WCS Student Wins Riverside County Science & Engineering Fair
Woodcrest Christian student Saira Gupta has been looking for a solution to a problem most girls her age don’t even know exists. While many seventh grade girls spend their evenings concerned about homework or after-school activities, Saira has spent hours conducting science experiments with petri dishes and UV light looking for a way to harness the power of a smartphone to kill bacteria.
Why would bacteria and smartphones intrigue Saira so much? It started last year when she wasn’t allowed to take pictures of her newborn cousin while visiting in the hospital. “My cousin was premature and in the NICU. When I visited her, I saw a sign in the hospital that prohibited the use of cell phones and cameras because of the bacteria they carry. I was sad that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any pictures. I thought there has to be a solution,” says Saira.
VIDEO: Saira Gupta, Riverside County Science Fair Winner
Saira’s long-time interest in science kicked in and she began to research how to eliminate bacteria from the surface of other materials. “I started researching operating rooms and found they use UV rays to kill bacteria. Then I found that UVC rays can penetrate the bacteria wall. So I found a way to use UVC rays through a filter and a smartphone flashlight. I tried many materials and fabrics to filter the light,” she explains. “What I found is the lens from a camera held in front of a smartphone flashlight will kill 99% of bacteria in 20 minutes.”
With this discovery, Saira entered the 2017 Riverside County Science Fair held at the Riverside Convention Center, March 28 and 29. More than 460 students from 40 public, private, and charter schools/districts showcased their understanding of science and engineering in 411 projects ranging from cognitive science to zoology. In the junior division (grades 6, 7, and 8), Saira competed against more than 260 entries.
Judges were impressed with Saira’s work and awarded her the top level gold medal, along with the Broadcom MASTERS Award, and Naval Award putting her in the top 10% of science fair competitors in the nation. She now advances to the California State Science Fair to be held April 24-26, 2017 at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. She will also present her findings at the Broadcom MASTERS in Washington D.C. in October.
Saira is excited about the future possibilities of her project and where her love of science will lead. Science is an interest her whole family enjoys, including her brother Shayle Gupta, who has won the Riverside County Science Fair the last five years. “Science is fascinating,” says Saira, “there’s always more to it. It’s never finished.”
What Saira hopes for most is that her scientific projects help others in new ways. She is always looking to improve current methods. “Right now, I’m thinking about how to help others with studying. I know kids are trying hard, and maybe there’s a way I can help improve how they study.” Inspired by her father’s career as a surgeon, Saira is also working toward getting accepted into the eight-year medical program at Brown University with a future in science and medicine.