Jul 3, 2017 | By Tess

A 14-year-old from Boca Raton in Florida is developing a device that could help improve cancer research and diagnoses. Called SLIDEMAP, the innovative machine combines 3D printing technology and computer programming to make cancer detection simpler than ever for pathologists.

The teen in question, Devin Willis, is currently in his first year at the A.D. Henderson University School in Boca Raton. He says he has been working on the SLIDEMAP device for the past three years (yep, since he was only 11), and is currently a finalist in the Discovery Education and 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which awards students in grades 5 through 8 who have innovative solutions to global problems.

In fact, Devin’s project has been selected as one of the top ten final projects, and if the 3D printing SLIDEMAP device is chosen as the top winner, the young teen will not only win $25,000, but will also get the chance to continue his cancer research amongst notable scientists.

Devin was inspired to create the cancer detection device after his grandfather died from lung cancer a few years ago. Devin’s father, who is a cancer researcher himself, has also been a source of inspiration to him.

Essentially, the machine uses 3D printing technology and special algorithms to automate cancer detection processes, which are usually time-consuming and tedious. The algorithms that Devin created are capable of determining whether a tumor is cancerous or benign, and helps guide pathologists on where to look for cancer in a given sample.

“The goal of my project is to increase the accuracy and speed of my diagnoses using a low-cost robotics platform,” Devin explained to WPTV reporters. “I'm getting the video stream from this microscope camera. And it's connected to this computer. It would take multiple images and then stitch those images together—basically auto-detect what a pathologist would find in a tissue sample—and give them a map on where to look on the slide."

One of the most impressive aspects of the teen’s device is its cost. According to Devin, the SLIDEMAP machine only costs about $1,500 to make, while most cancer detection machines on the market can cost up to $250,000.

"Cancer diagnosis is a manual process, so it can take a while before a patient receives their biopsy results to learn if they need treatment,” explained John Henderson, who is mentoring Devin through a 3M summer program. “In one elegant bundle of technology, Devin's invention automates this detection step and could also improve diagnosis accuracy. On top of that, his device is much lower in cost than existing alternatives, which reduces the barrier for developing countries to improve standards of care.”

The 3M summer mentorship program will allow Devin to work with Henderson to improve his device’s prototype before unveiling it this October in Minnesota for the final stage of the 3M competition. There, along with the nine other finalists, the 14-year-old will have the chance to win the Young Scientist Challenge. If he wins, Devin believes he could get a patent for his SLIDEMAP device, bringing it one step closer to fruition.

If his cancer detection device wasn’t enough to impress, Devin is also in the process of obtaining both his high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. He is expected to receive both by the age of 18.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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