17 Year-old Neel Patel Wins 14th Annual Orlando Science Center Competition

Plus All Finalists Take Home Cash Prizes


Orlando, FL - (April 30, 2011) – Neel Patel, a 17 year-old senior from Seminole County’s Oviedo High School, walked away with the top prize in the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition, an annual event hosted by the Orlando Science Center. Patel takes home a trophy, a $5,000 cash scholarship plus $1,000 awards for his science teacher and his school. In addition, cash prizes were distributed to all finalists, including a second prize award to 16 year-old Sarah Van Sickle from Brevard’s Satellite High School.

Since 1999, Philanthropist, Scientist and Entrepreneur Dr. Nelson Ying has worked with the Orlando Science Center to encourage the outstanding scientific accomplishments of our community’s teens. Patel’s research was a multi-year effort that focused on delivering information through sound rather than with graphs or charts to aid visually-impaired scientists or other professionals, like fighter pilots, who are overloaded with visual information. He discovered that people could comprehend data delivered through auditory patterns as accurately as they could through visual displays.

Involved with science research since sixth grade, Patel is also a dual enrollment student at the University of Central Florida, won multiple national and international awards served as lead author on multiple research papers. Outside of research, he enjoys competing in water sports and has earned the rank of Eagle Scout through the Boy Scouts of America. He is planning on attending Harvard University in the Fall.

In addition to the top award, Ying and the judges’ panel awarded a $2,000 cash prize to a runner-up and then presented the remaining finalists with $1,000 prizes.  In the past, the competition has only named one big winner. Due to the high quality of recent entries, the competition has begun bestowing multiple awards over the last few years. Van Sickle took home the second prize for her design and analysis of a fractal antenna for free over-the-air TV. She built an antenna, based on fractal geometry, which receives both UHF and VHF frequencies for less money than a cost of a commercial antenna. Since broadcast television is an important communications tool, this research could enable everyone to have access to multiple over-the-air transmissions at a fraction of the cost.

The remaining three finalists included Nick Buoniconti, a 17 year-old Junior from Orange County’s Lake Highland Preparatory School, for his project on improving the efficiency of solar cells using organic materials rather than silicone or metallic materials; Michelle Chin, a 16 year-old Junior from Brevard County’s West Shore Jr./Sr. High School for her project on using  genetically modified plants to cost-effectively clean environmental toxins with a process called phytoremediation; and Zachary Loeb, a 15 year-old sophomore from Brevard County’s Eau Gallie High School, for his project that found a successful treatment method for pollutants in our waterways that were harming fish, reptiles and amphibians. He used a compound developed by Carnegie Mellon University to oxygenate the water and break down chemicals.

This year, the 14th Annual Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition was held April 27 to April 29. The event included the finalists defending their research before the judges’ panel and taking exclusive behind-the-scenes tours at some key technology sites, including Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The awards were distributed during a ceremony on April 29 at Fulton’s Crab House at Downtown Disney. Research projects were solicited from students in high schools or homeschool equivalents in Orange, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, Osceola, Volusia and Sumter Counties. Projects submitted were required to have an altruistic application – an ultimate goal of benefiting humanity.  

The finalists were chosen after a thorough review by a distinguished panel of judges, which included Ying as well as engineers, scientists and educators from Lockheed Martin, and the University of Central Florida. The Orlando Science Center partners with Ying each year to host this competition to celebrate the amazing research being performed by our region’s young scientists and inspire young people to become tomorrow’s science and technology innovators.



(L to R) Zachary Loeb, Nick Buoniconti, Sarah Van Sickle, Orlando Science Center President JoAnn Newman, Dr. Nelson Ying, Michelle Chin, Winner Neel Patel and Nelson Ying, Jr.



(L to R) Nelson Ying, Jr., Winner Neel Patel and Competition Co-Founder/Sponsor Dr. Nelson Ying.



(L to R) Nick Buoniconti, Zachary Loeb, Sarah Van Sickle, Dr. Nelson Ying, Michelle Chin, Winner Neel Patel and Nelson Ying, Jr.



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