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Grace Varughese won state science fair first place award for her project ‘Smart Play’ advised by Dr. Hasan Ayaz

June 23, 2014

Grace Varughese, a senior at Philadelphia Central High School, accepted into the science program called Advanced Research, where high-achiever students get a chance to volunteer at different university research labs to encourage interest in the science field. During the summer of 2013, Grace worked under the supervision of Dr. Hasan Ayaz, Assistant Research Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University, CONQUER Collaborative for an opportunity to learn about the various research projects.

“Observing ongoing research projects first hand was a great experience; and helped me realize my interest to pursue a possible career in biomedical engineering.”
- Grace Varughese

Over the past school year, Grace has been working on her science fair project for the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) competition which is held annually every May. Through online literature search and Dr Ayaz’s guidance, Grace set out to determine a correlation between gaming and cognitive abilities, specifically problem-solving skills.
The project, named “Smart Play”, aimed to test two different game-play (strategy game and mindless-fun game) over a three week period with pre- and post-training cognitive task performance. The “strategy” game (Wooden Path 2) required the gamer to fit different pieces of a wooden path into one straight path along a river in order to abridge any gaps. The “fun” game (Run 2) only required the gamer to move (using the different arrow keys) through space. The subjects would be able to access these two games through the project website Grace created. Before and after the 3-week gaming period, 14 subjects were asked to complete Tangram puzzles. Half of the participant group was randomly asked to play the “strategy” game, while the other half played the mindless “fun” game.
After the experimentation period, Tangram puzzle log data from pre- and post-gaming period were analyzed to extract performance metrics such as success or failure, response time, number of movements, etc. Results indicated that the “strategy” group had a higher success rate compared to the fun group (approximately 15%). In addition, the “fun” group required more number of movements to solve puzzle, whereas strategy group solved more efficiently. After receiving first place at the PJAS regional level competition, Grace participated in the state level competition held at Penn State University, where she was awarded first place.