRE.

Media contact: Khadija Elkharbibi, 240-228-9118, khadija.elkharbibi@jhuapl.edu

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.