IEA Academy Student and Yunasa Camper Wins Ventura County Science Fair

April 23, 2019

by Gabe Fergesen, IEA Student

Hi. My name is Gabriel. I’m 13 and I like science, technology, engineering, analyzing art and board/video games. I have been attending IEA’s Academy program for a few years and had my first summer as a Yunasa camper last year.

This year I created a science project about trying to fix one of autism’s most pernicious side effects: spacing out.

As any 2E or autistic and ADD person can tell you, “spacing out” cripples their studies and hours and hours are lost and time becomes nebulous until they are aroused by a sound or perhaps a pat on the back. This causes workloads to seemingly multiply like tribbles!

My goal was to fix this problem by using tech – namely, artificial intelligence (AI) – that already existed to fix a conundrum that had seemingly been around forever. “Therefore, spacing out could be fixed by a device to treat and prevent the problem of losing focus in class via artificial intelligence augmented shock therapy from intelligent analysis of electroencephalography,” as I stated in my research paper.

Translated, this means that it is possible to fix this problem by observing the excess static electricity from a gifted and/or autistic brain using a headset and running it through an AI, which attempts to find patterns between the live data and the examples. If it resembles the spaced out datasets, it stimulates the user via either the originally planned method of zapping them on the wrist – or, the more “science-fair-friendly” method of intense vibration on the wrist.

Ventura County Science Fair

After spending vast quantities of time researching and contacting many other experts, I attempted to assemble the software and headset from scratch by hacking a toy I own that uses electroencephalography.

First, I attempted to bore the user with pressing the space bar when they see a symbol, but the code was too complex for a Python newbie (or noob). The headset was tricky to solder, and things just did not work out. I have attempted to use many programs, including Github to organize files, Arduino to create the hacked headset, OSCulator to connect systems, Wekinator and WekiInputHelper to run the AI, Python to program with, and many more programs I have spent 200+ hours arranging in every way I can think of to try to get my theoretical system and ambitious dream running. However, I was unable to connect my rig, so I was unable to gather data.

When I started my project, I was notified that my project would not follow school convention, so I could expect to be shamed by the judges. What happened was radically different and a completely unexpected turn of events. After receiving 3rd place at my school, I was unexpectedly entered into the county fair as the only homeschooler, yet received 1st place and entry to state. I am currently preparing to attend the state fair.

ventura county science fair

Gabe currently volunteers his time to work with youth at his church club, AWANA, and he loves to ski, boogie board, and get completely trounced by waves and ocean. He actively participates in Boy Scouts, has never met a book that he doesn’t like, loves any and all things put on by IEA, and loves making animated movies and inventions.

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