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Texas teen takes home $100k national science prize

Kensen Shi, 17, of Texas won a $100,000 scholarship.

susan walsh/associated press

Kensen Shi, 17, of Texas won a $100,000 scholarship.

WASHINGTON — A high school student from Texas has won a $100,000 scholarship for developing a computer algorithm that helps robots navigate around obstacles, an algorithm that could be used in applications like driverless cars.

The Siemens Foundation announced the winners of its annual science competition for high school students during a ceremony in Washington on Tuesday. Top individual honors went to 17-year-old Kensen Shi of College Station, Texas. He combined two previous algorithms into a new, more efficient one that helps robots find a safe path around obstacles.

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Shi, a senior at A&M Consolidated High School, said his algorithm could also be used in robots in factories and in animation and video game design to create more realistic motion for virtual characters.

Top team honors went to a trio of students from George W. Hewlett High School in Hewlett, N.Y., for their research on a protein linked to tumor formation. Seniors Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil, and Allen Shin, all 17, will share a $100,000 scholarship.

Six individuals and six teams were competing. The students were the winners of regional competitions.

The runners-up in the team and individual competitions went home with $50,000 scholarships. Jiayi Peng, 17, a senior in Chappaqua, N.Y., won second place for her work building and studying a model that simulates the neuron network in the brain.

Second-place team honors went to Daniel Fu and Patrick Tan of Indiana, who created new math techniques that make it easier to analyze networks of genes and proteins in the body.

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