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Cary teen is only 17. But he's been named one of the world's top young scientists.
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Cary teen is only 17. But he's been named one of the world's top young scientists.

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RALEIGH — A North Carolina student has been recognized as one of the best young scientists in the world.

Daniel Shen, 17, a junior at Enloe High School in Raleigh, won a $50,000 award Friday at the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, which bills itself as the world’s largest global high school competition.

Shen won the Regeneron Young Scientist Award for developing an algorithm that’s now being used by medical researchers for life-saving septic shock diagnosis and university meteorologists for hurricane predictions. He initially was trying to develop an app that would enable hands-free control of turning sheet music while playing the piano.

“My advice is that it’s OK to start small,” Shen said in a video about his project. “Often times, those small problems we face every day are reflective of larger problems in the world.

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“By starting small, we can uncover fundamental problems. By solving those we have huge impacts.”

The competition featured more than 1,800 young scientists representing 49 states and 64 countries across the world. Shen was one of the finalists chosen for projects that were evaluated based on their creativity, innovation and level of scientific inquiry.

The top $75,000 award went to a Michigan teen who developed an artificial intelligence-based algorithm used for human action recognition. Shen, a Cary resident, won one of the two $50,000 prizes.

Shen developed a patent-pending algorithm capable of reading facial cues to turn pages of sheet music. His algorithm is so fast that fair organizers say it accelerates scientific discoveries, medicine research and many other fields driven by large amounts of temporal data.

“Every single Regeneron ISEF finalist has persevered in their pursuit of science in the face of the myriad challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we could not be prouder to showcase their work on a global stage,” Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science and publisher of Science News, said in a news release.

“We look forward to seeing the contributions these young leaders continue to make to their fields and the world.”


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