Sanford's Rai Kahlon is the sole Delawarean to be named a finalist this year.

Sanford student wins $25,000 as science competition finalist

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Sanford's Rai Kahlon is the sole Delawarean to be named a finalist this year.

Sanford’s Rai Kahlon is the sole Delawarean to be named a finalist this year.

A student from the Sanford School has been awarded $25,000 – with a chance to win up to an additional $250,000 – for his project in a Regeneron and Society for Science’s national competition.

Rai Kahlon, a senior on his way to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, is one of 40 students named as finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2024, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

From March 6 to March 13, the finalists will participate in a week-long competition where they will undergo a rigorous judging process to compete for more than $1.8 million in awards. 

Each finalist, selected from 2,162 entrants, receives $25,000, and the top 10 awards, which will be announced during an awards ceremony on March 12, range from $40,000 to $250,000. 

2024 marks the largest pool of applicants the competition has seen since the 1960s, which the two organizations state is indicative of the increasing importance of scientific exploration, as well as the outreach and equity programs dedicated to supporting scientific literacy and preparation for competitions. 

Mark Anderson, head of school, called the achievement a phenomenal cap to Kahlon’s successful Sanford career.

“We are proud of the student and leader Rai is today, and Sanford teachers are certain he will only continue to excel in the coming years at Penn,” he said.

Kahlon is undecided but wants to pursue a career in the medical field.

The name of his project was “Enhancing Wearable Gait-Monitoring Systems: Identifying Optimal Kinematic Inputs in Typical Adolescents.”

His work sought to improve assistive walking technology by identifying which wearable sensor signals can be used to identify patients’ walking gait. 

He identified two specific signals that could help train machine learning models that address gait problems in conditions such as cerebral palsy. 

The whole process took him a couple years to complete, and he started as a sophomore, inspired by a friend that has cerebral palsy.

Liz Brown, the co-chair of Sanford’s science department, said Kahlon represents the best that the school and science department have to offer. 

“He is inquisitive, hard-working and collaborative, and personifies the love of learning that we hope to instill in all students,” she said. “Rai thinks deeply about scientific questions and loves to tackle open-ended problems.”

Sanford skills

His skill set is wide and deep, she said, and his research demonstrates his skillful integration of high-level science and math. 

She said the school is excited to follow along in Kahlon’s scientific journey post-Sanford.

The competition, now in its 83rd year, identifies young innovators who combine their STEM talent with dedication and leadership skills to drive society forward. 

Program alumni include recipients of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 21 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.

This year’s finalists represent 36 schools across 19 states. They were chosen based on their projects’ scientific rigor and their potential to become world-changing scientists and leaders. 

“I was honored to be selected Top 40 finalist in the STS competition, and the sole honoree from Delaware,” he said. “This is work I have worked on for the past two years in collaboration with a mentor from the NIH and with the University of Delaware.”

Kahlon said he’s excited to meet the other 39 finalists who have a shared interest in STEM.

He’s also hoping to add a few more thousand dollars to his already large cash prize, which he plans on using for college.

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