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Oregon teens win big at international science competition

Three Beaverton students won awards at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, including a Westview junior who took home one of the top honors.

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Three Beaverton teens received big honors at the world's largest international science competition for high school students.

More than 1,700 teenagers from around the world made it to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). The big event was held last month in Atlanta. To compete in ISEF, competitors had to win science competitions at the local, state, regional or national levels. The students had the option of competing in 21 categories.

Rishab Jain, a Westview High School junior, received one of the competition's top honors, the Young Scientist award, and also got first place in the arena of biomedical engineering.

Jain said his research is in the area of recombinant technology. He explained that scientists will often inject a synthetic gene inside a bacterium. That bacterium will then produce a specific drug or vaccine. At its core, the software he created, ICOR, utilizes artificial intelligence to allow scientists to produce more vaccines in a quicker timeframe. 

“Which could help save lives when given things like a pandemic or big global health issues,” said Jain. “I was extremely honored and it really felt great to see my research get recognized in that way." 

Credit: Society for Science
Rishab Jain, a Westview High School junior, winning the Young Scientist award

Alex Plekhanov was also a competitor and won first place in the physics and astronomy category. 

“It is the biggest thing I’ve ever won. Of course, that was quite a huge rush,” said the 16-year-old Plekhanov, who is a sophomore at the Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering.

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“My project specifically was on a novel optometric device to improve the optometry of astigmatism,” he said. 

When people go to the eye doctor, a machine is often used to assess eyesight as patients are asked which lens option makes their vision clearer. Plekhanov said his idea would make the process more efficient, pleasant and accurate.

“Imagine if instead you could move around something as simple as a computer mouse or trackball and find your own point of best vision yourself,” said Plekhanov. He has a patent pending for the idea and has submitted a publication to a peer-reviewed journal.

Sunset High School sophomore Nikhil Nayak won third place in the robotics and intelligent machines category. His project looked at using artificial intelligence to compress audio in a novel way. 

In addition to the recognition on the global stage, the Beaverton students also won between $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the award. Jain, for his Young Scientist award, received a $50,000 scholarship award.

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