High School Students Win National Competition for Project on Scoliosis

Three Miami students won an award for their idea of treating scoliosis.

Three Our Lady of Lourdes Academy 10th graders, Emily M. Pendas, Ashley M. Lopez and Gabriela F. Clossick, designed S2I, a project they hope will be the future solution for scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine.

Their project won second place for the 10-12 grade category of the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program, which is designed to promote science, technology, engineering and math education. The girls were recently honored in Washington, D.C.

They couldn't test the actual project on a human or test animal because some of the drugs and technology aspects still need to be created.

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Helena Nameth, the girl's science teacher, said one of the components of the competition is that the invention cannot exist today.

"The team must recognize and explain the limitations of the current technology used and the breakthroughs that would be necessary in order for this invention to be able to become a reality," she said.

S2I, which was chosen from about 5,000 projects, was inspired by one of the team members who has scoliosis.

"We knew there had to be a more effective, safe and comfortable way of dealing with scoliosis than the current bracing and surgical treatments," the girls said in an email.

They used a hollow fiber vest and four-steps of therapy  to reshape the bone. A control panel, which controls frequency, duration and intensity of the therapies, is also used.

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For some schools, the competition is an after-school activity, but for Our Lady of Lourdes Academy it is part of the curriculum.

Nameth said it is required for all Honors Science students to participate in ExploraVision.

The teams hand her work for review on the initial submission, which includes a paper proposal of the project.

Nameth said all the teams worked on the initial submission from August to January.

At the end of February, the team learned that S2I won for their age division in the region. The girls made a website, video and prototype for their project.

After that, Nameth said, the girls spent about 25 hours a week working on the project until it was completed in April.

The girls said they hope to look into patenting their project, but it is costly.

Still, none of them, including Nameth, expected to win.

"I was very happy and impressed with this group - with their organization and the thoroughness of their work throughout the year," Nameth said.

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