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Intel Education Science

Maryland Teen Wins World's Largest Science Fair 193

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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  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:01PM (#40067959) Homepage Journal

    when will we see wide-spread usage in regular medical practice?

    When insurance companies and hospital administration boards find a way to make it ridiculously expensive.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:02PM (#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...
  • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:23PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:29PM (#40068327)

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

  • by swx2 ( 2632091 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:33PM (#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 Loosifur ( 954968 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @03:43PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2012 @04:28PM (#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?

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @04:47PM (#40069323)

    but ridiculously profitable. I would imagine charging 1/4 current rates would be about right, considering that the cost is 28 times cheaper.

    Considering that these are the same greedy assholes that charge $100+ for the Sharpie markers they use in the OR*, I expect at least 1/2 the current rate, if not more. * No bullshit. Make sure you get an itemized bill for your next surgical procedure, it'll piss you off what they charge for some of this shit.

    Ha! Clearly you both are underestimating the level of greed and corruption in big pharma. You forgot to consider that this test is now likely more accurate than the current test. In 6 months time, the small handful of the populace who barely remembers "28 times cheaper" won't matter, for this "new and improved" test will hit the market at 2x the current price.

    If anything, the cost will go UP, not down. This will be marketed as a "better" product, not a "cheaper" one.

  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by F69631 ( 2421974 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @04:49PM (#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 Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @06:28PM (#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...

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas