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Teen siblings develop apps that address Alzheimer’s and autism

January 2, 2015

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) - They are two young people who are trying to ease conditions that have baffled adults for decades.

Siblings Nikhil and Sapna Patel are enrolled in a honors-level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program at Seminole State College. They have different projectsthat focus on one subject.

"They're very motivated," explains Dr. Maya Byfield, who helps run the program. "They're both interested in the brain."

Nikhil, 15, began his research three years ago. He is developing an mobile application that will diagnose Alzheimer's, decades in advance. The siblings lost their grandmother to the degenerative disease two years ago.

"I committed myself to making sure no one would ever have to suffer like she did again," Nikhil explains

His app includes three tests: one word is stated, a similar word is mouthed, and subjects must decide what they've heard.

"It's able to identify that condition much earlier than if you were looking at an MRI," he explains.

"Nikhil, he, is exceptional," said Dr. Byfield. "He has a paper out!"

Nikhil's findings were published in the September 2014 issue of the International Test and Evaluation Association Journal.

"All the correspondence is by email and by phone, so no one really knows that I'm still a sophomore in high school. That's pretty cool," he said.

Sapna, 14, has created a virtual avatar, which she calls "WUBee," that helps children with autism try to read its facial clues, guessing what it needs. Parents said it has helped their children.

"It's really nice to know that your research is really having an impact on people," said Sapna.

Still, there's nothing wrong with some friendly competition. Both will compete in the same division in an upcoming science fair.

"Really, at this point, if I win, I'd be happy. If my sister wins, I'd be happy for her," said Nikhil.

Because in the end, the advancement of science is the number one priority

"We have to prepare our students here in Central Florida at a earlier age," Dr. Byfield said.

Sapna and Nikhil said their brother was one of the first students in the program five years ago. He is currently studying computer science at Harvard University.

(Source: myfoxorlando.com)


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