Ryan Devitt, a senior at Santa Ynez High School, has received multiple awards for his Lidar science project at the 67th annual Santa Barbara County Science Fair.
He was awarded Best Senior Project for Senior Physical Sciences and Best in Division for Senior Physical Sciences. He will be receiving $400, as well as two plaques, a medal, and a gold medal certificate.
Ryan, a resident of Goleta, comes by his interest in science naturally – his father, John Devitt, is a scientist who works as the director of engineering for Raytheon. He also has a brother who is a programmer and coder who recently graduated from UCSB and currently works in chemical research.
The inspiration for Ryan’s project came from his father’s colleague Paul McManamon, the former President of SPIE, an international society for optics and photonics which was founded in 1955 to advance light based technologies.
“Paul gave me the idea but I really wanted to work on getting better at coding and (coding language) Python skills,” Ryan told the News-Press.
Ryan made an online Lidar calculator, which uses light detection and ranging through lasers and cameras to create visual maps to tell you how far away something is. It is similar to a heat signature, but the difference is that it is measured by distance, he explained to the News-Press.
Lidar photons are used to measure the power of a laser.
“Depending on how many photons return to the laser, that lets you know how far away an object is,” Ryan said.
The bulk of the work involved in Ryan’s project was coding.
“The work was figuring out which code worked,” said Mr. Devitt. Ryan used Python in his project.
Mr. Devitt believed that the judges were particularly impressed with his slideshow presentation.
“The slideshow I made was really well done. There were a lot of colors and really good images from Lidar maps. I believe that they thought it was really professional,” he said.
Ryan also entered the State Science Fair.
The school board will be honoring Ryan during the regular school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. tonight. He will be presented with his awards during the meeting and will also be giving a description of his project to the school board and the community.
“One of the most promising and new features of lidar is automotive lidar,” Ryan said. “Paul told me a story that one of his apprentices became the world’s youngest billionaire through the automotive lidar. The lidar can be used in the making of self-driving cars similar to Tesla, but in a better way than anything that we currently have,” he said.
Upon his graduation from Santa Ynez High School, Ryan hopes to attend Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) and then transfer to UCSB. He hopes to study coding and programming, or space travel. Ryan’s long-term career goals include working in space.
“I have always really wanted to go to space or even study up there, that would be really amazing,” he said.