Beaverton 8th-grader wows Google science judges

Anushka Naiknaware is most inspired by Marie Curie and her 6th-grade teacher

Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, holds the bandage she invented that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)
Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, holds the bandage she invented that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) – A bandage embedded with tiny monitors that lets medical workers determine when it needs to be changed earned its inventor a $15,000 scholarship from the Google international science contest.

The inventor is an 8th-grader from Stoller Middle School.

Anushka Naiknaware of Beaverton finished in the top 5 in the contest. Her project, “Fractal inspired Chitosan and Carbon Nanoparticle Based Biocompatible Sensor for Wound Management,” wowed the Google judges.

Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, holds the bandage she invented that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)
Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, holds the bandage she invented that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)

More about the Google Science Fair

Large wounds must be kept moist to promote healing, but changing bandages too often to check moisture levels can make things worse.

A chronic wound is one that has a hard time healing because of another pre-existing condition, like diabetes.

“No one has done anything about it. I mean, it’s completely ignored.” Then she added, “What this problem needs is what carbon nanoparticles have.”

Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, points to an app for a bandage she invented that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)
Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, points to an app for a bandage she invented that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)

If a wound is too dry, she said, it doesn’t have the essential bacteria needed to heal properly. But if it’s too moist, there’s a greater risk of infection. Since nurses change wound dressings on a regular basis — and do it visually — that upsets the moisture balance in chronic wounds.

Her bandage reports the moisture level in the wound dressing and lets doctors figure out when to change them.

“Basically,” Anushka said, “my project was designing a moisture sensor that was bio-compatible and made out of conductive ink but also very cheap to manufacture and something that would connect to, like, a phone.”

She really believes this will make a difference in people’s lives by reducing infection and stress.

Her inspirations

She loves science. “It’s like humanity’s quest to understand the world around us and kind of like hoping for order, which I think everything relies on,” she told KOIN 6 News.

In her online bio, she said her “interests in science and engineering have been piqued by my frequent visits to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). I would spend hours on end in the chemistry lab, not satisfied till I had done every experiment there!”

Her top 2 inspirations, she said, are her 6th grade teacher and Marie Curie, whose work helped advance modern medicine. Though she’s only in 8th grade, she plans to “get into a top graduate school such as Harvard, MIT or Stanford.”

And, like her inspiration Marie Curie, wants to win a Nobel Prize in science. “That’s my ultimate goal.”

Anushka thought her idea might work. “But that moment when you finally realize, wait, I’m a 13-year-old and I finally made something that can change the entire world — that was definitely, like, the best moment for me.”

In addition to the scholarship, she won a  free trip to Lego world headquarters in Demark and a year of mentoring from a Lego executive.

But there was one question she couldn’t answer. Asked to choose between math and science as her favorite subject, she couldn’t.

“They take top place. They’re tied.”

Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, invented a bandage that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)
Anushka Naiknaware, an 8th-grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, invented a bandage that tells doctors when it needs to be changed, October 6, 2016 (KOIN)