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Beaverton student scores award at Google Science Fair

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Anushka Naiknaware, a Stoller Middle School student, shared her research and inventions with hundreds during an exposition at the Google Science Fair.

When she was 4 or 5 years old, Anushka Naiknaware’s favorite place in the whole world was the chemistry lab at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. There, she’d spend entire days in the museum’s interactive labs, finishing every single experiment available to tinker with before leaving.

Now, the Stoller Middle School eighth-grader is the mastermind behind a winning project at the Google Science Fair in Mountain View, Calif., where she finished as one of the top eight finalists in the world last week.

Anushka, 13, received the Lego Education Builder Award, which includes a $15,000 scholarship, a free trip to the Lego world headquarters in Denmark, and a one-year entrepreneurial mentorship to help grow her idea into a business.

She was recognized by an international panel for her invention of a bandage that prevents fatal blood loss and keeps wounds at the proper moisture level to encourage rapid healing.

Her wound dressing uses chitosan, a natural polymer found in crustacean shells, which has a remarkable ability to clot blood quickly. She also created a cost-effective sensor using a carbon nanoparticle that measures the amount of moisture in the wound dressing to help ensure optimal healing. The data her bandages collect will be stored in an online cloud, making it accessible in situations where bulky equipment isn’t feasible.

Anushka’s project could have huge implications for the military, helping injured soldiers in a rapid and cost-effective manner.

While people often focus on notorious medical problems, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, they sometimes forget to consider that more people die of injuries every year than all of those conditions combined, noted Anushka.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Anushka strives for innovation in all her science projects, including her wound management technology that won recognition at the Google Science Fair.Anushka has spent her middle school years progressing through tiers of local, regional and national science fairs. In every competition, she strives to bring something unique to the table.

"I really do find it interesting how everyone has different inspirations, different ways to achieve their goals," she said.

She credits her teachers at Stoller for encouraging students to apply themselves and seek out competition opportunities.

Stoller, understandably, doesn’t allow students to use bacteria or pathogens during experiments. That was hard for Anushka, who researched Ph.D academic articles and searched for materials online during her own time.

“That was definitely a challenge,” said Anushka, who created a water-and-vinegar solution to model the alkalinity and consistency of blood.

“You have to work through, like, a hundred iterations before it finally works, before you finally get it right,” said Anushka, who lists Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie as her role model, adding “The fact that she was a girl and she kept going in that time period is amazing.”

During the Google Science Fair, Anushka had the opportunity to meet like-minded peers from around the world.

"It was totally amazing," said Anushka. "It shows you no matter where you are, it's kind of like science brings everyone together."