Broadcom MASTERS alum develops low-cost disease-detection tool
Austin McCoy, a Broadcom MASTERS 2013 finalist, developed a thermocycler machine for $100 — much cheaper than current models. This machine allows scientists to study DNA and identify diseases. The lower cost of Austin’s machine makes it more likely to be used in the developing world, where it’s most needed.
“I decided to combine everything that I knew in science, technology, engineering and math, and see if I could make a difference in the world,” he said.
“The energy and excitement stemming from my Broadcom MASTERS involvement has definitely motivated me to continue on in STEM. I continue to be amazed by the incredible opportunities that I’ve had because of Broadcom,” Austin said.
For the past three years, Austin McCoy’s research has focused on the development of a low-cost, portable thermocycler.
It was the project that earned him first place in Technology at Broadcom MASTERS 2013. This portable, low-cost, energy efficient thermocycler can be used to help diagnose diseases. The funds he received from Broadcom MASTERS allowed him to travel with his mentor and a team from Mayo Clinic to the Council Of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, India.
A thermocycler uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to selectively copy and amplify pieces of DNA. The machine typically costs thousands of dollars and is not portable, rugged, or energy efficient, making it difficult to take into regions of the world that need it most.
The machine that Austin developed costs around $100, has precision temperature control, and runs on batteries. A key to the cost reduction was 3D printing technology, he said. “I find it amazing that parts that once cost several dollars are now a quarter,” he said.
Explaining his project at Broadcom MASTERS to scientists encouraged Austin to pursue STEM.
Austin remembers being asked by a judge from MIT to discuss his project. “This scientist just really seemed to get me and my project,” he said. “It was cool to relax, be myself, and have a great conversation with him.”
“The energy and excitement stemming from my Broadcom MASTERS involvement has definitely motivated me to continue on in STEM. I continue to be amazed by the incredible opportunities that I’ve had because of Broadcom MASTERS,” Austin said.