Promoting Student Innovation in Science and Technology – Viet Tung Dao

This month, the Islands Society is proud to recognize Viet Tung Dao as Local Emerging Leader for excellence in science and technology. As a Hawaii Preparatory Academy junior, Viet Tung Dao received the Special Innovation Prize at the Junior/Senior High School Science Idea Competition at the Tsukuba Science Edge 2016. His project was “Brainwave Technology for Real-Time Driver Drowsiness Detection.” The competition, held March 25 and 26 in Japan, included 60 students from schools throughout Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States competing through presentations showcasing original research and technology ideas. Managing Director of the Pacific Islands Society, Keiko Ono, spoke with Dao about his achievements and aspirations which highlight the value of young people pursuing STEM subjects in Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories.

How did your interest in science begin?

I have had a strong interest in science, especially Physics, since an early age. I really like Physics, it teaches me many useful lessons about things that happen around me. I believe these lessons will become important knowledge that I can apply in my work in the future.

Can you tell us about your winning project and how you came up with the idea?

My project “Brainwave Technology for Real-time Driver Drowsiness Detection” is to develop a system that connects a EEG (Electroencephalogram) headset to smartphone through Bluetooth. This EEG headset will record driver’s brain signals, and when the driver starts feeling drowsy his phone will ring and keep them awake. Moreover, the phone can turn on special music that makes them stay awake; with GPS connection, it can suggest the nearest coffee shop.
Drowsiness is one of the major causes of traffic accidents. In the U.S., drowsy driving is responsible for 100.000 crashes, including 6.000 fatal ones each year. Therefore, I wanted to do this project to save the lives of many people in the U.S, and other countries as well.

What were your thoughts entering the Tsukuba Science Edge event? Has your participation affected your future plans?

It was such an honor to participate and present my project at Tsukuba Science Edge. Tsukuba Science Edge is a big science event where many good projects from around the world were presented. Approximately 100 researchers and industry leaders serve as judges for the event, including Dr. Reona Ezaki. Since it was my first time presenting my project in front of a crowd in a science fair and I believe it was a good experience for me. I also had an opportunity to learn about other students’ projects and made new friends from different countries. Winning “The Innovation Special Prize” award, I am more confident about my independent project. I believe it will be easier for me to intern in a big technology company in the future.

Being chosen by a panel of judges including Dr. Reona Leo Ezaki, a former winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, at the age of 17 is a testament to your talent. Closer to home, your project advisor Dr. Bill Wecking said that ‘this is the sort of work from students that makes me optimistic about the future’. In what ways do you think young people in Hawaii should be encouraged to create initiatives such as yours?

In my opinion, creating and doing a science project is not that hard. There are many problems that we are facing today, such as global warming, traffic accidents, drug/alcohol abuse, etc. We need to brainstorm and list all the solutions for these problems; then we choose the best one that can solve the problems effectively with a low cost to make a project. The main question is whether the young students in Hawaii are ready to spend much time researching and experimenting – turning this into their passion – and have the willingness to finish it.

What do you think are the main barriers facing young students like yourself in developing more innovative solutions to solve the problems our communities face today? How do you think they can be solved or improved?

I think the most common problem that prevents young students from following their science dream is lack of facility. In order to do a deep research for a project, you need suitable equipment. In my case, because I need to do research on drivers’ brainwave, the tool I use is EPOC+, an EEG headset that can read the user’s brain signals. I know there aren’t many schools in Hawaii that can afford expensive equipment. I am very lucky to do my independent research at HPA Energy Lab, which is a huge building that has all facilities for different study areas. Moreover, to do an independent science project, besides researching on the internet, you should get help from an experienced teacher who has wide knowledge about the area you are studying and who can help you use the research equipment. I would like to thank Dr. Bill, Director of HPA Energy Lab and also my mentor, for guidance and support.

Do you have any innovative ideas you are currently developing which you’d like to develop in the future?

For now, I just want to focus on my driver drowsiness detection project. I may have some ideas to improve the project’s performance in the future.

Finally, what advice would you give to young students like yourself in Hawaii?

I would tell the young students in Hawaii that, “Doing a science project costs much time, so it would be better for you to be ready if you really want to do it. Sometimes, you may feel bored, but when you turn your project into your passion, into your goal, you will love the way you do experiments. You will honor the time you spend doing research, and you will have the willingness to make your project work perfectly.”


Local Emerging Leader
Local Emerging Leader

Viet Tung Dao is a junior at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. He received the Special Innovation Prize at the Junior/Senior High School Science Idea Competition at the Tsukuba Science Edge 2016.

The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: Eric Horst via Flickr CC

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