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"America's Top Young Scientist" Wants To Use Music Therapy To Improve Mental Health

Nov 10, 2021

Sarah Park has known about the impact of music on the brain since a young age.

The 13-year-old, who has been playing violin since the age of 4, says she noticed its positive effect on those around her, especially her grandmother, who suffered from mental health illness.

Now, the Jacksonville, Florida, middle-schooler hopes to use music therapy to help others with mental health issues. Her invention, Spark Care+, earned her the title of "America's Top Young Scientist" at the 3M Young Scientist Challenge on October 19, 2021.

"I was pretty shocked when they announced my name as the grand prize winner," Park said. "I was excited and thrilled with what's to come next with Spark Care+."

Spark Care+ requires participants to respond to a series of questions. Based on the Hamilton Anxiety and Depression Scale, they are designed to assess the person's mental state. The device's inbuilt sensors record vital mental health indicators, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Spark Care+'s AI (Artificial Intelligence) component analyzes the information and recommends the appropriate music to help lift the participant's spirits. It also monitors its impact on the listener.

The ninth-grader hopes to turn her prototype into a wristband with inbuilt sensors, a heart-rate monitor, and Bluetooth. She also wants to build an app to make SparkCare+ accessible to everyone. "I hope to be able to distribute it around the world to people of all ages," Park says.

In addition to being an inventor, Park is also a musical prodigy who has won several violin competitions, including the Florida state championship. She also plays the piano and is a math champion. The 13-year-old aspires to be an innovator and researcher in the medical field using technology and robotics. Her advice to other young scientists? "Dream big, ask questions, and anything is possible."

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