Bangor Student Wins Sixth in the Nation in Science Talent Search

Vetri Vel Bangor HS

The Bangor School Department is proud to congratulate Vetri Vel ’21 for winning sixth place in the 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Vetri received an $80,000 award for his project engineering a deep learning system that combines a small computer and thermal camera to detect heat signatures of a fallen person. Upon recognition of a fall, the system will immediately text for help. 

Historically held in person in Washington, D.C., this is the second year in its 80-year history that the competition took place virtually to keep the finalists and their families safe during the ongoing pandemic. Forty finalists were honored during a virtual ceremony March 17, and more than $1.8 million was awarded to the finalists, who were evaluated based on their projects’ scientific rigor, their exceptional problem-solving abilities, and their potential to become scientific leaders. 

Barbara Stewart, Chair of the BHS Science Department, has also been named a Teacher of Merit by Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021. Bangor High School will receive $2,000 to promote student research in STEM fields. 

“Congratulations to the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021 winners,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science, Publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alumna. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, students have shown incredible resilience and perseverance in the face of new obstacles, conducting rigorous research, while navigating an uncertain world. These young people are the stewards of our future and I could not be more inspired by their hard work and pure grit.” 

The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides a national stage for future leaders in STEM – bringing together the best and brightest young minds to present their original research ideas to leading scientists. The competition celebrates the hard work, innovative thinking, leadership qualities and creativity of students who are bringing a fresh perspective to solving significant global challenges through rigorous research and cutting-edge discoveries. The judging panel also considers how these research efforts, innovative thinking and leadership qualities demonstrate the students’ potential to become future leaders in critical STEM fields. 

At BHS, Vetri is a varsity runner, a member of the science bowl team, and captain and top-ranked scorer on the varsity math team. He also volunteers as a virtual math tutor for his peers. He has also been accepted to MIT in the Fall of 2021. Vetri’s winning project is described below:

Project Title: Real-Time Fall Detection System for the Elderly Using Thermal Imaging and Deep Learning 

Vetri developed a wall mounted, real-time fall detection system for his Regeneron Science Talent Search engineering project. Distressed that an elderly neighbor had lain unassisted after a fall for nearly a day, Vetri engineered a hands-free solution that could immediately text for help after detecting a fall. He interfaced an inexpensive microcomputer with a thermal camera, collected room images that did or did not include a fallen person, and used them to train a neural network. At an average accuracy above 98 percent, his deep learning system distinguished between a fallen person and those sitting, standing, or sleeping, as well as nonhuman heat sources, such as pets. His approach also preserves privacy by relying solely on heat signatures for recognition. Vetri’s detection system may decrease future hospitalizations and deaths after a fall, which is a leading cause of fatalities among seniors.

Information for this article was provided by the Bangor School Department as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at