BY BARRY WARNER
The Intel Science Talent Search, a program of the Society for Science & the Public, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition. It honors exceptional high school seniors for their scientific research and their potential as future leaders in the scientific community.
Each year more than 1,800 students attending American high schools enter the competition in the hope of winning awards. The applicant pool was first narrowed to 300 semifinalists, who along with their schools received cash prizes. From there, the top 40 finalists were selected and invited to Washington, D.C. to attend a week-long celebration of science and compete for top honors.
For 57 years, the contest was known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search or simply ‘the Westinghouse.’ In 1998, Intel Corporation became the title sponsor of the competition to encourage young people to pursue careers in science, math, engineering and medicine. Semifinalist Richard Harris Adamovich-Zeitlin received a $1,000 award from the Intel Foundation for his project “Steady State Visual Evoked Potential-Based Brain Computer Interface for Binary Communication,” with an additional $1,000 going to his school, Clarkstown South High School.
Mary Creagh, Helen Hayes Hospital (HHH) director of public relations said, “The research that Richard accomplished at The HHH Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) was approved by the HHH Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB approves all research projects before they start, even those not yet involving patients.”
Bart Zoltan is a biomedical engineer at the HHH Center for Rehabilitation Technology. He said, “Richard is an amazing high school student interested in finding solutions, who asked me to be his mentor. He has volunteered at the CRT and spent the summer doing research. Richard’s mother , Debra Zeitlin, is a speech pathologist and director of the CRT. The purpose of Richard’s research is to potentially help people who are in a vegetative state, are comatose or ‘locked in’ and cannot communicate. He was seeking a process to use their attention to give a binary (yes or no) response to a question such as ‘are you in pain?’ The clinical work being done at HHH was in cooperation with the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnology at the Wadsworth Center in Albany.”
Richard said, “Steady State Visual Evoked Potential is a brain response induced by light emitting diode (LED) stimuli that flash at a constant frequency between 9-31 hertz. The responses show themselves as increases in the amplitudes of the stimulated frequencies. There were 10-15 normal functioning volunteers who varied in age. They wore goggles that contained red LED flashing lights for the right eye and left eye. The easiest and least invasive method that I used was a set of electrodes attached to the skull with a conductive gel. The electrodes were able to read brain signals and produce an electroencephalogram (EEG). I told the subjects to concentrate on the right eye if the response to my question was yes and concentrate on the left eye if the response was no.”
Richard continued, “Using a Brain Computer Interface (BCI), the brain activity was interpreted by software and the computer monitor displayed the activity as a series of waves with peaks and valleys. The frequencies of the wave patterns moved faster when the subjects concentrated on only one eye. I was able to isolate the frequencies and analyze the binary (yes or no) responses to my questions.”
Regarding the future, Richard replied, “I was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania and plan to pursue studies in Biomedical Engineering or Neurology.”
Richard ignited his passion by doing research and dedicating himself by finding a solution to benefit people in his community who cannot communicate.