Radiated tortoises make strange dancing movements in the rain that kind of looks like an attempt to avoid flash flooding in their native dry habitat of Madagascar.
Studying that movement through Florida Tech university has netted the now high school freshman River Grace $US25,000.
Grace just won the Samueli Foundation Prize for overall STEM excellence as a part of the Broadcom MASTERS (Maths, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition.
He was chosen from 30 finalists from around the country. See the other projects >
Grace’s study animals of choice, the radiated tortoise, live in a small strip of land in Madagascar, and are quickly losing their native habitat to farms and encroaching tribes. He studied a group of them from his local zoo.
In a series of experiments, Grace sprinkled the turtles with varied flows of water and measured how long before they began dancing and how long they danced. A light sprinkling was the control measurement, and that’s when they danced the most. His results suggested that the dance isn’t correlated to flood conditions.
Etian Acks also got a prize, the $US10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation in recognition of engineering excellence for this device designed to strengthen speech muscles to treat his younger brother’s speech impediment.
Acks’ device is similar to a modified tongue depressor, but it is linked to a joystick to collect digital data on the patient’s progress.
Most existing speech improvement methods do not have a way to monitor patient progress, and Acks’ device is a big step forward. Acks actually tested his device on his brother, whose speech impediment, dyspaxia, makes it difficult to pronounce words correctly. After only three days he showed steady improvement.
Several others recieved smaller prizes and an iPad:
Science Awards: First place goes to Keoni Gandall of Huntington Beach, Calif., for his project on engineering pink salt. Second place goes to Julienne Sauer of San Ramon, Calif., for her project on superconductors and frictionless motion.
Technology Awards: First place goes to Austin McCoy of Rochester, Minn., for his project on disease detection lab equipment for developing countries. Second place goes to Rebecca Bloomfield of Colorado Springs, Colo., for her project on the effects of slope and remediation on post-fire sedimentation.
Engineering Awards: First place goes to Mihir Garimella of Pittsburgh, Pa., for his project on digitally recreating smells. Second place goes to Sidhika Balachandar, of Gainesville, Fla., for her project on soundproofing.
Mathematics Awards: First place goes to Johann Kailey-Steiner of Denver, for his project on rocket design. Second place goes to Joshua Wentzel of Portland, Ore., for his project on homemade air cannons.
Just for fun, here’s a video of the rain dance of the tortoise that Grace studied, uploaded to YouTube by pausingang:
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