Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 21, 2010

Pleasanton teen scores big at Intel ISEF

Teen takes fourth place in health and medicine division

By Glenn Wohltmann

An idea to help in the fight against cancer from a Foothill teen has been judged to be among the best in the world in a competition against 1,600 high school students from more than 50 countries.

Rahul Doraiswami placed fourth in the health and medicine division at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Doraiswami said the judging was tough, but exciting.

"While the notion of being interviewed for 10 hours seems grueling, the judging process was actually energizing," he said. "Judges seemed to want to learn more about my project than evaluate it."

Doraiswami's project uses a diagnostic tool called an artificial neural network (ANN) that mimics the brain and can learn -- like doctors do -- how to spot the symptoms of prostate cancer.

At the international level, he said, all the projects were "superb."

"The difference between those who placed and those who did not was very minute. I learned a lot from all the other finalists -- not just their material, but their speaking skills (and) their board organization," he said. "With a little more experience I hope I could do better."

For the 16-year-old junior from Foothill High, a big part of the competition, held last week in San Jose, was meeting peers from around the world. He said there were a number of events held so the teens could get to know each other.

"I met many fellow finalists who were incredibly bright and talented," Doraiswami said. "I became acquainted with some judges who showed interest in my project."

Doraiswami's project did well in tests, and he thinks there's a good chance it can actually find use as a diagnostic tool. He said his idea became a protected work just by entering the Intel ISEF.

Nevertheless, he said, "I am working towards making this protection more formal."

This was his first time competing at the national level, and he called it a "great experience."

"It was a pleasure to see the world's great young minds come together in one room," he said.

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