OHS student shines in international competition

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OHS student shines in international competition
Sathvik Nallamalli with Principal Matt GrantSathvik Nallamalli, a junior at Olympia High School, finished in fourth place in a science and engineering fair competition out of 1,800 students worldwide. His sophomore project “LC Detect,” or “Lung Cancer Detect,” was the next step for his freshman project “Lung Aware App,” which also took fourth place the previous year. The Lung Aware App took fourth place in the Embedded System Category and LC Detect took fourth place in the Translational Medical Science Category.

The inspiration for his two projects came from India, where his family is from. “There is a lot of pollution there, and the air quality is really bad. A lot of people have lung issues. Many people are not able to get medically screened because it is very expensive. I wanted to create something that could be used for the public,” says Sathvik.

Many people along the way helped encourage Sathvik during his journey to create these two science and engineering projects. Sathvik is grateful to Science Teacher Brian Wright for helping him print the chambers for his Lung Aware App on the school’s 3D printer. Ed Bassett, a recently retired biology teacher, was another teacher that Sathvik shared his ideas and work with. “Mr. Bassett had done a lot of biology research in college. He would ask how my research was going.” Principal Matt Grant also encouraged Sathvik along the way. “Mr. Grant would often be one of the first people I would pitch ideas to. Even if he knows a project is not possible, he always gives me an alternate route. He doesn’t lack in resources and is always wanting you to push forward,” says Sathvik.

Sathvik was able to create his Lung Aware App model his freshman year with materials costing less than $50. His creation is a combination of sensors, tubes, a filter and two pieces of 3D-printed plastic chambers designed similar to the shape of a lung. “If you could mass produce this, you could make it really cheap,” says Sathvik. His model simulates a normal breathing environment, with tapered ends for input and output of air.

This first project had focused on preliminary pulmonary issues such as Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis and Restricted Lung Disease. “The first step was identifying pulmonary lung diseases, and now I decided to tackle lung cancer,” says Sathvik. He created a machine learning algorithm that is able to screen for lung cancer, dubbing it LC Detect. His algorithm is also able to classify what type of lung cancer it is and what stage the patient is in, with a 98% success rate. Sathvik hopes his algorithm will speed up the process a patient goes through.

Sathvik thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to attend and compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. “It’s the best of the best. Professionals judge your projects, and they know what they are talking about because they are from the field you are competing in. I was able to meet a lot of scientists and professors that I can now work with to get these projects to the public. Getting to talk to people I aspire to be is pretty cool,” says Sathvik.

Sathvik is not only a success internationally; he also plays a key role in his school. Principal Matt Grant has seen Sathvik succeed not only in projects such as these, but also in other aspects of the high school. “He’s a great team player. Although he has done outstanding individual projects, he is committed to the success of the group. Other people connect with him. In robotics, you can see him playing a lot of different roles and helping his team. He is really committed to excellence. He works hard in school and works hard outside of school; and he is able to balance that somehow.”

The community of Olympia High School also inspired Sathvik to push ahead with his projects. Although they do not work in the science and engineering fields, English Teachers Robert Bach and Marianne Lang helped encourage Sathvik to pursue his goals. “Mr. Bach would teach us English, but also life lessons. He talked about going for it,” says Sathvik. Lang also encouraged him along the way, asking after his projects and plans, as well as recommending scholarships. “It’s cool how a teacher not in my field would be interested in what I’m working on,” says Sathvik.

Sathvik hopes to go into the medical field. Currently, his research projects have been in biomedical engineering, which he describes as “working for a medical cause but using engineering skills to do that.” He hopes to pursue a medical career in the future. In the meantime, he is looking forward to competing next year in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Good luck on your future endeavours, Sathvik! You are doing great things for the world and we are excited to see what your next science project will be.