Read news about the local student who won Rep. Anna Eshoo's Congressional App Challenge, two Paly students who are finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search and new funds for Caltrain's electrification project.
BRIDGING THE COMMUNICATION GAP ... When Palo Alto High School sophomore Adrit Rao learned that 430 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, he was inspired to work on bridging the communication gap that can exist between deaf and hearing people. The app he created to help address the problem ended up winning Rep. Anna Eshoo's annual Congressional App Challenge.
Signer, which is available on Apple's App Store, uses machine learning to translate certain gestures in American Sign Language into spoken English. Eshoo congratulated Rao for his win in a video played on InFocus, Paly's student-run broadcast TV station. "Congratulations Adrit. You have won in a major and wonderful way," Eshoo said in the video. "Because with your app, there's going to be a better life for the hard of hearing in our community. Bravo."
Currently, Rao's app can recognize roughly 10 sign language gestures and he said that he plans to continue adding more over time. He has contacted deaf organizations to ask if they would partner with him to expand the app's capabilities.
The contest runs in congressional districts across the country. Eshoo's competition was open to middle and high school students who live or attend school within her district.
Rao said he was excited when he had heard he won the challenge. "It's really great to see that someone like Congresswoman Anna Eshoo liked my project," Rao said. "That just motivates me, because I know that I can make a difference in my community."
A NATIONWIDE HONOR ... Two Palo Alto High School students are among 40 finalists in a nationwide science competition who are scheduled to participate in a weeklong competition next month in Washington, D.C., to determine the top 10 winners.
Ryan Lee and Vivian Wu, both seniors, were named as finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search last week out of an initial pool of over 1,900 entrants.
Lee's research explored a potential cause of neurodegenerative diseases. When he removed a protein that's important to mitochondria (the energy source of a cell) from neurons in fruit flies, he found that the neurons lost their ability to communicate with one another, which he said is characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Lee believes that this indicates that impaired mitochondria could be an underlying cause of these diseases. Originally, Lee said he was interested in this research area out of his own curiosity about the subject matter, but over time, it became apparent the impact it could have.
Wu investigated the impacts of formic acid on honey bees, which beekeepers use to treat varroa mite infestations. By using radio frequency identification tagging to track the bees and then algorithms to analyze their performance, Wu found that the insecticide appears to harm the bees' foraging abilities.
A beekeeper herself, Wu said that she got the idea for the project after watching how using formic acid appeared to impact her own bees. Wu was in class when she got the call to tell her that she is a finalist. "I was definitely completely shocked," Wu said.
FILLING THE GAP... Caltrain's long-awaited electrification project appears to have found the light at the end of the tunnel. Electrified rail service is on track to launch in the fall of 2024 thanks to $367 million in state funding.
"The electrification of Caltrain will be a transformational experience for our riders, with more frequent service and enhanced amenities," Caltrain Executive Director Michelle Bouchard said in a Jan. 31 press release. "Not only will it significantly decrease greenhouse gases emissions, it is a major advancement for transit in the Bay Area connecting communities to a transportation network they deserve."
The money comes from California's Transit Intercity Rail Capital Program. "The state providing highly competitive TIRCP funding to the Caltrain electrification project means that Peninsula residents will breathe cleaner air and have both quieter communities and more frequent and reliable transit service," Assembly member Marc Berman said in the release.
Rep. Anna Eshoo was among the five House representatives that appealed for state support in a Dec. 2 letter. Caltrain can also count on $43 million in federal funds for the project, which combined with state money covers a $410 million funding gap.
on Feb 6, 2023 at 8:39 pm
on Feb 6, 2023 at 8:39 pm
The Almanac just published an important opinion from Sen. Josh Becker, but there is not mention of the opinion in Palo Alto Online. Sen. Becker rightfully addressed the recent violence in Half Moon Bay. The opinion was presented as follows:
"Guest Opinion: In response to tragedy, more must be done to curb gun violence"
Gun violence is the salient issue but much was left unsaid. For example, a true elected leaders would also address root causes of our failing social fabric. Who was responsible for substandard housing? Who has responsibility for code enforcement in Half Moon Bay? It is more difficult to address accountability for alledged workplace injustice, but surely someone must have an opinion.
Bottom line: I propose that Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County jointly address how housing code enforcement failed. I propose that state government, specificly Sen. Becker, address the lack of state funding for the simpliest form of affordable housing in Half Moon Bay.