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Sugar Hill middle schooler wins $10K for inventing cancer-identifying app

By Hope Dean

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    ATLANTA, Georgia (WANF) — Keshvee Sekhda is just 14 years old — but she’s already excelling in machine learning, a passion that recently won her $10,000 in one of the nation’s top STEM competitions.

The North Gwinnett Middle School student, alongside her teammate Nyambura Sallinen, developed a prototype app called IdentiCan that identifies breast, lung and skin cancer with about 94% accuracy. Sekhda was one of five winners named in the Society for Science’s Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge, standing out among 30 finalists.

App users upload family history information, images or even sound clips, in the case of suspected lung cancer. The app then sorts through the submissions and compares the information to a large health database, telling the user if they likely have cancer or not.

Keshvee was inspired to pursue the project when she heard about a local man’s father who went to the hospital for discomfort. He was only diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor when he went a second time, still feeling something was wrong, she said.

“This man was only given a few months to live due to the mistake in interpreting earlier scans,” Keshvee told Society for Science. “My partner and I decided that we must do something to help people scan themselves and get the attention they need.”

In the future, Keshvee would like to collaborate with doctors to develop the app further and decrease cancer mortality rates, she said.

North Gwinnett Middle School also received a $1,000 grant to support STEM programs.

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