If you thought the teen girls on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team — who are all gold-medal winners as of this week — were inspirational, wait until you read the news about this particular 17-year-old. Brittany Wenger, a Florida native, just took top prize at the 2012 Google Science Fair for building an artificial “brain” that can detect a specific type of cancer.
In a recent interview, she says, “I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer. And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can’t use them.”
So, Brittany created a solution that provides a detailed assessment of breast tissue samples without the detrimental invasive procedures to accompany it. According to FOX News, Brittany basically designed a “computer program whose structure is inspired by the way brain cells connect with one another.” Pretty elaborate for a high school junior. Or anyone, for that matter.
But the construction of this equipment didn’t happen overnight. Brittany apparently started executing the ‘cloud-based neural network’ when she was in 7th grade — so, at least four years ago — after studying the future of technology and mechanics for a school project. She says, “I came across artificial intelligence and was just enthralled. I went home the next day and bought a programming book and decided that was what I was going to teach myself to do.”
The first of her networks played soccer. (Say what?) From then, she began perfecting her first-place “brain” — by running 7.5 million trials. Its success rate? 99.1% accuracy. To learn more about Brittany’s program, as well as those of the other finalists, visit the Google Science Fair.