Colorado teen Krithik Ramesh wins top international science prize for idea to revolutionize spinal surgery

Colorado teen Krithik Ramesh has claimed the top prize in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEFF) 2019 competition.

The prize is considered the “largest international pre-college science competition.” It includes the prestigious Gordon E. Moore Award and $75,000. This year's event was hosted in Phonix, AZ.

Ramesh, 16, of Greenwood Village, CO, was awarded first place for developing a machine learning technology for orthopedic surgeons at this year’s prestigious fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public.

“This is such an incredible prestige and it happened to me and I haven’t fully comprehended everything yet,” Ramesh was quoted as saying in newsreports.

“My project started because I was trying to like five star Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ on Just Dance, so learning how the motion tracking system worked was ultimately how I predicted spine behavior,” he said.

Ramesh spent about nine months researching for his project. He learned how to interpret medical imaging, collaborated with medical professionals and developed algorithms for using augmented reality, machine learning and computer vision.

“Essentially what I did was try to eliminate fluoroscopy from surgery,” he said.

Fluoroscopy is a medical imaging procedure in which doctors can see x-rays in real time, like an x-ray movie. It allows surgeons to see where they need to place screws in the spine.

“Patients saw productive coughing, vomiting and acute vertebral disc degeneration” during fluoroscopy procedures, according to Ramesh.

In theory, Ramesh says surgeons would wear an augmented reality headset which produces a hologram with data from the previous scans, which would direct doctors where to place the pedical screws without the need for real-time x-rays.

According to Intel, Ramesh’s project “has the potential to decrease operating time by at least 30 minutes, reduce physical therapy recovery time by four weeks, and diminish the negative effects associated with traditional medical imaging.”

“Robotic surgery is really one of the next frontiers in medicine and biomedical engineering so I’m hoping all the research that I’ve done with this will definitely help further that,” Ramesh said.

Ramesh says he enjoys listening to music, solving Rubik’s cubes, competing with his school’s speech and debate team, experimenting with his flight simulator and playing Just Dance. He says the video game, which uses motion-sensing technology, inspired his winning science project.

Intel ISEF is considered the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The competition featured over 1,800 young scientists selected from 423 affiliate fairs in more than 80 countries, regions and territories.

At the competition, finalists are judged by hundreds of science, engineering and industry professionals who have a Ph.D. or equivalent (six years of related professional experience) or are senior graduate students with doctoral-level research in one of the 22 scientific disciplines.

Student winners are ninth through twelfth graders who earned the right to compete at the Intel ISEF 2019 by winning a top prize at a local, regional, state or national science fair.

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