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Liberty’s Shravan Balaji wins ‘Best of Fair Award’ in regional science fair

MADISON – Shravan Balaji earned the “Best of Fair Award” in the North Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair or NARSEF at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Shravan, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, earned the award in the Junior Division for grades 6-8 with his project, “An Innovative Approach to Predict and Analyze Diabetes Using Machine Learning.” He competed in the Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences Category.

Shravan received $500 in prize money from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

After his win at regionals, Shravan advanced to the Alabama State Science and Engineering Fair or ASEF, where he won second place in the Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences category. He also received a spot in the Junior Innovators Challenge.

“I have participated in STEM summer camps through which I gained interest in biology and computer science,” Shravan said. “I decided to take it a step further this year by creating a research project in that field.”

Helping Shravan along the way, Danyale Ragus, an eighth-grade science teacher at Liberty, mentored him and assisted with the registration process for the science fair.

Shravan’s project “analyzes various factors that contribute to diabetes and uses a machine learning algorithm to predict individuals’ likelihoods of having diabetes. At the fair, I was judged based on my presentation, poster and research paper,” he said.

“The inspiration behind creating this project arose from observing the challenges faced by a diabetic friend. Witnessing their struggles sparked my curiosity to delve deeper into understanding the disease and explore ways in which I could contribute to improving the situation,” Shravan said.

“Participating in the fair allowed me to explore my interests in-depth and discover my passion for a specific area of science,” Shravan said. “Presenting my project to judges helped me overcome stage fright and develop strong communication skills.”

When Shravan was in sixth grade, he won third place for his project, “Gene Variations and Their Impact on Medication Efficacy” at ASEF. He was nominated for the 2023 Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge or JIC, a program of the Society for Science.

Formerly called the Broadcom MASTERS, the Thermo Fisher Challenge is the premier STEM competition for U.S. sixth- through eighth-graders. Thermo Fisher is an incredible achievement, with only the top 10 percent of middle-school projects nationwide that are invited to apply online for the national competition.

His parents are Balaji Purushothaman, who works as a Principal Product Manager at Adtran Inc., and Subashini Gopalakrishnan, an engineer at Siemens.

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