Citizen science from a high school whiz kid

One high school student is pulling ahead of his classmates and helping citizen environmentalists contribute to larger research projects along the way.

High-school senior Samuel Pritt recently won $40,000 from the Siemens Foundation for taking third place in the 2012 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology with his project, ‘Geolocation of Photographs by Means of Horizon Matching with Digital Elevation Models’.

Using Java, Pritt developed a computer algorithm that can figure out where a photograph was taken by looking at the horizon. In this video he speaks specifically about the algorithm’s potential usage for Community Remote Sensing, a form of environmental citizen science where nonscientists collect data, here through photographs, to help monitor air, wildlife and other environmental concerns at the local level - something that is impossible with larger-scale observations like those made by satellites. The program can be used for purposes ranging from counter-terrorism to disaster relief.

Pritt presented and published a paper surrounding this topic at the 2012 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium in Munich, Germany. As far as he knows, he was the only high school present or presenting at the conference.

Pritt will be a freshman at Harvard University in Fall 2013 and will most likely major in engineering. He has submitted a patent application for this project, which is currently pending.

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