Harry Paul attends the Presidential Science Fair

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Harry Paul

Alumnus Harry Paul (‘14) presents his research to President Barack Obama. Paul was invited to present at the Presidential Science Fair as a result of his success at INTEL ISEF last May.

Annie Kline, Staff Writers

After three years of research in the Schreiber Science Research Program, alumnus Harry Paul (‘14) had the opportunity to present at the fifth annual White House Science Fair on March 23.  The fair is held in order to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) of America’s youth.  The event honors students who have won regional and national competitions in STEAM.

Paul’s project was amongst the 36 projects that were presented at the fair to President Barack Obama on March 23.

“Presenting the research I care so deeply about is a reward in itself, but I’ve never experienced anything as exciting and humbling as getting to meet with the leader of the free world and his senior advisors, agency heads, other honored students and guests,” said Paul.

Paul was born with congenital scoliosis.  Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine.  When congenital, the curvature limits the size of the thorax, which prevents the development of the heart and lungs.  Growing up, Paul underwent over a dozen spinal surgeries to attempt to correct the problem.  In order to help prevent kids in future generations with congenital scoliosis from enduring these operations, he began to design a new type of spinal implant three years ago.

“Getting involved in any STEAM project is an empowering experience because it gives anyone of any age, skill or education level the ability to dig into fixing any problem they’re passionate about—which is, of course, the best way to learn,” said Paul.

Paul created a 3-D simulation of the human spine and tested the device with engineers at K2M, a Virginia-based medical device company.  The implant expands over time, helping developing spines stay straighter as they grow, and lengthening the time young patients with scoliosis can go between surgeries—his design could reduce the number of surgeries from more than a dozen to less than five.  A patent for the device is pending.

He discussed his project with President Obama and was also given the opportunity to meet with officials such as the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and Administrator of NASA, Dr. Charles Bolden. Paul described the event at the White House and meeting the President as “a moment of a lifetime.”

Last year, Paul made headlines in June when he was awarded Best of Category in Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering and the Innovation Exploration Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014 for his design.

As a part of the fair, President Obama will announce over $240 million in new private sector commitments to get more boys and girls, especially those who are from underrepresented backgrounds, to be inspired and prepared to excel in the STEM fields. With the commitments being made at the fair, the President’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign has resulted in over $1 billion in financial and in-kind support for STEM programs.