Potomac School Senior Top 40 Scholar in McLean

Potomac School Senior Top 40 Scholar in McLean

Selected based on the “scientific rigor of his project;” mind-controlled 3D arm design earns him top honors.

Ben Choi, a senior at The Potomac School, has been named a Top 40 Scholar in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. Chosen from a pool of more than 1,800 highly qualified entrants from across the nation, Choi will participate in the final weeklong competition in Washington, DC, this March. 
According to Regeneron, Choi was selected based on the “scientific rigor of his project” – An Ultra-Low Cost, Mind-Controlled Transhumeral Prosthesis Operated via a Novel Artificial Intelligence-Driven Brainwave Interpretation Algorithm – and his “potential to become a world-changing scientist and leader.” 

Choi is a student in Potomac’s selective Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) program, which offers students the opportunity to do high-level independent research projects. He says that he was initially inspired to develop his non-invasive, low-cost 3D prosthetic solution after watching a documentary about neural interfaces being used to control prosthetic limbs. Choi explains, “I was really impressed by the applications and the technology, but I was also alarmed that these implants required risky open-brain surgery and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I thought it could be possible to develop a less invasive and more cost-effective approach.” 

Choi says his ultimate goal is to make his prosthesis accessible to all – a driving factor in his decision to use 3D printing technology when developing the initial prototype, which he began working on in fall 2020. Since then, he has continued to make advancements to the 3D printed prosthetic arm that he developed. The arm, controlled by a brainwave-detecting headband placed on the forehead, has moved out of the prototype phase and will soon enter clinical trials. 

Over the past year, Choi’s focus has been on fine-tuning the device. His work has included assessing volunteers, collecting data, and creating neural networks – systems that use AI algorithms to make predictions – to input and verify the data. Through trial and error, he has been able to improve the arm’s accuracy of movement to 95% as compared to a natural human arm. Choi works with mentors Dr. Isabelle Cohen, Upper School science teacher at The Potomac School, and Dr. Ji Liu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Stony Brook University in New York. 

In addition to advancing to the Regeneron Top 40, Choi has earned a variety of national and international awards for his research and work. They include winning runner-up in the PolySpectra "Make It Real" Global Design Challenge (December 2020); MIT THINK Scholar Award (January 2021); U.S. Air Force Special Award for Research (March 2021); IEEE Innovation Award (March 2021); and being named a Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finalist (April 2021).

Pravalika Gayatri Putalapattu who attends Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is also a Top 40 scholar for her project, DORC: Dynamic Operating Room Companion for Gallbladder Removal Surgical Workflow Verification.

Regeneron Science Talent Search alumni include winners of 13 Nobel Prizes, 11 National Medals of Science, six Breakthrough Prizes, 22 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and two Fields Medals. The full list of Top 40 scholars selected by Regeneron and Society for Science can be viewed here. https://www.societyforscience.org/regeneron-sts/2022-finalists/