Keyboard redesign wins science fair
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Mar 15, 2013 | 3103 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Building a better keyboard
Tracy High School junior Sara Bai displays her ergonomically designed computer keyboard Tuesday, March 12, a project that tied for first place at the San Joaquin County Science Fair. Bai will move on to the state competition in mid-April.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Designing a keyboard that could reduce carpal tunnel syndrome has earned Sarah Bai a spot in the state science fair next month.

The 16-year-old Tracy High junior tied for first place in the ninth-through-12th grade division at the 55th annual San Joaquin County Science Fair on March 8.

She will be taking her project, “Designing a more ergonomic QWERTY keyboard layout by analyzing punctuation frequency,” to the 62nd annual California State Science Fair at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on April 15 and 16.

Bai tied with Tokay High School student Julie Fukunaga, who reported on “Electromagnetic Soil Sensing.” Both will be representing San Joaquin County at state.

During the county competition, Bai was among more than 1,500 students presenting their projects. She was awarded a medal and $300 for first place.

While sitting in the Tracy High School office on Monday, March 11, Bai said she was delighted with her victory, but she said the challenge of her research was the real reward.

“I go not expecting to win,” she said. “If you have to justify yourself by winning, then the project is not worth it.”

Bai said she began her preliminary research in December, knowing that she wanted to do a project focused on altering the layout of the traditional qwerty keyboard.

“Qwerty” represents the first six letters at the upper left of the keyboard, and it is the most common key arrangement dating back to the 1920s, according to Webster’s Dictionary.

Bai concentrated on punctuation marks and rearranged the placement of keys, such as the comma, period and hyphen.

The goal was to design a keyboard that was ergonomic and lowered the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, she said.

According to Bai, the real fun of science fairs is meeting people with similar interests.

The idea to enter the county science fair arose in November, when Bai’s research adviser and physics teacher, Dean Reese, mentioned the possibility.

Reese said Monday that he wanted his students to get more involved in the fair this year and he was very proud of Bai’s accomplishments.

“She put a lot of hard work into that project — hours and hours and hours,” he said during a telephone interview. “I think she has an outstanding project.”

According to Reese, Bai isn’t the only Tracy High student slated to compete at the state fair.

Isfar Munir, also a junior, is also competing after placing third in the Sacramento Regional Science and Engineering Fair on March 8 and 9, Reese said.

Munir’s project, “The Effective Humidity on the Path Taken by an Electric Arc Generated by a Tesla Coil,” will be entered on an individual basis.

Munir received honorable mention at the county fair. He was not listed by the San Joaquin County Office of Education as a county representative for the state competition.

At right is a list of all the Tracy-area top winners at the 55th annual San Joaquin County Science Fair.

Names of winners were provided by the San Joaquin County Office of Education

on March 8.

Kindergarten to second grade:

• Class winner: Alicia Uchiyama’s kindergarten class for “Detecting Acids or Bases in Foods,” Bethany Elementary

• First place: Eshaal Naveed for “Boiling Water With Salt,” Wicklund Elementary

• Third place: Hunter Asami for “Every Day I’m Shuffling,” Lammersville Elementary

Third to fifth grade:

• First place: Samantha Lieburg for “What’s Stomata With You?” Jefferson School

• Second place: Callum Bodington for “Steps to Take When the Levee Breaks,” Bethany Elementary

• Third place: Spencer Evans for “See Ya Salt Water,” Jefferson School

• Honorable mention: Carmon Brown for “Magic Magnets,” Questa Elementary

Sixth to eighth grade:

• Honorable mention: Brayden Willis for “Study Time,” Tom Hawkins School

Ninth to 12th grade:

• First place: Sarah Bai for “Designing a More Ergonomic QWERTY Keyboard Layout by Analyzing Punctuation Frequency,” Tracy High School

• Honorable mention: Isfar Munir for “The Effective Humidity on the Path Taken by an Electric Arc Generated by a Tesla Coil,” Tracy High School

Environmental awards, third to fifth grade:

• Roselyn and Lillian Lazum for “Purified Water System,” South/West Park Elementary

Environmental awards, sixth to eighth grade:

• Gaby Garcia for “Is the Drinking Water Clean?” Bethany Elementary
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March 20, 2013
At least her project made it to the fair. At Questa they lost at least 10 projects in transit to Stockton. The students were basically told "Oh Well".

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