Do-It-Yourself TV Project Takes Home Ying Prize

Brevard County’s Sarah Van Sickle Wins Orlando Science Center Competition For Fractal Antenna That Receives TV Signals Anywhere

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 29, 2013)—Sarah Van Sickle, a senior from Brevard County’s Satellite High School, took home the top prize in the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition, an annual event hosted by the Orlando Science Center. Van Sickle won a trophy, a $5,000 cash scholarship plus $1,000 awards for her science teacher and her school. In addition, Seminole County’s Nirva Vassa and Polk County’s Divya Ravinder were given $1,000 fellowships.

Since 1999, philanthropist, scientist and entrepreneur Dr. Nelson Ying has worked with Orlando Science Center to encourage the outstanding scientific accomplishments of our community’s teens. Projects submitted are required to have the ultimate goal of benefiting humanity. Van Sickle’s winning research was the continuation of a multi-year effort that created an antenna the average person could build to receive free TV signals. Last year, she won second prize in this competition for an earlier phase of this research.

Her efforts improved on the design of the antenna, which is based on fractal geometry and receives both UHF and VHF frequencies for less money than the cost of a commercial device. 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. This research would be especially valuable for those living in remote areas, Third World countries or people in post-disaster areas where cable or satellite transmissions are inaccessible.

In addition to the top award, the competition presented two cash prizes for finalists to continue their research for another year. Seminole County’s Nirva Vassa, a freshman from Seminole High School, was recognized for increasing the retention of Vitamin C in fresh orange juice using high frequency sound energy, removing oxygen from the headspace of an amber glass container and adding an enzyme inhibitor found in green tea. When all these factors are combined, she can increase the vitamin potency and shelf life of the orange juice. The enzyme inhibitor stops the degradation of Vitamin C and has benefits for those with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

Polk County’s Divya Ravinder, a freshman at Bartow High School, developed a process that treats hypoxia in water, which is lack of oxygen. Bodies of water that suffer nutrient pollution—when phosphates or nitrates get into the water from industrial wastewater or agricultural runoff—develop algae and when that algae dies, the bacteria that decomposes it eats up all the oxygen in the water creating a dead zone. Ravinder’s process filtered and aerated water to increase its oxygen levels, allowing it to support life again.

The remaining projects were Orange County’s Rikhav Shah from Lake Highland Preparatory School who created a quick and easy probe to detect heavy metal contamination in drinking water and Brevard County’s Zachary Loeb from Viera High School who developed treatment methods to degrade dangerous organic chemicals that pollute our water supply.

This year, the 15th Annual Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition was held April 26 to April 28. The event included the finalists defending their research before the judges’ panel and taking exclusive behind-the-scenes tours at key technology sites, including the University of Central Florida’s Institute of Simulation and Training. The awards were distributed during a ceremony on April 28 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, Sumter, Marion and Polk Counties. Only five finalists were chosen following a thorough review by a distinguished panel of judges, which included engineers, scientists and educators from NASA, Rollins College and the University of Central Florida.

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.

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