Corona graduate represents Queens as Young Innovator to watch

Corona native, Sharon Lin, 18 is one of 13 recipients under 20 selected to be a part of the Consumer Electrics Young Innovators award. Her app, “White Water,” uses high resolution photography to detect microbes as small as a nanometer in water.
Photo by Jiaqi Gao
By Naeisha Rose

Sharon Lin, a Corona native, a poet laureate, a tech wunderkind and a recent graduate of Stuyvesant High School who will be attending MIT in the fall, is one of 13 young adult recipients of CE Week NY and Living in Digital Times’ 2017 Young Innovators to Watch awards.

Miguel Gamiño, the city’s chief technology officer, hosted the annual ceremony July 12 that celebrated young men and women in technology who are 20 or under.

At the ceremony, the 13 recipients won a $1,000 scholarship for college through the Kay Family Foundation and CE Week NY. They also received a gift card provided by B&H Photo, a special speaker system provided by Monster, and a MiP Robot by WowWee Toys.

Lin, 18, is the creator of the White Water app. White Water uses photo technology on a smart phone to determine how safe water is. It can detect bacteria and abiotic particles with just a photo sample. Lin hopes her product will be used to help people in underdeveloped countries avoid exposure to water-borne illnesses like malaria.

“I use to do water quality at Science Olympiad, which is basically a science competition in high school, and I learned about how difficult it was for people in Third World countries to measure the water quality,” Lin said about the creation of her app. “There are a lot of microbes in the water of Third World countries that are difficult to detect if you don’t have the right technology.”

Lin was able to figure out what was in the water because the photo samples were able to capture images of microbes as small as a nanometer. Once captured, the photo could be run through image recognition software.

“It’s able to do this because it has an enormous database of images,” Lin said. “Then you could see if the current photo had similar enough images to another photo to identify the images based on past data. You would then be able to tell if the water was safe to drink or not.”

Lin, the Youth Poet Laureate of New York City, will be going to MIT in Cambridge, Mass. for electrical engineering in the fall.

Her love of all things technology started by accident and later became a hobby. It wasn’t until she went to Stuyvesant that she started to take the subject seriously.

“My father had an old college textbook lying around and I thought it was interesting, and I took a look at it.”

In middle school she taught herself how to use code to calculate Celsius to Fahrenheit, how to design websites, and how to program in Javascript.

“In high school I took intro CS, and I went to hack-a-thons, and I started to make video games,” Lin said. “I realized that there is a lot more potential than I thought before.”

Lin, a Chinese-American, writes poems about being the daughter of immigrants.

She said the $1,000 scholarship will allow her “to spend less time worrying about paying off college and more time worrying about building out projects for research at MIT.”

The Young Innovators to Watch Awards Ceremony was held at Metropolitan Pavilion.

(updating and fixing errors in original story

The awards ceremony was held by CE Week NY and Living in Digital Times and hosted by Miguel Gamino, the chief technology officer of New York City. Lin and the other 12 recipients each received a $1,000 scholarship.)

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

More from Around New York