Maya Varma invented a device that cost her only $35 to build and can diagnose five different lung ailments, is already paying dividends. Last week, Varma, now a high school senior, won $150,000 as one of the first place winners in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition.
“I just felt there was something I could do about this,” Varma says matter-of-factly. And why not. The daughter of two Silicon Valley engineers, she has been inventing things for a while now.
In the sixth grade, after she became aware of the dangers of distracted driving, she devised a signaling system that would let drivers know when a stoplight was about to turn red. Last year, she was awarded a patent for that one.
Then, in the eighth grade, she developed a cost-effective way to detect foot neuropathy in patients with diabetes. That won the grand prize in the California State Science Fair.
It also sparked her interest in biomedical research, specifically designing technological solutions to health issues. That’s where she felt she could really make a difference.