3 North Texas students compete for $100K scientific research prize

Local teens are Siemens Competition finalists

DENTON -- On Friday, three North Texas teens will hop on a plane and fly to Washington D.C. for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Prateek Kalakuntla, 18, will compete for a $100,000 prize in the individual project contest for his research and development of an easy and low cost way to test for mercury in water.

"So many rural areas across the world don't have this technology and this can really change lives," Kalakuntla said.

The high school student takes classes at the University of North Texas and worked with a team of mentors.

"I couldn't have done it without them," Kalakuntla said.

Two Plano twins are also headed to the nation's capital to compete in the group division, also for $100,000. Adhya and Shriya Beesam developed a new and better way to diagnose schizophrenia. Currently, the twins say doctors use one of two methods, brain scans or psychological evaluations. The twins say the quantitative and qualitative methods need to be combined.

"Right now, the accuracy rate is around half,"Shriya said. "We want to combine the methods to give a better context and improve a diagnosis."

The twins have a personal connection to the disease. Their uncle was misdiagnosed for years and struggled with schizophrenia, eventually taking his own life.

"And we believe if he had been properly diagnosed he would have gotten treatment and his life could have turned out a different way," Adhya said.

The twins did all their research from home without the help of teachers or instructors. Spending hours going over statistics and data to develop a new way to diagnose a very real disease.

"What we realized was mental health overall and the way we regard it needs to be improved," Adhya said.

The three North Texas students all say they're transforming pain into purpose. They believe it's never too late or early to start changing the world.

"It doesn't matter how old or young you are," Shriya said. "If you are curious and are committed to working you can do anything."

The winner of the individual and team entries can bring home $100,000. So there's a chance nearly a quarter million could return to North Texas by next week.

"That would be amazing if we both won," Prateek said.

The students fly out Monday and the results are announced Tuesday afternoon.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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