Seniors Anthony Wu and Lark Moreno to present invention at biophysics conference

Seniors Lark Moreno and Anthony Wu created a new invention called STORMlite which they will be presenting at the 61st Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 13.

Their invention is essentially a simulator of a STORM microscope, a microscope used for biophysical microscopy.

“The point of our device is that it is cheap to make, it is highly distributable and easily portable,” said Wu.  “A STORM microscope is about as big as a room so it’s kind of hard to move around… essentially it’s not the best thing to teach with… Our device is relatively small… it’s supposed to replicate about the same thing as what a STORM microscope can do.”

Moreno and Wu began creating their invention after being approached by science teacher Sharlene Denos. Denos got the idea from Max Prigozhin, a friend who she went to graduate school with who is currently working on his post-doctorate at Stanford.

For his research, Prigozhin works with super resolution microscopy, and he thought it would be nice to create a device that could simulate the actual process of the STORM microscope for mostly teaching purposes, said Denos. According to her, they wanted to create a device that would be relatively cheap and portable, opposite to the STORM microscope that is expensive and about the size of a classroom. He approached Denos because of her interest in science education as he believed she would know students who might be interested in creating such a simulator.

For the project, Denos knew she needed a mechanical engineer and a computer engineer. She chose seniors Lark Moreno and Anthony Wu for their experience in the science field and their expertise in cading and coding respectively.

“Lark was working on a previous project for the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, and I knew that she was interest and had some skill in mechanical engineering types of things,” said Denos. “Anthony and I have been talking previously about a variety of things so I knew that he had interest and experience in programming, electronic devices, and building devices.” Anthony was also available over the summer, so Denos pointed out he was able to work with the large time commitment.

Starting out, Wu and Moreno had no where to begin; all they had was the idea to create a STORM microscope simulator.

“It was a very out there idea. To be honest I doubt any of us thought we were gonna finish because the idea was just so basic. We didn’t have any basis at all,” said Wu.

Even Denos did not know where to begin.

“Really a lot of things I had no idea… I hadn’t thought it through I know Max hadn’t thought it through,” said Denos, “Anthony really had to figure it all out. He had to figure out essentially every single thing about the device.”

Almost every day over summer, Denos pointed out, Wu would come in to work on STORMlite. Together, Wu and Moreno worked on the invention for over hundreds of hours, Wu creating the computer to simulate the microscope, while Moreno working on the container for Wu’s simulation, according to Moreno.

Though their task was arduous, they had a good support system to help them through their endeavor.

“I think Ms. Denos had a huge part,” said Moreno. “She’s such a motivated teacher. I think she really helped us work on a plan month by month, week by week for what to get done and what to try to do. For me it was simple tasks, small tasks I could do each day to help get it done. And for Anthony I’m sure he has his own huge planner for what he had to do.”

On Feb. 13 Wu and Moreno will be presenting their invention at the Annual Biophysical Society Meeting. At the meeting, scientists from around the world display their research and/or inventions. To enter the meeting, they submitted an abstract of their invention, which was reviewed and accepted by the committee. Typically, the meeting is for graduate and post- doctorates, but they accepted Wu and Loreno, high school students.

“[The meeting] It’s good for our objective,” said Wu, “Our objective is to make microscopy education cheaper and more affordable… that’s our main goal… going to an international conference lets us spread that way further than what we can do here”.

For the future, Wu and Moreno will be patenting their invention. They don’t plan to make money off the invention; the STORMlite was created the in the spirit of open engineering. They will be putting the instructions for the microscope on different coding websites.

“We really want to get it out there so anyone can build it,” said Wu.