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Plano East Student Named as National Finalist in Regeneron Science Talent Search

Updated February 3, 2017

Krithika Iyer, Plano East Senior High School, named National Finalist

Krithika Iyer at Plano East

Plano East senior Krithika Iyer joins an elite group of 40 national finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search for her research titled: Bayesian Knowledge Trace for Mind Theoretic Applications. See Project Abstract.

Finalist were selected from a pool of approximately 300 scholars (formerly called semifinalists) based on the originality and creativity of their scientific research, their achievement and leadership both inside and outside of the classroom, as well as the scientific rigor and world-changing potential of their research projects.

“Regeneron is proud to recognize the top 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists. These talented young scientists are already exploring life-changing solutions for the world’s problems and are poised to lead innovation for future generations,” said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron.

Krithika will receive at least $25,000 from the Regeneron Science Talent Search for being named a finalist and will compete for more than $1.8 million in top awards – more than half of the Regeneron Science Talent Search total annual award distribution of $3.1 million. The top 10 awards range from $40,000 to $250,000 for the first-place winner. She will travel to Washington D.C. in March as part of the judging process to determine the top ten winners and will also have the opportunity to meet with national leaders to share her projects with the public at the National Geographic Society. The top ten will be announced at a formal awards gala at the National Building Museum on March 14.

She began participating in science fair in her eighth grade year around the time her mother was misdiagnosed with breast cancer. After the stress of thinking that her mother had cancer and then finding out that in her mother's case the tumor was benign, what seemed like a good outcome had left questions for Krithika about how false positives happen. Why are patients diagnosed with a disease they don’t have? Krithika followed her curiosity, and with her passion for the research fueled by her mother’s experience, she continued on a scientific journey of discovery.

Krithika has a strong history of scientific accomplishments leading up to her Regeneron Science Talent Search finalist award. Some of the highlights have been: semifinalist in the 2013 Broadcom competition; first place in the 2013 Texas Junior Academy of Science Competition; semifinalist in the 2013 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. And in 2015 as an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) finalist, she was awarded a CERN trip for her work with “Smart Start” an initiative she founded which works to make education more accessible via technology, giving a boost to young students whose parents may not be able to afford early learning opportunities for their children outside the home. Her list of accomplishments includes numerous other awards and scholarships.

When ask what advice she has for other student scientist, Krithika said that “asking the right questions is important. For example, don’t just Google cancer research, know what you are trying to find and then apply your research to the real world to help people.” And helping people is something that Krithika is passionate about. She maintains that finding that passion “helps you to like what you are doing. You need real passion to push yourself.”

Krithika credits her former Rice Middle School teacher Karen Santa Maria and current Plano East Senior High School Science Teacher Julie Baker with helping guide and energize her exploration and research. She also thanks her parents for their encouragement and support, saying that they sometimes wonder why she might need something for her projects, but always believe in her.

Krithika said this will be a “fun way to end her senior year,” but she is also looking toward the future, some of her plans include an invitation to be on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show as an ambassador for America’s Amazing Teens (AAT) regarding her project to get kids into STEM, and she is also working with the We are Family Foundation helping refugee children in the Dallas area with computer science skills.

About Regeneron

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, a program of Society for Science & the Public since 1942, focuses on identifying the next generation of scientists and engineers who will provide critical leadership in solving some of the world's most pressing challenges while shaping the future of research and development for our nation and the world. “These 40 young scientists, engineers and mathematicians are poised to be the next generation of leaders in business and academia,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science & the Public and publisher of Science News. “Science breeds curiosity, enabling innovators to develop solutions that will help solve our world’s most pressing challenges. We are proud to celebrate 75 years of recognizing new innovations and research demonstrating the outstanding capabilities of young minds.” The Society has produced and organized the Science Talent Search since it was founded in 1942.

Project Abstract

Bayesian Knowledge Trace for Mind Theoretic Applications

When humans interact, they have the ability to gauge each other’s emotions and mental states. However, machines, such as mobile devices, are not able to capture these states despite being a constant companion to humans. When computers are able to detect the emotional states of its users, e-learning systems can successfully mimic the way a nurturing teacher motivates, nudges, and cajoles a student to learn and master a concept.

This project demonstrates the feasibility of an e-learning system that can detect the emotional state of a learner, adjust the flow of instruction, and help motivate the learner through their educational journey. This can also minimize the frustration learners may experience while using current e-learning systems. This project consists of three major components: (i) extractions of the emotional state of the user via facial images of the users, (ii) a Bayesian knowledge tracing algorithm to accurately assess and monitor the progress of a learner, and (iii) the integration of the detected emotional state and academic progress to alter and adjust the instructional content for effective learning.

The prototype was implemented in Wolfram language. Several algorithms were utilized to extract the emotional state of the learner as well as estimate Bayesian model parameters of the knowledge acquisition model. Further analysis was conducted to improve accuracy, identify critical features, and reduce the number of features utilized in the model. This analysis clearly demonstrates that a system that takes into account the emotional state of the learner produces much superior results in several areas over a system that is emotion-blind. The areas of superior performance include learner engagement, accuracy of assessment, and continued usage.

Several areas requiring further analysis were also identified and presented, including the potential for utilizing a reduced set of learner specific emotion detection features for frequent and repeat users of the system. A commercial app is under development.


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Regeneron Science Talent Search Names Four Plano ISD Students as Scholars

January 6, 2017

Regeneron bannerOn January 4, 300 U.S. high school seniors were named scholars (formerly called semifinalists) in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition. Of these 300 students nation-wide four are from Plano ISD.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, a program of the Society for Science & the Public, recognizes and empowers the most promising young scientists in the U.S. who are creating the ideas and solutions that solve our most urgent challenges. This year, Regeneron becomes only the third sponsor of the Science Talent Search, with a 10-year, $100 million commitment.

Each scholar receives a $2,000 award from Regeneron with an additional $2,000 going to his or her school, resulting in $1.2 million in total scholar awards aimed at inspiring more young people to engage in science.

Congratulations to these talented students.

Brian Jason Du, Plano West Senior High School

Claire Elizabeth Gilmore, Plano West Senior High School

Krithika Iyer, Plano East Senior High School

Nicole Megan Wojtania, Plano West Senior High School

The competition overall awards $3.1 million to provide the opportunities and resources that students need to become the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, and STEM leaders. 40 finalists will be announced on January 24, 2017.

Regeneron is a company founded with the goal of transforming lives through science and its most important and social commitment has been to support the development of highly engaged, well-training and innovative young thinkers.








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