When Storm Rhoda began working on his school project, all he was hoping for was an A. The thing is though, in his pursuit for perfection, he created a ground-breaking app in the fields of medicine and computer science, won a few national and international awards and became one of the most talked about young minds in the country, all before he completed grade 11.
Storm’s latest award is the first place gold medal at the 2020 Buca International Fair, in the category of Mathematics and Computers. The fair was held in Turkey’s Buca district. It aims to encourage high school students to do scientific and Technological Research; and contribute to the positive development of young people.
For those who do not know, in 2019 as a grade 11 student, Storm created an algorithm (computer programme) that can identify pneumonia through x-rays. Storm basically created a unique computer program for an x-ray machine which makes it possible for the machine to see if someone has pneumonia. The faster pneumonia is picked up, the faster doctors can treat it which could lead to a lot of lives being saved. More importantly, unlike other algorithms, it does not need an internet connection to work. This means that Storm’s algorithm works faster and once again, saves more lives.
This invention is especially important at a time when the world is still struggling with Covid-19. If a Covid-19 patient gets pneumonia, his or her chances of dying accelerate. When you see a Covid patient on ventilators struggling to breath, that is because of the pneumonia. Of course, the faster the pneumonia is picked up, the faster the patient can be put on ventilators and treated.
Medical professionals and academics that have spoken to Storm about his invention says that despite having only been in grade 11 at the time, he has the mind of a university graduate. When you suggest to him that he is a genius for having come up with this invention, he politely disagrees and says that it has everything to do with hard work. It took him three months of sleepless nights to learn about medicine, and x-ray machines. Programming was his hobby and as an already gifted programmer; it took him a day to type out the algorithm. In fact, he is so good at programming that he has certificates and licences in C# Unity Development, Unity Android Game Development, 2D/3D Unity Game Development, C++ Unreal Engine Game Development, MathWorks MatLab, MathWorks MatLab Machine Learning and MathWorks MatLab Deep Learning.
In addition to this latest award, he also won the HATCH Hendrik van der Bijl Special Award at Eskom’s Expo International Science Fair for Young Scientists, a Special Award from the Department of Science and Technology, the Siemens Ingenuity for Life Award and he represented South Africa at Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. He has also received hundreds of thousands in prize money and is using that money to copyright his idea and turn it into a business.
Given his long list of achievements at such an early age, one would assume that he does not have time for hobbies but this is not so. If there is one thing he loves doing, its playing basketball. In fact, there was a point in his life where, if he could, he would spend most of his time on the basketball court instead of studying. Contrary to what many believes, there is no such thing as the perfect kid and Storm never claimed to be one. He reluctantly admits that from grade 8 to 10, he was a bit of a rebellious kid.
The reason he is reluctant to talk about this part of his story is simply because he is not proud of it. A rebellious kid, he was in and out detention, his parents having to see the teachers and the teachers themselves not being fond of him. However, he looked in the mirror one day and asked himself if, 30 years from now, he would be proud of what he sees. The answer to that question was, ‘No’. He sat down with his parents and promised them and himself that he would never go to detention again. He was and will never be prepared to give up on basketball so he made a deal with his parents that he would find a balance between the two. This is how he lives his life and will continue to live his life.
To the question of whether a kid can turn his or her life around and become remarkable, the answer is a resounding, “YES!” In that same year that he decided to change, Storm started developing an award winning medical computer programme, became one of his teacher’s favourite students, became the deputy prefect of his school, made his parents proud and most importantly, when he looked in the mirror, he did so with pride. He became such a disciplined young man, that during the 2020 Covid epidemic, instead of enjoying his time at home, he got up early every weekday, put on some clothes, sat down at his desk and went through his schoolwork as if it was an ordinary school day. Now, do not misunderstand. He is still a bit of a rebel. You do not create a ground-breaking computer application by just sticking to the rules.
At this point, it should be mentioned that Storm had to go up against some of the brightest young minds in the world. These bright young minds include those from the best performing nation in Mathematics and Computer Science, China. This last point emphasises what Storm teaches us as a nation. He confirms that we are capable of not only competing with the best but also beating the best. Yes, winning is not everything but it does feel nice though, holding up that gold and seeing it glitter in the sun.