WASHINGTON, D.C.--Three high school students each landed a $100,000 scholarship by winning top honors at the annual Siemens Westinghouse science competition, the results of which were announced here today.
Taking first place in the individual category was Aaron Goldin, a senior at San Dieguito High School Academy, in Encinitas, California. Goldin invented a device that uses a gyroscope to generate electricity from ocean waves. Starting out as a volunteer in a lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla--"I was the broom guy," Goldin recalls--he became involved in a project to design a wave-powered research vehicle. Goldin realized that a gyroscope could convert the rocking motion of waves into torque that would drive a generator. A prototype, tested at sea, cranked out 0.8 watts, enough to illuminate a small light bulb. Goldin hopes the device could be scaled up to become a source of renewable energy.
Yueqi Guo and Xianlin Li, both seniors at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, won the team category for their work on a gene that might be helpful in diagnosing breast cancer. Guo says she was inspired by stories of her maternal grandfather, who was misdiagnosed and died of lung cancer before Guo was born, and by a theater director at her school who developed breast cancer. Teaming up with her friend Xianlin, they studied GADD45a, a gene involved in cell growth regulation. With help from researchers at Duke University, they showed that the gene has a unique pattern of methylation in breast cancer cell lines that might one day help doctors spot the disease.
The winners "epitomized science," says Scott Miller, a competition judge and cell biologist at the University of Utah. The experiments on cancer cells were "thoroughly conducted and state of the art," he adds. Another judge, mathematician Joel Spencer of New York University, praised Goldin's invention as highly innovative. "What an idea!" Spencer says.