Syamantak Payra, 15, of Friendswood, Texas, received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of $50,000 for developing a low-cost electronically aided knee brace that allows an individual with a weakened leg to walk more naturally. Intel Corporation and the Society for Science and the Public announced the winners in Phoenix May 13 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high school science research competition. When Payra tested his prototype with two individuals partially disabled by polio, it almost immediately restored a more natural gait and increased mobility.
Besides Payra, the other Young Scientist Award was won by Kathy Liu, 17, of Salt Lake City, Utah, for developing an alternative battery component that could significantly improve battery performance and safety. Han Jie (Austin) Wang, 18, of Vancouver, Canada, received the first place Gordon E. Moore Award and US$75,000 in prize money for developing microbial fuel cells.
“Our top winners this year – Austin, Syamantak, and Kathy – clearly demonstrate that age has no bearing on your ability to conduct research and come up with solutions to important problems,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science and the Public.
“We congratulate them not only for their success, but on their dedication and hard work. They and the rest of the Intel ISEF finalists are the rising stars of STEM and we look forward to watching them pursue their passions and in turn make the world a better place for future generations.”
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair honors the world’s most promising student scientists, inventors and engineers. Finalists are selected annually from hundreds of affiliated fairs. Their projects are then evaluated onsite by approximately 1,000 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each with a Ph.D. or the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.
Payra attends Clear Brook High School in Friendswood. His solution is both inexpensive and easy to use. He started with an off-the-shelf brace that only costs about $2,000. To this he added a motor-driven actuator. Its motor moves a piston in and out, which flexes the knee. A small computer that clips to the user’s belt or slips into a pocket controls that motor. That computer, in turn, receives signals from a sensor that reports the position of the opposite leg. According to Intel, together, all of the parts in Syamantak’s system will add only about $500 to the cost of the starting brace.