ARMONK, N.Y. -- Three Byram Hills High School seniors have been named scholars in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search for projects that delved into the ocean, peered thousands of light years into space, and found a way to help blind people detect objects in front of them.
Audrey Saltzman, Yasamin Bayley, and Isabelle Chong were among 300 high school seniors chosen in the competition, formerly called the Intel Science Talent Search.
Scholars are the competition's equivalent of semifinalists.
The scholars are chosen “based on the scientific rigor and world-changing potential of their research projects,” according to the Regeneron web site.
Later this month, 40 finalists will be chosen to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C., for the final round of the competition, where they will compete for a top prize of $250,000.
“It’s really nice for all of our hard work to be recognized and to know that people will see it,” Audrey said.
Their work was widely varied.
Bayley studied two species of single-celled marine organisms called coccolithophores, which cover themselves in calcite plates, and showed an indirect result of climate change.
She chose the topic because she is fascinated by the relationships between things that are very small and very large.
“When I came across biogeochemistry, which involves the cycles of microscopic organisms in these billions of gallons of ocean water, that’s exactly where I went,” she said. To conduct the research, she spent four weeks last summer at The Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England.
Saltzman, long fascinated with neutron stars because they are “one of the most extreme things in the universe,” used X-ray and ultraviolet data from NASA to study one of the bodies 19,000 lightyears away that had “gone into outburst” in 2012.
“My study is one of the clearest detections of photons being absorbed and re-emitted by the disk of a neutron star to date,” she wrote in her description of the project.
Chong developed a hand-held device she calls a “laser cane” to help blind people detect objects around them. A fan of science-fiction and spy shows, she got the idea for her device from one used by the character Auggie on the show "Covert Affairs."
Using an inertial navigation system because it is more precise than sonar, she fashioned an instrument that vibrates when it senses an object.
“Having an increased range increases the amount of information that a person who uses the cane can gain about their environment,” Chong said.
Entrants in the competition compete for more than $3.1 million in prizes annually. Each of the scholars receives $2,000, with another $2,000 going to the student’s school.
David Keith, the director of the Authentic Science Research Program at Byram Hills High School, praised the school's trio for their accomplishment. He worked with the students along with teachers Stephanie Greenwald, James Gulick, and Megan Salomone.
“These students are three of the smartest, kindest, and most capable young women you will find,” he said. “All of them are going to do remarkable things in their time.”
The original version of this story referred to the students as "semifinalists" based on the school district's announcement. However, a representative from Regeneron subsequently clarifed that the competiton refers to the students as "scholars." The story has been updated to reflect the change.