photo courtesy of the Society for Science & the Public

Talented Scientist

TheIntel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is “the world’s largest international pre-college science competition,” drawing over 1,700 high school students from over seventy countries who “showcase their independent research and compete for around $5 million in awards in seventeen categories.” This year, 15-year-old Kalyani Ramadurgam, a Torrey Pines High School student, stood out among the competition in the Computer Science category for her work with facial recognition software. She received the ISEF Grand Award 3rd Place in Computer Science, winning $1,000.

Citing the technological issues surrounding the identification of the Boston Marathon bombers as her inital motivation, Kalyani decided to develop a new facial recognition method, which would allow her to detect faces obscured or angled away from a camera. As the software used to recognize the bombing suspects could not depict the suspect’s faces unless they were looking direclty at the camera, Kalyani made an alternative which yielded a greater success rate. “Unlike traditional methods, which only look at the relationships between facial ratios, I combined information from both pixel patterns in the pictures and from independent facial features,” she said.

Entitled “High Dimensional Clustering Algorithms Applied to Face Recognition of Obscured Faces,” Kalyani emphasized the importance of facial recognition software. “The applications of this project thus have wide implications to national security because real life videos and photographs very rarely capture people facing the camera directly with their full face uncovered,” she stated. She hopes to develop an app that will use her technology to recognize faces that are concealed or difficult to identify.