WASHINGTON -- A Fremont eighth-grader's science project earned her a trip to the White House this week, where she got to present her novel vision-enhancing invention to President Obama and science dignitaries from across the country.
Jessika Baral was one of 100 students selected to display her discovery at a White House event intended to demonstrate Obama's vision for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
As a 7th-grader, Baral noticed that her friends and family who wore glasses were straining to read iPads and iPhones, which cram text into small spaces.
So the 13-year old from William Hopkins Junior High School, created an innovative contraption that strengthens eye muscles and a byproduct, improves peripheral vision.
"I wanted to find an entertaining way to strengthen eyes and exercise them to help people keep their eyes strong," Baral said.
After testing the product on 19 subjects, whose ages ranged from 12-81, she discovered their peripheral vision had improved by as much as 87 percent.
The product is a crescent-shaped Styrofoam board with LED lights surrounding the outside border which fits neatly against the forehead. The idea is to follow the moving lights to exercise the eyes.
"I got a micro controller on top of a breadboard and I programmed it to move these LED lights from side to side so you can exercise your eyes by following the lights," she said as she placed the contraption on her head.
On display Monday in the White House Blue Room where Obama was officially inaugurated for his second term in January, her project was appraised by many notables including Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, Bill Nye "the Science Guy,'' representatives from NASA and even New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Jessika had previously won the Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation from the Broadcom Foundation, which carried a $10,000 prize. She hopes to give back to California by using the money she's earned to produce 200 more machines and send them to high schools across the state.
Although this was not her first time visiting Washington, Jessika grinned as she explained how "very excited" she was to be inside the White House.
The other California participant at the fair was 11-year-old Sylvia Todd from Auburn, who created a water color-painting robot.
Known to her You Tube followers as "Super Awesome Sylvia,'' she was excited when Obama stopped by her exhibit and told her it was "cool.''
"It's really exciting. It's mind blowing that I'm actually at the White House," Todd said.
Sylvia's project was situated in the State Dining Room where Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis prepared the Lewis and Clark expedition back in 1802.
Sylvia's watercolor painting robot, the WaterColorBot, incorporates art with technology to produce watercolor paintings drawn on IPads. The WaterColorBot is a "kid-friendly art robot that moves a paintbrush to paint your digital artwork onto paper using a set of watercolor paints," according to her website.
Sylvia's science project was originally created for the 2013 Robo games, in San Mateo. She collaborated with Evil Mad Scientists, a business that is dedicated to the sciences and do-it-yourself projects, to help her win a silver medal for her ArtBot Painting submission at this years competition.
The White House Science Fair was established in 2009 as part of President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign and was developed to celebrate achievements students have made in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM.)
"We celebrate our great football players ... and we celebrate outstanding musicians,'' Obama said. "But we've got to make sure that we're also celebrating every single day in our schools, in our classrooms, and in our country the outstanding contributions that scientists and engineers are providing to use every single day.''
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