Student shows science on world stage
Edmontonian designed tool to wirelessly monitor a patient’s breathing and heart rate
an edmonton Grade 10 student was one of only two students from alberta to show off his project at an international science fair in abu dhabi this past September.
“It was a chance to show off my work, but I made so many friends. It was exciting to meet other people with the same interests as me,” said Jonathan afowork, who is attending Mcnally High School.
In a project that takes inspiration from police radar guns and the fictional Star trek scanning device known as a tricorder, 14-year-old afowork designed a medical tool that could wirelessly monitor a comatose patient’s breathing rate and heart rate.
It all started more than a year ago when afowork’s cousin was hospitalized in an intensive care unit for third-degree burns, including being connected to breathing and heart monitors that sometimes got in the way.
“obviously being hooked up to those wires, for him, wasn’t a good experience. So that got me thinking: how could I make this wireless?”
afowork’s device could use the same kind of technology that police radar guns use by measuring radio waves that bounce back to determine the speed of a moving vehicle.
Sending out low-power microwaves towards a patient’s body inside a pod much like a baby incubator, medical teams could measure changes in the frequencies that reflected back to keep track of a patient’s breathing and the beating of the heart, he said.
“every time your heart beats, your skin expands and contracts one millimetre, and every time you breathe, your skin expands and contracts a centimetre. So I realized that this data could be used,” said afowork.
organized by a non-profit organization called the International Movement for Leisure activities in Science and technology, the exposciences International is a non-competitive event meant to encourage scientific culture and highlight the scientific creativity of about 1,200 participants from 58 different countries.
the canadian delegation was made up of 45 previous finalists at the canadawide Science Fair, hosted each year by youth Science canada.
afowork toured the city and even tried some traditional food that was new to him, including camel meat. “It was kinda like beef.”
He said he was grateful for everyone who helped him enjoy the opportunity, including the folks at youth Science canada and his parents, and he credited his science teacher, amanda Joblinski, with giving kids the chance to “show off their ingenuity.”
His advice to aspiring science fair-goers is to be original, do your research, and “you could cure cancer with a science fair project.”