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Intel Education Science

Maryland Teen Wins World's Largest Science Fair 193

Posted by samzenpus
from the wonders-of-evaporation dept.
Velcroman1 writes "A Maryland student was awarded the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair on Friday for developing a urine and blood test that detects pancreatic cancer with 90 percent accuracy. Jack Andraka, 15, claimed the $75,000 prize for his test, which is roughly 28 times cheaper and faster, and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests. Each year, approximately 7 million high school students around the globe develop original research projects and present their work at local science fairs with the hope of winning."
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Maryland Teen Wins World's Largest Science Fair

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  • Congratulations. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr1911 (1942298) on Monday May 21, 2012 @01:51PM (#40067829)
    Bright kid.
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:02PM (#40067967)
      Maybe, but it would be nice if there were more details. I remember reading a slashdot news story about another teen science fair winner with some awesome result, but someone pointed out that he essentially copied someone else's PhD dissertation. Kinda made me skeptical about amazing science fair results. In this case, was he a chemical engineer? How did he even get access to pancreatic cancer urine samples?

      Is the 90% accurate, faster, and far cheaper than current tests maybe because it's just a strip of paper that will always give a "You do not have pancreatic cancer" result? That sounds like it would be a lot cheaper, faster, and at least 90% accurate if you weren't selectively testing people you thought had pancreatic cancer...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MarkGriz (520778)

        You're expecting scientific details from Fox News?

        • A google search for the student's name turned up numerous other hits, which were all nearly carbon copies of that same one paragraph.

          Which doesn't surprise me either: Fox news only seems shitty until you check out their competitors. Then you just realize that they're all identically shitty when it comes to reporting. The personalities that Fox news has on it are definitely worse (I mean war criminal Oliver North isn't even their most obnoxious hire), but when it comes to the news, they're not signifi
      • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:23PM (#40068243)

        I remember reading a slashdot news story about another teen science fair winner with some awesome result, but someone pointed out that he essentially copied someone else's PhD dissertation. Kinda made me skeptical about amazing science fair results. In this case, was he a chemical engineer? How did he even get access to pancreatic cancer urine samples?

        I participated in ISEF from 7th grade until 12th, with varying levels of success. I did very well, but never as well as this kid, but I dated a girl for 4 years who basically won the same place. This competition is very high stakes, as the winners basically get to choose their school from the top schools in the country. I attribute my acceptance into CMU more to ISEF than anything else I did in Highschool.

        With such high stakes, there is a lot of parental support, especially from parents who are scientists and engineers. A friend of mine had unlimited access through her family to a MRI machine. She did very well and went on to MIT. Another friend had access to vast quantities of microbial data through her mom. Other people had their parents design and supervise the experiments, while others still performed extensive and impressive statistical tests well beyond the skill of a 14 year old, thanks to their parents. After dating my girlfriend for some time, who again placed as well as the kid in the story, she revealed to me her father basically did all the work.

        None of this is ever disclosed at the fair, and all work is always presented by the students to be their own original research. I'm not saying the kids in question were dumb... quite the opposite they were brilliant. But they also had a great deal of extra help from highly educated people to "guide" their research. I'm also not saying this was the case for the winner this year, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          So in other words, the "best and brightest" are plagiarist? Makes sense to me. Actually that would explain a lot...

          • More like the "best and the brightest" aren't necessarily any better and brighter than anyone else, but had certain resources that made their work more impressive.
            • by Loosifur (954968) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:43PM (#40068491)

              My wife is pursuing her doctorate in science education, and this comes up continually. Equity in education is a huge, huge issue, especially in STEM, and the theme that consistently shows up is that having parents who are educated, who are in the upper middle class, and/or who are in a professional field gives you a huge leg up. It doesn't mean that these kids work less, or aren't as smart, or aren't as deserving as kids from poorer backgrounds, but it does mean that they start out with larger reserves of educational capital than other kids. I mean, you could be a genius, but if your parents are working two full-time landscaping jobs and barely speak English, you're going to be at a disadvantage compared to a kid who has a parent who can spend an hour a day helping with homework.

              • Re:Congratulations. (Score:5, Informative)

                by Stargoat (658863) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:03PM (#40068775) Journal

                It's one thing to pull yourself up from the bootstraps if you're born uppermiddle class. It's another if you're born lower class. There's a strong argument that it's easier today to move up the social ladder in Europe than the United States. [huffingtonpost.com] This is appalling.

                • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:28PM (#40069077)

                  It would be quite counter-intuitive if the US had more social mobility than socialist countries. In the US you receive little assistance from the state, so it won't be helping the poor up the ladder, while the state also doesn't impose much of a burden on the rich, so it won't be pulling them down the ladder either. In a socialist country, the poor receive more assistance and there are more demands on the rich. Obviously the latter is more conducive to social mobility, so I don't know why you state it as if this was some sort of strange idea that might even be true. Why wouldn't the US have poor social mobility?

                  • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                    by Anonymous Coward

                    while the state also doesn't impose much of a burden on the rich, so it won't be pulling them down the ladder either.

                    And if the rich do something colossally stupid and jump off the ladder on their own, the state will swoop in with a bailout jetpack or golden parachute at huge expense to the taxpayer.

                  • by Kjella (173770) on Monday May 21, 2012 @05:28PM (#40070547) Homepage

                    It's a perception bias, with the poor being poorer and the rich being richer the rags to riches stories also get more extreme. It creates the illusion that everyone can go from the very bottom of the ladder to the very top of the ladder but a few extreme outliers don't mean social mobility for the masses. Also the rich and powerful like to perpetuate this idea because it means that instead of going Robin Hood and taking from the rich and giving to the poor, people want to get rid of taxes for when they themselves become rich. Of course most people don't actually end up rich, but if you can make them believe they will then you get people working 60+ hour weeks for shit pay, little help from the government and they want it that way...

                  • by gutnor (872759)
                    That is not so clear-cut - the US traded their safety net for freedom. Moving from the bottom of the social ladder to the top was possible. In Europe, maybe you cannot fall as low, but traditionally it was harder to get a job/position outside of your station. (Being able to raise to a position by doing well at your job was called US-Style management when I was a kid. That was not the norm.)

                    Society is not static however. The US social ladder has become more slippery (nowadays you are either broke or billio

                • by olau (314197)

                  According to this TED talk [youtube.com], if you want to live the American dream, statistically the best place to do it is Denmark with our relatively high taxation level and state-funded education (you get paid to study at university), health care, unemployment safety net etc.

                • Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by F69631 (2421974) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:49PM (#40069343)

                  There's a strong argument that it's easier today to move up the social ladder in Europe than the United States

                  I've always thought that this is very widely accepted fact. Where I live, higher education is free (and in fact, you get social security of 500 euros ($640) a month, lower rent, government-backed loans, etc. if you're a student) and university admissions are based on objective tests to select the best students (everyone who finishes Highschool will participate in national testing. Grades come from bell curve and graders don't know whose paper they're grading... or even the highschool of the student). It seems obvious to me that a system like this will result in more social justice and less inequality (Nearly everyone who has the will and skill can climb the social ladder regardless of who their parents where) but people in USA decided that the gain is simply not worth the price (=more taxes, less personal liberty, more nannystate...).

                  This is appalling.

                  Why so? Again, I assumed this had always been both well-known and intentional but if it isn't... is there something that makes Europe especially appalling in this regard or is it just so appalling to hear that USA isn't at the top?

              • by ergean (582285)

                I could have gone to medical school... but I was to stubborn to do that. My mother is a medical assistant Due to this I could probably make a good emergency triage without any additional training, take blood samples and administer intravenous and intramuscular injections. I know more about human body then anything else... even computers - sometimes I don't even know that I know it.
                I believe that if you have some brains you can get a really good kick start from your parents field without effort.

                • by Loosifur (954968)

                  It isn't even necessarily that in depth. I mean, would blue-collar immigrants even know to fill out a FAFSA form to get grant and scholarship money for a kid about to go to college? When would parents meet with their kids' teachers if they work nights instead of a 9 to 5? There's stuff that those of us from middle-class backgrounds don't even realize we know that gives us a huge advantage over people who are coming from totally different backgrounds. Just like the children of the super-wealthy probably woul

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Chazerizer (934553)
          Actually, all of this is disclosed at the fair. Any student working in a high-end research lab (or frankly, any place more advanced than your standard high school lab) is required to submit forms signed by the head of said institutions and detail the size and scope of the involvement of the lab. This includes graduate student mentors, access to equipment, and other information.
        • It's a good introduction to research funding quite frankly. A lot of day to day work for research scientists is simply networking, calling in and loaning out favours and trying to secure the best funding and equipment. These kids are lucky to have access to advanced stuff, yes, but you can't blame them for taking advantage of it.

          Perhaps categorising the award by "estimated cost to replicate" would be a way forward?
        • So what you're saying is this is more or less a higher profile version of the Cub Scout pinewood derby.
        • by tibit (1762298)

          I'd have dumped the girlfriend -- not for lying, but for closing the door to the winning spot to kids who actually do the work and perhaps actually deserve the prize. She is, it seems, a typical example of no-holds-barred "winner". What a loser, that is.

      • Re:Congratulations. (Score:5, Informative)

        by pkinetics (549289) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:53PM (#40068617)
        Science News Arcticle [sciencenews.org]

        Searching for a better detector for mesothelin, Andraka coated paper with tiny tubes of atom-thick carbon. Antibodies stuck to the carbon nanotubes can grab the telltale protein and spread the tubes apart. The carbon’s resistance to the flow of electricity drops measurably as more protein attaches. Tests of the paper using blood samples from 100 people with cancer at different stages of the disease identified the presence of cancer every time, Andraka reported.

      • Re:Congratulations. (Score:4, Informative)

        by westlake (615356) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:55PM (#40068655)

        How did he even get access to pancreatic cancer urine samples?

        Jack Andraka is a high school research intern at The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. The lab of Anirban Maitra, Associate Professor of Pathology and Oncology. Four students honored at INBT research symposium [jhu.edu] [NanoBioTechnology]

        A MathMovesU Middle School Scholarship winner, Jack Andraka of Crownsville, Md., rode his way to a $1,000 campership courtesy of Raytheon to camp Awesome Math, where he can hone his problem-solving skills with students from around the world. Jack wrote about his love of mountain biking for Raytheon's MathMovesU Middle School Scholarship and Grant Program, which honors students and teachers who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and math.

        Jack Andraka: Math and Mountain Biking Create Eureka Moment [raytheon.com]

        I-SWEEEP 2010 Special Awards [isweeep.org] [Certificate of Achievement and Office of Naval Research Medallion]

      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        I remember reading a slashdot news story about another teen science fair winner with some awesome result, but someone pointed out that he essentially copied someone else's PhD

        When I was in school, all the kids who won science fairs were the kids whose parents "helped" them the most. For the best projects if was obvious that the parents had basically done them entirely. This really pissed me off because I didn't have parents who could help me out. So basically, I would work my ass off and lose to some kid whose electrical engineer dad had built them a goddamned working robot.

        • by hackula (2596247)
          Ha, this. I remember a kid who "built" a working hovercraft in middle school. Considering the kid was not even allowed to ride it, it was pretty obvious that his dad did not just let him take apart a lawnmower, modify the engine, and weld it to the frame (all equally if not more dangerous than riding the damn thing for a 13 year old).
      • by bitt3n (941736) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:37PM (#40069221)

        Is the 90% accurate, faster, and far cheaper than current tests maybe because it's just a strip of paper that will always give a "You do not have pancreatic cancer" result?

        I can do better than that. A strip of paper that says "you have pancreatic cancer," stuffed into fortune cookie laced with U-235.

      • Isn't it obvious? He found a way to create pancreatic cancer. Obviously, those results on causing pancratic cancer will be presented at the mad science fair next week.

    • When I was younger, I use to get jealous towards kids like that. I though if only I was in an environment that allowed me to do this type of stuff I can get famous for being that kid... As I got older, I am more satisfied with my lot in life, and I am happy to see kids coming up with new cheaper and better ways to do things, it keeps me more optimistic towards the future.

      Science needs more kids, as we get older we become more institutionalized and experienced, this isn't bad, there is a lot to say about

      • by s.petry (762400)

        I agree but then disagree also. We as adults learn to fear a legal system that will force us in to stone age poverty if we step on one of those patents in the inventing mind field. Kids don't have that worry, and are often immune to the legal system. Medicine is a late entry to the patent system compared to information technology, so we'll see how something like this goes in a few years. You never know, you may see a headline in a few days about a patent suit against a science fair winner.

        Have the addit

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Or you could have used Pascal, like many did in Europe, and then you don't have to deal with the char* silliness. I loved Pascal strings. C++ string classes do the same, but they are usually reference counted, and thus royally suck balls in performance department when it comes to non-copying short strings. Many of those "solid" string classes never had their performance measured when the design decisions to implement reference counting were being made in all-or-nothing fashion...

    • by sarysa (1089739)
      Totally didn't have help from his parents.
  • Sounds like an awesome result, but isn't this more a feat of engineering than science? Not that I am complaining per se, but I feel that it's important that people recognize the difference.
    • If all he did was get a specification from a client and build something to that specification, I'd agree with you. Seeing as he both developed the test and did a scientific evaluation, I think this qualifies as a healthy mixture of both engineering and science.

    • Sounds like an awesome result, but isn't this more a feat of engineering than science?

      Depends; did the student:

      - Develop a hypothesis?
      - Test the hypothesis (i.e. experiment)?
      - Record results?
      - "Rise and repeat?"

      If the answer is "yes" to all of the above, than yes, it is science.

      Unless the term is defined as something other than the method by which it is achieved?

    • by Caratted (806506)

      Sounds like an awesome result, but isn't this more a feat of engineering than science? Not that I am complaining per se, but I feel that it's important that people recognize the difference.

      It doesn't really explain the methods he used to develop his dip-stick lithmus sensor test thing. I would submit that his solution encompasses both - the scientific method established his hypothesis (it should be easy to test for mesothelin in blood/urine) and engineering to create a repeatable, testable solution to the problem. I think some more science is probably present in the indicators present on the stick, where you need to develop a flag while controlling for everything else present in blood or ur

  • Help (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bigby (659157) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:01PM (#40067953)

    How much of the work supposedly done by this individual were actually done by the child? What about the others considered for the award? Science fairs have become a huge joke, and I'm sorry if this child actually did this on his own. Even HS fairs have no credibility.

  • by virgnarus (1949790) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:04PM (#40067987)

    How many contestants entered in with volcanoes and solar system dioramas.

  • by sirdude (578412) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:08PM (#40068037)

    .. from what I have seen of these fairs where kids invent/discover things seemingly beyond their mental, physical or financial means, they are inevitably "guided" by parents who are professionals. In the case of Andraka, his mother appears to be an anaesthetist at a hospital and his father might be an engineer ...

    It's nevertheless a commendable result.

    • the way of the world dude. contest or no contest this is how shit works out. rarely is your genius mathematician from the favelas of rio or the mean streets of compton. they're usually the son or daughter of two other recognized geniuses. your average kid will bust out the baking soda volcano. genetics and environment are not fair for everyone. if they were there'd be no purpose for evolution.
      • by sirdude (578412)

        Well, I'm not talking about eugenics ... hence my use of the quotes around the word guided. I am not insinuating that this is what has happened here with Andraka, but it's definitely a possibility that the parents of kids in science fairs provide a lot of assistance beyond moral support and a suitable environment.

        • well, no, you really did insinuate that, even if only subconsciously. you used the term "parents" as opposed to the genetically-neutral "mentors." you also pointed out the mother's occupation (seemingly gleaned from her twitter account? so you had to go looking for a direct genetic link? it wasn't in TFA...) and speculated that his father was an engineer. i do not see an argument for "biology tutor" or "sister-in-law" or any other source of environmental guidance sans a direct genetic link.

          not that i dis
  • Who did the work? (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:09PM (#40068063)

    A Maryland student was awarded the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair on Friday for developing a urine and blood test that detects pancreatic cancer with 90 percent accuracy.

    Who did the work? I'm not thinking the kid did. He may have "developed" it in the same sense that modern americans talk about how they are "building a house" when they really mean cutting a check for someone else to build it.

    I'm thinking most of the list is "This is what my dad does at work and this is what they did while I watched them".

    Plausible projects that could actually be done by kids would be:

    "Euglena: The Solution to Nanosilver Pollution" Nothing too unobtainable here, nothing requiring a weird environment, clearly possible in a basement, or in my basement anyway.

    "Design and Creation of Small Wind-Power Engines for Low Wind Speeds Based on Magnus Effect" Totally designable and buildable by a kid, key word being "small" and "low speed"

    "Repelling Effect of Plant Extracts on Bees-A Study on Preventing Bees from Pesticide Toxicity" Plenty of normal civilians keep bees, at least in rural areas, coincidentally same place plants to extract and pesticides to sample also reside. Totally believable that a smart hard working kid could do this alone.

    "Effect of Food Types on Quantity and Nutritional Quality of Weaver Ant". Ants, we got em. Food, we got it too. Can we count? Yes we can. Sounds like good science doable by an actual kid.

    Implausible projects that could not have been done by kids:

    "A Study of the Endogenous Activity Rhythms of the Marine Isopod Exosphaeroma truncatitelson" Where does a kid get that and the testing environment necessary?

    "Analysis of Photon-Mediated Entanglement between Distinguishable Matter Qubits" Oh come on. Well I'll head on over to home depot and get a can of qubits on the way home from school, and then...

    "DNA Repair Mechanisms: Investigations of Base Excision Repair Pathway in Differentiated and Proliferative Neuronal CAD Cells" Oh come on. How big was the lab that did this work? 50 people and 10 million bucks of gear maybe?

    "Synthesis of Trimethylguanosine Cap Analogues with the Potential Use in Gene Therapy" Oh come on

    "Synthesis of Triazene Compounds and Their Application in Spectrophotometric Determination of Cadmium" Nobody's doing cadmium work outside a lab, at least without turning the basement into a "radioactive boyscout" situation. I would promote this to "possible" if and only if it were done as independent study at a high school chem lab.

    • by swx2 (2632091) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:33PM (#40068381)
      Quoting from the winning project's abstract:
      "Optimal layering was determined using a scanning electron microscope."

      Ok what? How does a high school student get access to one of those? I highly doubt most HS in this country has one of those for their students to use...
      • by vlm (69642)

        How does a high school student get access to one of those?

        Essentially, the kid didn't win anything, the local taxpayers and the local science teacher won while the kid was watching them.

        I'm about 1e9 times more impressed with the kid who probably bought live euglena from carolina.com for $25 and probably made his own colloidal silver in his basement using some silver coins and a electronics hobbyist power supply, dumped it into petrie dishes under some lights, then did some cell counts in a microscope. I'm impressed because the kid probably paid for it himself an

      • by TheSync (5291)

        How does a high school student get access to one of those?

        When I was a teenager, my dad could have gotten me some time on one where he worked - I suspect something along those lines happened here.

        Of course my high school "science fair projects" were "analysis of security holes in the telephone system" and "exothermic reactions of common household chemicals" if you know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge...

        • by tibit (1762298)

          Some time after I left my parents' home, my mom got her hands on a desk-sized transmission electron microscope being decommissioned. It's in one of the rooms at home. In winter it's nice when you put the heat exchangers for the vacuum pumps under the desk: your feet stay warm :)

      • by tibit (1762298)

        A friend has built a scanning EFM from scratch as a high schooler, took him 2 years to get decent images. Another one had built a cyclotron in the basement, with fairly decent beam by the time he turned 19. He won some lottery money, just enough to buy a used mill and lathe (fairly large ones), plenty of tooling and a whole bunch of junk for raw materials (copper tubing for the electromagnets, vacuum junk etc). The neutron-activated walls are there to this day, and the house is abandoned :) He just barely g

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      I have to say, I was rather curious myself when I first read this. I went on to look at the (unfortunately very sparsely-detailed) article and the bit about the second place winner doing work on qubits made me go... Wait, what?

      As a disclaimer, I did not do much investigation on this, but the article seemed to detail something that's been known for years: that you can use entanglement to teleport qubits from one place to another. Unless the article entirely left out what innovation/discovery was made here, I

    • by mx+b (2078162) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:50PM (#40068577)

      An anecdote: I judged at a middle and high school science/engineering fair myself once, a few years ago now. It was an ... interesting experience. Before the judging began, we held a meeting in which the lead judge reminded jurors to "pick winners based on creativity and hard work of the CHILD, not the parents". Whenever possible, we tried to interview the kids to see if they had any inkling of the project contents; this was usually the best way to determine if the parents did the project or not.

      From what I saw that day, I would say half at best did the work themselves. One kid even admitted that his dad was an engineer and came up with the design, and he more or less just watched and took down notes (the parents had walked off when I came to his booth, so I guess they weren't around to stop him from being an honest little kid). I didn't even get the impression that he liked it much; more that the parents pushed him to doing it.

      I did not want to discourage interest in science, especially if the parents are really trying hard to encourage their kids, but at the end of the day I awarded my votes to the less visually impressive projects that were very obviously done by the kids. One was a simple experiment with growing plants in certain soil conditions. I can't remember exactly what the additive was. But nothing fancy. But here we got to the booth and the kid was beaming and excited to show off the plants, and demonstrated a decent grasp of scientific method (trying to control conditions, etc.). I gave her more points than the equivalent of the "quantum qubits" project.

      I haven't tried doing it again since then because honestly it made me feel discouraged. There were very few students truly interested in doing a science project, that were able to find a project interesting to them. Most of the projects struck me as either "completely cobbled together last minute in order to prevent a failing grade in science class", or "forced to do a particular project by overbearing parents that want the most spectacular project possible". I can see where it is very hard to judge in that environment because the helicopter parents will demand 1st prize when their kids don't deserve it. The fact that I was allowed to be a "secret" judge helped a bit that particular time. I imagine most people just thought I was a curious parent wandering around asking basic questions.

      • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:23PM (#40069031)
        This is systemic in our culture. My 8 year old son was part of a 'Book Club' recently. It was sad because the other parents insisted that the books their child "chose" be well outside of the reading level for the group. While my son wanted to do the club, we insisted that he actually read all of the books. It was a lot of hard work for him, and it entailed discussions throughout the book since much subject matter was more suited to High School students or adults.

        When the meetings came around, he was the only child that had actually read the books. The rest of the group were split in about thirds. 1/3 the parent read the book to the child and edited it as they did it to cut out any parts they didn't want their kid to hear. 1/3 just played the book on tape for the kid, and 1/3 just watched the movie adaptation when it was available.

        Every one of them patted themselves on the back for giving their kid 'culture' and being involved with their education.
        • by tibit (1762298)

          1/3 the parent read the book to the child and edited it as they did it to cut out any parts they didn't want their kid to hear. 1/3 just played the book on tape for the kid,

          The former is mind-bogglingly stupid. The latter: hey, I "read" most books these days by listening to them on CDs. The fact that you read the words off the page yourself is fairly insignificant IMHO. Reading takes way more than that.

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            I don't have a problem with listening to stories on CD. I am of the opinion that once you can read fluently, there is little to no gain in getting your story from the printed page as opposed to audio or video.

            The problems were: 1) This was a book club. Not a CD club. Not a movie club. A book club. That means reading.
            2) All of these kids were not fluent at reading yet. Not even close to fluent. The excuse most of the parents gave for not having their kids read the books was that the kids couldn't
      • One was a simple experiment with growing plants in certain soil conditions. I can't remember exactly what the additive was. But nothing fancy. But here we got to the booth and the kid was beaming and excited to show off the plants, and demonstrated a decent grasp of scientific method (trying to control conditions, etc.).

        I saw that TNG episode. As I recall, the kid planted radishes in this special dirt and they came up all weird.

    • I would think that one of the primary objectives of the judges would be to determine who did the work.

      Isn't really pretty stupid to think that a prestigious international competition like this would omit this issue from the judging process?

  • by andrews (12425) <alan AT tieless DOT com> on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:17PM (#40068157)

    If the test is only 90% accurate then it's useless.

    A 10% error rate would generate a number of false results greater than the incidence of pancreatic cancer in the first place.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Only if it's applied as a global screening. If the number of individuals tested is pared down substantially, a 10% false positive rate can be good enough.

    • Re:90% is useless (Score:4, Informative)

      by KarrdeSW (996917) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:59PM (#40068727)
      The point is not that it's a definitive test, the point that it's a reasonably accurate blood and urine test. As in, after discussing recent problems with your doctor, your doctor may then conclude that this would be a good time to stick you with a biopsy needle and test for pancreatic cancer.

      But wait, this is invasive and potentially harmful, is there some way we can be a bit more sure about things before we confirm?

      Why yes! This kid developed a blood and urine test which is 90% accurate!

      The point is to potentially reduce the number of large, expensive needles stuck into someone's pancreas, not to serve as a standalone test.

      It also matters WHY the test is inaccurate. If it's consistent with each individual "if I get a false positive, it will ALWAYS be a false positive" because of a lack of a certain protein or whatever, then it's less useful (unless you determine the conditions that make it work). If it's actually just a random 10% due to lack of precision for a particular measurement, then it can be refined, OR you could just run it five times and do some math to get a result with >90% accuracy.

    • ... his test, which is roughly 28 times cheaper and faster, and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests

      our current tests are essentially useless. this is obviously much better, and a great stepping stone to getting greater accuracy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Jack Andraka
    Gordon E. Moore Award Winners

    Jack Andraka, 15, of Crownsville, Maryland, was awarded the Gordon E. Moore Award for his development of a new method to detect pancreatic cancer. Using an approach similar to that of diabetic test strips, Jack created a simple dip-stick sensor to test the level of mesothelin, a pancreatic cancer biomarker, in blood or urine, to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. His study resulted in over 90 percent accuracy in detecting the presen

    • by Nemyst (1383049) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:49PM (#40068565) Homepage

      If you do a bit of digging, you can find the full abstract:
      http://www.aacps.org/science/andraka.pdf [aacps.org]

      The choice quote here is:
      "Optimal layering was determined using a scanning electron microscope."

      I'm sorry, but as a high school student, there's no way I'd have access to that kind of gear. Further, the rest of the abstract includes things which could only be performed with rather specific tools. Reading precision to the nmol/L? My high school barely had beakers.

      I'm not saying the individual steps are impossible to do as a teenager, just that having all the tools available and the knowledge to perform the steps would be extremely improbable. As with most incredible claims, I always tend to be skeptical.

      • There are about 20 high schools in the US that have SEMs.

        Unusual but not unheard of.

        http://www.gazette.net/article/20111207/NEWS/712079346/1225/news&source=RSS&template=gazette [gazette.net]

        In addition lots of universities run outreach programs that give local students experience with SEMs.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        If I were born 15 years later, I'd have probably had one at home, courtesy of my mom :) It wasn't even that expensive in terms of money. I think transporting it cost as much as the acquisition. Bringing it back up to a working condition, up to spec, was what took a lot of time. It's a transmission microscope, though, so there are things it can't do. It has a decent accelerating voltage for an instrument so small, though (100kV).

  • by slippyblade (962288) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:23PM (#40068249) Homepage

    to take your project home on the airplane. They might end up shutting down the airport for several hours, arresting you, and confiscating your project.

  • by dietdew7 (1171613) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:40PM (#40068447)
    My project was a really cool baking soda volcano.
  • Maryland Teen Wins World's Largest Science Fair

    I was wondering what he was going to do with the World's Largest Science Fair, how big it was, and where he was going to store it. But apparently he only won $75k at a Science Fair. I guess it's the largest science fair, but I'm not sure anymore, no faith in the submission being accurate.

    I kid!!!! Really nice a 15 year old can make something better then most the adults out there. When I was 15 I was just thinking about how I needed to get laid. oh,

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      Maryland Teen Wins World's Largest Science Fair

      I guess it's the largest science fair, but I'm not sure anymore, no faith in the submission being accurate.

      You mean, like the baseball competition that has about half-a-dozen countries in it, is called the 'World Series'?

      (Related story - I heard once that someone watching the Oxford-Cambridge boat race wondered aloud why the same two teams always got to the finals)

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @12:13AM (#40073277) Journal

    Whoever invents a way to detect prostate cancer without a TSA re-enactment deserves 10 fucking Nobel's.

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