Brockton High School junior Christian Nichols has been selected to compete in the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) after creating an artificial intelligence model which can identify fossils.
Nichols spent three months designing his project in Tensorflow, an end-to-end open source platform for machine learning. He was one of 14 Massachusetts students to be selected for the ISEF after coming in third place at the Regional South Shore Science Fair.
Christian selected this project because it combines two major interests: Computer Science and Paleontology. While he aspires to pursue a career in Computer Science and Software Engineering, Christian has always been fascinated by Paleontology and dinosaurs.
“There hasn’t been any significant technological advancements in Paleontology in recent years,” explained Nichols. “It’s important to find fossils as quickly as possible.”
Between December and February, Christian designed his model and uploaded thousands of images of fossils to it. He then spent one day conducting trials, ensuring that the model could correctly identify fossils.
“It is not surprising that Christian’s submission was so positively reviewed at the Region V Science Fair. His project demonstrated his deep desire to learn about a complex topic and perseverance to work through the process of coding to create a program that would perform as he had envisioned it,” said Dr. David Mangus, Science Department Head for Brockton High School.
Nichols feels his model could be used during expeditions to help paleontologists more efficiently identify fossils. He believes paleontologists could use a drone to collect photos and videos which would then be cross-referenced by the model.
“One of the most rewarding parts of being an educator is when students apply what they are learning in school out in the world. We’re proud of Christian and can’t wait to cheer him on as he competes in the ISEF,” said Dr. Clifford Murray, Principal of Brockton High School.
A standout student, Christian is currently taking several rigorous courses, including AP Computer Science Principles. He hopes to take a second Advanced Placement course next year which will teach him additional coding techniques.
ISEF judging will take place May 3 through May 6 via video conferencing.