In Grade 5, Danish Mahmood spent his free time teaching himself about T-cells and their function in the immune system.
In Grade 6, he tackled a science fair project modeling an artificial pancreas that used solutions with varying levels of acidity to simulate the organ’s process in regulating blood sugar.
In Grade 7, he showed how curvature of the cervical spine can affect brain efficiency as compressed vertebrae block off arteries that flow blood to the brain. This project earned a gold medal at the regional science fair in Ontario, landing Mahmood a spot at the Canada-wide science fair last year.
Now a Grade 9 student at London’s Central Secondary School, Mahmood, 14, is accustomed to walking away with top honors for projects he imagined and engineered from the time he was 10. Last month, having won a litany of awards at the national science fair for a project called W.I.N.I.T.S. (Wireless Interconnected Non-Invasive Triage System) – including an entrance scholarship to Western – he attended the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) in Tallinn, Estonia, taking home the top prize.
Representing Canada, Mahmood was the youngest contestant and Canada’s first top winner.
“In March, I competed in my regional science fair with (W.I.N.I.T.S) and won a gold medal and a trip to the Canada-wide science fair in May. I won the platinum award there for the best junior project, a gold medal in the engineering category, the Innovation Challenge award, the S.M. Blair Family Foundation Award and a Western Entrance Scholarship,” he explained.
Mahmood’s success at the national competition landed him at EUCYS where 38 countries were represented by contestants aged 14-20.
W.I.N.I.T.S targets the global issue of “triage in mass-casualty incidents.” In such circumstances, first responders quickly triage patients with paper tags. Vital signs have to be assessed manually and the paper-tag system is inefficient, he added. What’s more, patient information has to be communicated by responders to others on the team.
Mahmood designed and engineered a wearable finger sensor that continuously measures a patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature, displaying the information, as it changes, on an online dashboard in real-time, allowing fast transfer of patient information and increased accessibility for responders.
As patients’ conditions can change rapidly and medical personnel resources can sometimes be limited, this invention has the potential to save lives, Mahmood explained. Having already won an award for the project at an international science fair, he is still developing it and hoping to partner with researchers at Western and doctors in the community in order to develop and test the W.I.N.I.T.S system before seeking FDA approval and going through the patent process.
All of this has been the fruit of independent study for Mahmood.
“At the national fair, I had a bare-bones prototype. I had no information when I started this project on how to program or how to work with electrical engineering. I went on YouTube, read PubMed articles, taught myself physics of light absorption, how to make a voltage divider, how to program five different languages,” he said.
“As I was learning things, I would implement them and add to my project. In three months, I learned to design and use AutoCAD for 3D printing and I made a small compact finger clip for the prototype. Now, I am working on signal processing and looking towards gaining accuracy.”
He plans to enter the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, next year.
As for his plans after high school, Mahmood is excited to come to Western, calling it “a really great school” that garners recognition when mentioned as an alma mater.
“As a student, I want to work in biomedical research along with studying medicine. I want to start my own company, to see where my research takes me and I hope to become a doctor.”