Cool Schools: Kilmer Middle School Students Develop Food Allergy Detector

7:25 AM, May 23, 2013   |    comments
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VIENNA, Va. (WUSA9) -- Finding food allergies can be really challenging.  Two Kilmer Middle School students may have found a pretty cool solution!

Say you love cheese pizza, but there's a chance you might be allergic to something in the sauce. Two teens may have found a way for you to tell for sure with an allergy food detector. Their prototype is the size of a cell phone, and you use it less than two centimeters away from "the sample."

Eight grader Pallavi Bhave told us, "It would have a list of 50 allergens and then it says yes it has it, [or] no it doesn't." 

Pallavi Bhave was looking for a project to enter in the Toshiba Explora Vision contest. Her mother said with all of the food allergies in their family, wouldn't it be great to find a way to check out food before you eat it? Then, the food allergy detactor project began.

It works by using something called rama spectroscopy, explained eighth grader Joyce Tian.

"A UV laser beam will shoot out, excite some of the atoms and they will release some photons and they will shift in frequency. This shift in frequency is unique to all food items. It's kind of like a fingerprint," shared Tian.

Bhave and Tian's 11-page paper on the idea won regionals. Then, they built a website complete with video explainer, that brought home a national title for the middle school division (check it out here:

Science teacher Susan Bates was their coach, but she gives them all the credit for the detector.

"They did the research on their own built their prototype on their own and their website they are just fantastic girls," said Bates.

The two creative teens each won a $10,000 college savings bond. In June,  they will present their project on Capitol Hill and have a gala at the national press club with all of the other winners from around the country.

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