These 3 Philly-area high schoolers are working on the future of radar, electronics and surgical robotics

Who do you want to be when you grow up? I would like to be as smart as the teenagers from the Branch, who named the finalists of the country’s oldest math and science competition, Talent Search for Regeneron Science.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Society of Sciences conducts an annual search, selecting high school students based on the scientific rigor of their projects and their “potential to become scientists and world-changing leaders”. Previous finalists have received Nobel Prizes, National Medals of Science and Field Medals according to the organization.

Of the 1,800 applicants in 2022, three local high school students are in the top 40 search engines: Claire Andreassen, Lea Vaylonis and Victor Kai. Each finalist receives a prize of up to $ 25,000 and participates in a weekly competition in March. Top prizes range from $ 40,000 to $ 250,000.

Here’s how students told us they hope to use science to change the world:

Victor Kai – Parkland High School (Allentown, Pennsylvania)

Victor Kai with his narrowband radar project. (Photo courtesy)

Tsai was selected as a finalist to develop a short-range sensing radar to help visually impaired people navigate their homes. He told he was inspired to develop his project after his karate teacher, for 11 years, slowly lost his sight due to a rare eye disease.

“I wanted to do something for him,” he said.

Traditionally, radar algorithms can interfere with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, making such technology difficult to use at home. Tsai used a “little-known” radar concept, officially called Multiple Frequency Continuous Wave. Its technology uses only four kilohertz bandwidth, as opposed to one gigahertz required by a traditional algorithm, Tsai said.

Cai Project, “Designing Narrowband Radar Using GNU Radio and Software-Defined Radio for Tomography and Probing.” (Photo courtesy)

The device is currently about one foot by one foot in height and width. Cai is developing a smaller prototype that the user can carry around the house.

He said he was thrilled when Regeneron Science’s talent search announced he was in the top 40.

“Science allows us to implement these new technologies and generally use technology to use these technologies around us to develop ways in which we can improve people’s lives,” he said. “For me, it’s really special – to create something that was impossible before.”

Claire Andreassen – Wilmington Charter School (Wilmington, Delaware)

Andreassen proved that graphene, a stable carbon-based material, can develop magnetic properties under certain conditions, making it suitable for use in electronics such as hard drives, transistors and MRI.

“Magnetic materials in electronics and electronic components (such as hard drives, transistors, MRIs, generators, and more) are usually made of expensive materials that require unethical and unstable extraction methods,” Andreassen wrote in an email to “One way to increase the efficiency, cost, stability and ethics of electronics is to identify alternative magnetic materials.”

Her proof of graphene’s magnetic abilities allows scientists to question whether other nonmagnetic materials can develop similar controlled characteristics, she said.

Claire Andreassen. (Photo courtesy)

For her research, Andreassen used modeling and computational software, such as MATLAB and Ovito, to analyze individual atoms in graphene. She worked on the project for a year, but was still surprised to get into the top 40 Regeneron.

“I was very, very shocked and excited. I am still very, very shocked and excited. Many of the activities I do outside of research are not focused on STEM, and this was my first big research project, so I didn’t expect to be recognized as a finalist, ”Andreassen wrote. When she’s not doing research, Andreassen co-operates an environmental club at her school, plays the horn and participates in Delaware’s “Youth in Government,” similar to a mock court.

Andreassen focused on graphene because of its stability. After graduating, she hopes to combine environmental research and science, exploring solutions for clean energy.

So far, she is looking forward to meeting the other finalists during the week-long competition.

“I’ve watched the introductory videos of the other finalists,” she wrote, “and it’s shocking to see how much we have in common outside of science.”

Leo Wylonis – Canestogo High School (Bervin, PA)

Leo Wylonis’ MRI robot. (Photo courtesy)

Vaylonis has always loved working with his hands. When he was little, he built Lego robots. Inspired by the experience of loved ones with surgery, he developed an engine for use in robotics MRI, which gave him a place in the top 40 Regeneron.

During the operation using robotic MRI procedures are completed while the patient is in the MRI machine or magnetic resonance imaging. Because MRI transmits a living image of the patient’s body, it leaves less room for error than conventional surgery. However, there can be no metal instruments inside the MRI because it will degrade the image of the device.

Wylonis has developed the non-metallic DiSERVO engine from predominantly custom-printed 3D plastic parts for use in MRI robotics. Its prototype has been tested to have higher torque, be faster and more accurate than the leading engine used in the field, which was developed Johns Hopkins University researchers, according to his abstract project.

Wylonis plans to study engineering after high school. He connects his lifelong interest in science with the excitement of creating new things.

“There are a lot of different innovations in the world that are completely new,” he said. “The prospect of doing something completely new that will help the world is really cool, and I really enjoy going into the flow of the project and bringing it to an end.”


All three local students happily met with their fellow finalists during the competition from March 9-16.

“It’s nice to have a wide range of topics that all the finalists explore, and just get to know the different fields of science and how they improve our lives,” Tsai said. “And we all have such a common passion for using science to improve the world.”

See the full list of finalists -30-

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