It’s branded as “The Global Stage for Innovation” – and this year, two Loveland High School (LHS) students earned their place at the speaker platform. Seniors Emily Kiehl and Radu Vasilescu’s research project outshined hundreds of national project submissions, and the duo was selected as one of four scholarship-winning teams named “Young Innovators to Watch” by the Consumer Technology Association. Kiehl and Vasilescu earned the opportunity to present their winning project at the 2018 Consumer Technology Association’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), on January 11 in Las Vegas. The CES is an annual gathering of the world's business leaders and pioneering thinkers, with more than 184,000 in attendance.
“Project Purple,” Kiehl and Vasilescu’s winning project, proposes a Virtual Reality treatment for Amblyopia, a medical condition that happens when the vision in one eye is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working properly.
“This was personal to my family,” explained Kiehl, who suffers from Amblyopia. “I’ve spent a lot of my years in doctors’ offices learning about it.”
Kiehl explained her medical situation with Vasilescu when the two students were working as lab partners during a freshman biology class. Kiehl had just undergone a recent eye surgery.
“Our lab was on cells, and we were tinting the cells purple and learning about them under a microscope,” said Vasilescu. “Suddenly Emily looked up, stared me dead in the eye and said, ‘Is that purple?’ That was the first time she ever saw the color purple.”
Fast forward a couple of years, and Project Purple was born at the University of Cincinnati’s RevolutionUC Hackathon, in April 2017. At the event, UC students formed over 40 teams and spent 24 hours competitively coding and developing projects.
“We won first place overall at that hackathon with the prototype for Project Purple,” said Vasilescu. “That gave us the motivation to continue.”
As national scholarship winners, Vasilescu and Kiehl plan to use the scholarship money to purchase resources to continue their Virtual Reality research on real patients. After finalizing the prototype, they are seeking a couple of willing participants for their planned longitudinal case-study.
“It is great to see students highly engaged in thinking about ways to solve problems,” said LHS teacher Phil Marchal, who mentors the students in their independent study course and supports their research and development. “Their project takes a relatively new technology and proposes a solution that potentially could make the lives of individuals better. What a neat learning experience.”
Photo caption: LHS Senior Emily Kiehl (Photo credit: Shannon Hickcox)
Photo caption: LHS Senior Radu Vasilescu (Photo credit: Sam Smith)