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ExploraVision Regional Fair Competition Winners



Region 1

Tracy LaGrassa (Coach), Johnston Chen, Liah Igel, Liam Hernandez
Mycelial batteries: incorporating electrically conductive fungi into sodium-ion batteries in order to increase their efficiency and lifespan

We discovered that Lithium (Li+) Ion batteries are inefficient to produce and harm the environment, so we propose to incorporate fungi into Sodium (Na+) Ion batteries to help combat problems of battery degradation, improve energy density, and storage capacity. Degradation happens due to reactions that occur in the electrolyte between battery electrodes that cause buildup of excess material that impedes ion flow and is the principal cause of thermal runaway, which causes batteries to explode. We propose to replace the electrolyte with live fungal hyphae to facilitate the transfer of ions between the two battery electrodes, removing side reactions that could cause build up, and would prolong the life of the battery. To complement this, we would incorporate anode material made from portobello mushrooms to replace the graphite anode material, which is the industry standard. This new anode material would increase energy density and storage capacity.

Project website

Region 2

John Waleski (Toshiba), Christopher Cook (coach), Wanjia He, Casey Liu, Tianze Huang, Paul Pires (Toshiba)

The use of plastic has advanced the world in many ways. However, plastic is now a major component of litter and is extensively reported in water reservoirs worldwide. Impacts from plastic debris have been identified as a major issue for human health. Today, many filtration systems exist for the collection of microplastics, however, there have been a few studies on the collection of nanoplastics, which pose an even greater risk due to their small size, which makes it easier for them to cross biological membranes. We propose a filtration system using a mucus secretion from jellyfish which has been found to absorb nanoplastics. The nanoplastic-absorbing protein in the mucus will be transferred to transgenic bacteria, which will harvest these proteins and will be attached to a substrate that coats the inside of water pipes, so that it can collect nanoplastics from water running through it.

Project website

Region 3

Letitia Hubbard (Coach), Amy Lei, Arianna Lee, Yvonne Shih, Vishnu Vanapalli
N4NO (Nanocarriers for Neuroprosthetic Optimization) – a novel noninvasive neural dust insertion method through cerebrospinal-fluid route via micelles for neuroprosthetic aid

An estimated 35-40 million people require prosthetics and orthotic devices. Neuroprosthetics utilize brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to record and analyze neural signals, enabling patients to cognitively control an external prosthetic. Unfortunately, wireless invasive BCIs, the most accurate, rely on craniotomy for insertion, which can cause brain damage. Nanocarriers are often used for targeted drug delivery, encasing therapeutics in their core for transport and release. Our solution, N4NO (Nanocarriers for Neuroprosthetic Optimization), provides a minimally invasive method of inserting neural dust “motes”, an extremely small BCI. Polymeric micelle nanocarriers deliver these motes to a specific location in the brain via cerebrospinal fluid through intrathecal injection. Once released, the mote attached to a self-folding cuff wraps around a specific nerve, enabling accurate recording of brain activity and nerve stimulation. Using neurofeedback and AI modeling, patients would be able to exhibit seamless neuroprosthetic control, improving their quality of life without the dangers of craniotomy.

Project website

Region 4

Jeffery Zhang, Soham Chakraborty, Owen Choy, Brandon Ling
GlaucoGlasses: Ultrasound Embedded Spectacles for Glaucoma Management

GlaucoGlasses introduces a groundbreaking solution for glaucoma management. GlaucoGlasses is a wearable biosensor designed as spectacles embedded with ultrasonic technology to monitor and manage intraocular pressure (IOP). Sustained and excessive IOP is the foremost risk factor of glaucoma, damaging the optic nerve and causing irreversible blindness for 1 in 101 people worldwide. Despite the need for frequent IOP diagnosis, current devices are expensive, non-portable, and found solely in healthcare settings. This keeps physicians and patients oblivious to the progression of glaucoma and the necessary changes to save their vision. In the face of this critical unmet need, GlaucoGlasses represents a promising innovation in ocular healthcare, offering hope to millions worldwide affected by glaucoma and revolutionizing how we approach the diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating condition.

Project website

Region 5

Bob Richardson (Toshiba), Shashank Kamal, Abhinav Gutha, Sean Oschmann (Coach)
mAbLab: A Deep Learning Approach

mAbLab is a novel, in silico method of creating monoclonal antibody sequences customizable to specific epitopes. The encoder-decoder transformer model at the core of mAbLab leverages vast datasets and sophisticated algorithms to predict antibody sequences tailored to specific epitopes, presenting a paradigm shift in the traditional approach to mAb design. Capable of rapid, high-accuracy generation of mAb amino acid sequences, mAbLab alleviates the temporal bottleneck faced by researchers and drug developers while simultaneously allowing for fit-for-purpose creation.

Project website

Region 6

Huy Pham (Coach), Joe Cockman (Toshiba), James Nguyen, Hami Doan, Andrea Calderon, Oma Akihiko (Toshiba), Kim Gonzalez (Mentor)
Amylopectin-Derived Skin Graft Seeded with CRISPR-Modified Stem Cells and Carbon Nanodots for Burn Wounds

Hospitals commonly treat severe burns with surgical removal of damaged tissue, antibiotics, and skin grafts. However, this approach often leads to complications like scarring and graft rejection. To address these issues, we’re developing an amylopectin-based gel containing healing factors. We’ll encase induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), carbon nanodots, and enzymes within the gel. This gel will gradually release enzymes for precise wound cleaning and promote faster healing. iPSCs will differentiate into cells essential for tissue regeneration, aided by CRISPR technology to evade immune rejection. Nitrogen-doped carbon dots will enhance antimicrobial activity and accelerate healing. By combining these components, we aim to create a long-term solution for burn wound healing, reducing the need for frequent graft replacements and improving patient outcomes.

Project website