Milton Fisher Fund Awards More Than $135,000 in College Scholarships

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Recipients selected for their creativity and innovation in projects that advance personal health and safety, public health, literacy for the visually impaired, interpersonal communication and more

NEW HAVEN, CT -- The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the region's largest grantmaker and charitable endowment, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity. Eleven high school students who came up with distinctive solutions to problems faced by their schools, communities, families and the world received a total of $136,000 in college scholarships (payable over four years of college.) In addition, seven high school students receiving honorable mentions were awarded a total of $3,500 in scholarships.

While each application submitted for consideration highlighted a creative project, scholarships were awarded to the candidates who demonstrated the greatest innovation and whose projects have the most potential impact. The winners were recognized for projects involving the arts, science, technology and social action.

The Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity was established in 2003 at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven by the Reneé B. Fisher Foundation. This scholarship is not a traditional scholarship focused on rewarding academic achievement and addressing financial need. Its specific goal is to reward and encourage innovative and creative problem-solving. High school juniors and seniors and college freshmen from Connecticut and the New York metropolitan area are eligible to apply. The application deadline for 2021 is May 3; find a complete of set of guidelines and a link to the online application at www.rbffoundation.org and www.cfgnh.org/scholarships. For more information, please email info@mfscholarship.org.

Milton Fisher was born and educated in New York City and was a Connecticut resident from 1960 until his death in 2001. He was an attorney and an investment banker who also taught a unique course for adults called "Applied Creativity" for over 25 years. His deep interest in the roots of creativity, and the many exercises he developed to help people become more innovative and creative in their lives, also led him to write the book "Intuition: How to Use it in Your Life," which has been translated into several languages. Fisher also served on the boards of several public companies and wrote two books about Wall Street.

The Milton Fisher Scholarship is one of dozens of scholarships administered through The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Thanks to the generosity of three generations of donors, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven is composed of hundreds of individually named funds and distributes millions of dollars in grants annually to build a stronger Greater New Haven region. The Foundation’s 20-town service area includes: Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Cheshire, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, Wallingford, West Haven, Woodbridge. For more information about The Community Foundation, visit www.cfgnh.org, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.org/cfgnh or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cfgnh

2020 Winners

William Das (Hunter College High School, New York, NY) Although ADHD is the most pervasive neurobehavioral disorder in the world, there is no objective test for it, and ADHD tests that do exist are costly and therefore often unavailable to many who would benefit from them. William developed (with his research partner Shubh Khanna) an objective and inexpensive way to diagnose the disorder using eye biometrics: a web-based application captures the pupil’s response to visual stimuli and feeds this data into a machine learning algorithm to produce a diagnosis. William, who crafted the back-end machine learning system that analyzed the pupillometric data is a rising high school senior.

Maria Geogdzhayeva (Hunter College High School, New York, NY) Although the US has the most advanced tornado forecast system, Maria was surprised to learn that the average time between warning and tornado occurrence is about 13 minutes.  If this time was reduced, the number of deaths and injuries, and the property damage could be decreased.  Maria developed a new, highly accurate tornado prediction method, based on a machine-learning model. Maria plans to major in Computer Science and Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gianna Guzzo (Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, Windsor, CT) Concerned about the number of infant deaths caused by heat strokes in cars in the summer, as well as car seat belts malfunctioning and distracted drivers looking behind them at a child, Gianna designed, developed and tested a mobile app visible and audible from the dashboard that will notify a driver if risks are present for children in car seats, by monitoring their vital signs and vehicle conditions.  Gianna plans to major in Entrepreneurship & Dance at Hofstra University. 

Hiba Hussain (Greenwich High School, Greenwich, CT) Disappointed by the high cost of current methods of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) diagnosis, Hiba created a non-invasive and inexpensive diagnostic test that analyzes breath components with a sensor and smartphone application to provide the power of disease detection at a fraction of the cost. Hiba plans to study Biological Engineering at Northeastern University.

Gabrielle Johnston (Joel Barlow High School, Redding, CT) Concerned by the toll taken by rising stress levels among preteens in middle school, Gabrielle developed a creative new form of art therapy to be used outdoors. The large, permanent, intricately-detailed line drawings she painted in white on the blacktop in the schoolyard are designed for students to color in with colored chalk. The chalk can be easily washed away, regularly providing students with a clean canvas for their art and giving hundreds of students a creative and relaxing activity during recess. Gabrielle plans to study graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Shubh Khanna (Hunter College High School, New York, NY) Troubled by the fact that existing tests for ADHD are both subjective and expensive, often leaving children in developing rural communities unable to be tested, Shubh built and scaled (with his research partner William Das) an automated, accessible, and accurate  diagnostic application using eye biometrics: a web-based application captures the pupil’s response to visual stimuli and feeds this data into a machine learning algorithm to produce a probable diagnosis. Shubh, who thought of the idea and shaped its execution, is a rising high school senior. 

Akshara Ramasamy (The Woodlands College Park High School, The Woodlands, TX) Troubled that an estimated 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s often wander away without a tracking device, Akshara developed an Alzheimer’s Alert bracelet that can be removed only by someone other than the patient, that helps locate the patient more quickly. The combined GPS bracelet and app is adjustable to fit any wrist and is waterproof. Akshura is a rising high school senior.

Lucca Riccio (Southington High School, Southington, CT) Concerned how families will be able to speak to their ailing loved ones who are wearing full-face oxygen masks, Lucca developed TubeTalkerTM, a Bluetooth-enabled microphone/speaker adapter connecting to the tube of a full-face oxygen mask for patient voice amplification (patent pending). Lucca plans to attend the University of Connecticut where he will study Management and Engineering for Manufacturing.

Colin Speaker (Greenwich High School, Greenwich, CT) Struck by the statistic that 1.5 million deaths occur annually due to contaminated drinking water, Colin created a novel method to enhance the efficiency of solar water disinfection systems that can improve public health in developing countries. Colin is a rising high school senior.

Pranay Talla (Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY) Discovering Braille Readers are expensive and inconvenient, Pranay designed a multi-line, refreshable braille reader around 10 times more affordable than modern readers that promotes literacy for the visually-impaired community (patent pending). Pranay will attend Columbia University in the City of New York where he will double major in Mathematics and Biophysics.

Melissa Woo (Greenwich High School, Greenwich, CT) Realizing that currently, melanoma is often diagnosed only through often-inaccurate and not widely accessible qualitative visual inspection,  Melissa created a smartphone app using a low-cost infrared camera attachment to conduct thermal and color analyses of potential melanoma. Her app can easily and effectively provide a diagnosis an accuracy rate of 98.75%, and lays the groundwork for a non-invasive, quantitative tool for quick, reliable melanoma detection. Melissa will attend Princeton University where she will study Engineering.

2020 Honorable Mentions ($500 each)

Peter Gordon (Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, Palos Hills, IL) Concerned by the monarch butterfly's two-decade, 90 percent population-decline due to pesticides that killed milkweed, Peter founded the nonprofit organization, Homes4Monarchs;the nonprofit distributes native plant seed such as milkweed to residents, libraries, train stations, places of worship, nature centers, and other places to promote the growth of sustainable gardens with food and habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinators; it also holds events that promote conservation and pollinator gardening. Peter plans to double major in Sustainable Development and Economics at Columbia University.

Samuel Hillenmeyer (King School, Stamford, CT) Both intrigued and frightened by the issue of global warming, Samuel researched the temperature dependence of methane adsorption onto the hematite electrode and developed a new technique to measure adsorption—a process that could be key to converting methane to methanol. Samuel is a rising high school senior.

Sophia Li (Hunter College High School, New York, NY) Concerned that Multiple Myeloma (MM) treatments, such as immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors, are limited due to drug resistance and relapses in patients, Sophia researched chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy and proposed the idea to develop dual targeting CAR (dtCAR) T cells to treat multiple myeloma (MM).  Sophia plans to study Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University.  

Carolyn McDermott (Westborough High School, Westborough, MA) Recalling her own difficulties learning to read and early fear of reading aloud, Carolyn came up with two strategies to help elementary- and middle-school children in her town with below-average reading skills. Aware of the link between below-average reading abilities of food insecurity, she collected thousands of age-appropriate books and installed bookshelves in food pantries and family service centers. She also created “Books with Buddies,” a program in which elementary-school English Language Learners had the opportunity to read aloud to therapy dogs, an activity that succeeded in boosting their confidence, fluency, accuracy and interest in reading. Carolyn plans to study Nursing at Fairfield University.

Ethan Wilk (BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ) Melding his passion for technology with his passion for sustaining marine ecosystems, Ethan came up with an unconventional application of blockchain to help preserve endangered species of fish. He developed a finger-tip sized computer chip based on blockchain that could relay the vital signs of marine organisms more accurately than any other existing method. The novel technology was tested with the help of scores of volunteer high school students who tagged over 1000 fish, gaining information that helped save three highly endangered species in the region. Ethan is a rising high school senior.

Brian Wu (Horace Mann High School, New York, NY) Brian discovered, confirmed, and characterized a Tatooine-like circumbinary planet orbiting two stars, the first of its kind detected using Doppler spectroscopy. Techniques he developed in this research project (that he conducted and designed on his own) may help make it possible to discover other planets like this one, outside of our solar system and potentially habitable someday. Brian plans to major in Aerospace Engineering and minor in Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University.

Lucas Maley (Manhasset Secondary School, Manhasset, NY) As a volunteer Junior Firefighter in his hometown, Lucas noticed that firefighters were locating hydrants on the way to a fire by using paper maps, most of which were old and inaccurate, difficult to see in the dark, and hard to read due to the tiny font. As a result, he created a free digital hydrant map system using Google Maps that shows the fastest route to the fire while showing the nearest hydrants. Lucas is a rising high school senior.  

View the press release here.

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Contact:

Ratasha Smith
Communications Officer
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
rsmith@cfgnh.org

Website: www.cfgnh.org

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