GARDEN CITY, NY — Garden City High School freshmen Diego Cadavid and James Nagler won second place in the 2021 New York State Science & Engineering Fair's Robotics and Intelligent Machines category for "Project Neuron-Prosthetic Hand Controlled by Brain Waves." With prior expertise in computer science, robotics and engineering, they worked around pandemic challenges and completed the entire venture remotely.

Based on their high score during the initial judging, Cadavid and Nagler were selected to advance to the lighting round, which was live on Zoom. They were up against competitors from all high school grade levels and fielded a round of questions from the judges in addition to presenting their project.

The duo described their work in detail and explained its function.

"The brain waves were interpreted through a MindFlex headset from an old Mattel game, and processed and wirelessly sent through an Arduino," they said. "The brain waves are then sent to an external Arduino, which in this case is the prosthetic hand. The prosthetic hand then interprets the brain wave data to move a finger based on the user's differing concentration levels. All Arduinos work through a custom PCB (Printed Circuit Board) that was designed and printed. Through a series of smoothing algorithms and fine-tuning, the brain wave reading is quite reliable and was very fun to create over the course of the school year."

A total of 10 Garden City High School teams comprised of 16 students entered projects into the competition. Their categories included Earth & Environmental Sciences, Mathematics, Robotics, Biochemistry, Biomedical & Health Science and Computational Biology.

The competition required contenders to conduct independent research, produce a YouTube video of their work, write an abstract, create a Google Site, file paperwork and arrange team meetings to film their videos, all during the period of remote and hybrid learning. Science Research teacher Dr. Steven Gordon provided mentorship for in-school experiments, presentations and videos and facilitated entry in the competition and chemistry teacher Dr. Meredith Foley oversaw the computational biology projects.

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