Q&A with Chase Dawson

Junior Chase Dawson won first place in his category at the regional and state science fair. Here, he talks about what he created, why he created it, and where he goes from here.

Could you explain the project?

I created an Android application and a Java program that analyzed several of the symptoms common to the Parkinson’s disease in the hopes of detecting the disease in its early stages, since there is no effective method of diagnosis.

Which symptoms does the app monitor?

My application monitors gait length using GPS and a step detector. [It uses] an accelerometer that’s built into the phone to test tremors and rigidity. [I also used] a Java program that counts blinks, because decreased blink speed is associated with the disease.

Where did you get the idea for you app? 

My mother is a physical therapist and she talks a lot about a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, and after hearing about them I decided to do more research and then from that I realized that since there is no diagnosis method (though a lot of the symptoms could be monitored) why not make something that could monitor them?

What challenges did you face in the development of your app? 

One of the biggest challenges was trying to make it so that it would be easy for everyone to use, especially considering that the population I was targeting would be older generations that haven’t experienced technology as much, and also doing it in a way that could be understood by older generations

Could you talk about how things went at the competition? 

At the regional fair I got a lot of good feedback, and I was feeling pretty good as they were getting ready to announce the winners. This one guy who used to work at Web Md said my project was really cool, and a couple other people with medical ties [were interested in my work].

At the state fair I did not think that I had done well because the judges were overall really stoic, and they didn’t give a lot of feedback. This one guy kept asking me, “so you coded all of this yourself?”, making it seem like I didn’t program the thing and it was very frustrating and a little more challenging.

What are you goals for the project in the future? 

I hope to make it to the International Science Fair – the first place winners compete against one another for the best of show award, and then three or four get an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles where they spend a week.

I’m going to continue with the development of my app, and then start clinical trials in the future where I’ll test people with Parkinson’s and then compare the results to those without Parkinson’s and make sure I’m getting significantly different data from both of them.

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