Pleasanton teen advances to national science competition finals

Finalists selected from 300 semifinalists, more than 1,800 entrants

An Amador Valley student has been named a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) 2015, which recognizes young innovators in the United States who are creating technologies and solutions that aim to positively impact people's lives.

"It's still unbelievable," high school senior Janel Lee said in an email. "To be honest, I thought my research subject was somewhat more modest and simple compared to people who were claiming to cure cancer or something to that end."

Lee, who was selected from 300 semifinalists and more than 1,800 entrants, applied to the Intel STS by submitting a full research paper and written essays, as well as showing her involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

Her research, titled "An Enhanced Method for HDR Imaging: Artifact-Free and Optimized for Mobile Devices," focuses on high dynamic range (HDR) imaging.

According to Lee, most real world scenes have a high dynamic range that can't be completely captured by sensors. In order to create an HDR image, low dynamic range (LDR) images at different exposures are stacked on top of each other.

HDR imaging assumes that there are perfect conditions, such as the LDR images being lined up, so it's not practical for handheld devices, Lee said.

"I proposed an algorithm to avoid artifacts (distortions) caused by unsatisfied conditions," she added.

Lee developed an algorithm that addressed the distortions and then optimized that algorithm on a mobile platform using heterogeneous computing -- systems that use more than one kind of processor.

She said she kept in mind the computing power constraints of mobile devices but was able to achieve a "more effective and efficient algorithm."

As a Top 40 finalist, Lee will present her research work in Washington, D.C, where she will compete with other students for more than $1 million in awards provided by the Intel Foundation.

According to officials from the Society for the Science & the Public, three Medal of Distinction awards of $150,000 each will be presented to students who show exceptional scientific potential in basic research, global good and innovation. In addition, there will be three second-place awards of $75,000 and three third-place awards of $35,000.

"I don't know about my project being chosen for a top award, but I will continue to work hard on research and will do my best at Washington, D.C.," Lee said.

In preparation for the Intel STS, Lee has been testing a few more ideas and wrapping up all the research she has done so far. She also plans to show her presentation to family and friends to receive some feedback on her work.

According to Lee, she has been working on this research project for almost a year-and-a-half. She has always been interested in HDR imaging but her research inspiration came from her daily life.

"I have a HDR feature on my own smartphone camera, but it takes five times as long to use using the normal setting, and the result doesn't even look as good," Lee said. "I couldn't understand why we had such advanced technology on our phones if people weren't even going to use it."

Her research solution was initially going to be used for herself and her pictures, but Lee said she has gained more confidence in her research that she hopes to share her solution with others.

Two other Tri-Valley high school seniors will be joining Lee at the Intel STS in March -- Augustine Chemparathy and Saranesh Prembabu from Dougherty Valley High School.

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10 people like this
Posted by Congratulations!!!
a resident of Foothill High School
on Feb 12, 2015 at 9:37 am

Congratulations Janel! Way to break through the technology glass ceiling. Good luck in DC!

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 12, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Congratulations to the 3 kids that were chosen for their acheivement.

It's notable that all 3 appear to be Asian which once againpoints out that kids of other colors don't seem to be participating in science and technology at the same level as these 3.

Just sayin'

4 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2015 at 3:44 pm


Indeed. From the discussion that devolved into a not-too-subtle racial rant fest involving the planned shopping area, this must be what all those upstanding folks moved out of Milpitas, San Jose, Cupertino to escape.

Something is wrong when the very same group of folks who are increasing everyone's property value, making our schools more prestigious, and keeping out neighborhoods safe are called "crap that needs to stay out of our town". Perhaps they will be happier if our town looked more like say, Modesto or Stockton.

2 people like this
Posted by Jen Zuanich
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 17, 2015 at 7:26 pm

Congratulations, Janel! You are such an incredible young woman, and we are so happy to see you excelling in this competition. Your APHG class is rooting for you!

Ms. Z

2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 18, 2015 at 8:12 am


Yep, I sensed the same racist comments about the planned shopping area. To clarify, I'm white and my wife is immigrant asian so I'm quite used to the whole asian culture, and frankly I enjoy it. The shopping center will open pretty far out of Pleasanton as I understand it. Not like it's going to be in the center of town.
Everyone has their own feelings and opinions. My original comment was to point out that it's the asian kids who seem to be excelling over the other groups. I don't mean this negatively, it's just my observation from the 3 who were mentioned in the article.
I think there are cultural differences in play here. Not too many asians played on my son's Little League teams over the years but when he took music lessons and later, went in for math tutoring, those places had a lot of asian kids.

Again, just sayin'

Like this comment
Posted by JJ
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:39 am

The finalists are in the White House.
Congratulations again!!

Here is the link,
Web Link
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

@Ed: "Everyone has their own feelings and opinions. My original comment was to point out that it's the asian kids who seem to be excelling over the other groups. I don't mean this negatively, it's just my observation from the 3 who were mentioned in the article."

Reminds me of a quote by Principal Skinner of "The Simpsons":

Principal Skinner: "Well, Edna, for a school with no Asian kids, I think we put on a pretty darn good science fair."

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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