A Great Mills High School ninth-grader was called to the principal’s office during his first week of school. But it was a good thing.
Jake Heibel, the school’s principal, congratulated Tyler Ludlow for being selected as a top 300 Broadcom MASTERS, an exclusive list that recognizes STEM-related projects created by middle schoolers across the country. The list was announced earlier this month and includes students from around the country who attend public, private, charter and home schools. The 14-year-old was chosen from a pool of 2,348 applicants.
“That was a cool way to start high school,” Lori Ludlow, his mother, said. The mom of three said she cried when she saw her oldest son gained national recognition through his eighth-grade science fair project completed while he attended Spring Ridge Middle School.
“I didn’t need any of this to know I’m proud of him,” she said.
The 300 participants in mid-September were narrowed down to 30 and will compete for prize money. Tyler Ludlow did not make the final cut but will attend an alumni brunch in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 26.
The ninth-grader’s project is titled “Don’t be SAD, change your view.” It’s purpose is to improve the lives of those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder — a mental health condition triggered by seasonal change that affects about 5% of U.S. citizens. “When it’s dark, they’ll feel a little bit more depressed,” he said. He found a way to make a window show a sunlit outdoor scenery on a dark day.
“It doesn’t have to be for people who suffer from SAD,” he added, but could be for people who live in Alaska, for example, who spend some days in the dark.
He saw similar ideas online, like pressing a button to have your window show a tropical island. But Tyler Ludlow wanted it to look more natural and show exactly what one would see at home during a sunny day.
When constructing the prototype, he used a projector, camera images of the outdoors and projection film. He tested an ideal daytime image against three sheets of glass — one with white haze rear projection film, another with transparent rear projection film and one without any film. The glass and film were tested under two natural environment conditions — outside a nighttime window without any light inside the home and outside a nighttime window while the interior lights are on.
As it turns out, the transparent rear projection film was the most effective by changing a dark image to look like a daytime image.
The STEM academy student was selected for his science fair project at Spring Ridge in December where he placed first in the bio/medical engineering category. He qualified for the countywide competition, where he placed first once again in the same category. Ludlow snagged the first-place title a third time at the Prince George’s regional science fair, where the fair’s committee selected the winner for a Broadcom MASTERS nominee.
Tyler Ludlow applied for the national honor in June and he and his mom described it as a rigorous application process. It included at least 20 essay questions. “There were some odd questions in there,” he said. One question asked him which superpower would he pick and what kind of insect he would be.
“Well, it doesn’t have to be a real insect,” Ludlow said he remembers thinking, so he chose a robot insect.
He picked his superpower to be photographic memory, but “more of a perfect version,” he said — memories he can keep forever to help in the medical and chemistry fields.
There was also a portion in the application that asked who else helped work on the project. “My mother helped me email people in the field,” Tyler Ludlow said. The two reached out to representatives from Decorative Film in Maryland and Pro Display in the United Kingdom for technical support.
He said he thinks he gets his STEM interest from his dad, who is a pilot and “math guy.” In the future, he hopes to create video games or invent a virtual reality experience involving medical surgery.
When Tyler Ludlow isn’t winning science fairs or robotics competitions, he’s singing in the Southern Maryland Youth Choir, swimming, playing soccer, playing Dungeons and Dragons or playing video games.
Tyler Ludlow plans to continue the science project and eventually create a full-sized window capable of changing the appearance of the outdoor lighting. He said he also wants to test it on humans to see if it can reduce or prevent seasonal affective disorder.