7th Grade Student Uses Math to Take on COVID-19

7th Grade Student Uses Math to Take on COVID-19

December 1, 2021

This year, IPSF celebrates the 25th anniversary of supporting the educational experience of each child in every school in the Irvine Unified School District. We are so proud to support such an amazing educational community and are seeking to commemorate exciting achievements from IUSD students and alumni through our Profiles in Excellence Showcase.

See below for this month’s featured student and how you can submit the amazing student in your life.

Profiles in Excellence: Sebastian Alexis

In March 2020, right after California’s COVID-19 safety measures called for a lockdown, Sebastian Alexis, a 7th grader at Sierra Vista Middle School, sat at his home in Irvine watching the news for the latest updates on the pandemic. As he watched a segment on an anti-lockdown protest, it was at that moment he was inspired to see if he could find solid mathematical evidence that could demonstrate the effectiveness of lockdown measures.

“I have a love for science and to learn new things by finding out answers to questions I have. I am also naturally very competitive, and when I saw the protesters on the news, I wanted to find evidence to prove to them that there is scientific proof that shows the county lockdown was working.”

After doing extensive research, Sebastian found a mathematical model using an effective reproduction number (Rt), which represents the average number of secondary cases per infectious case. Its starting point measures the initial rate of virus spread in the population and then changes as time passes and the virus does or does not reproduce.

Sebastian started with the hypothesis that a lockdown would change COVID’s rate of transmission. He set out to calculate the lockdown’s effectiveness using a virus-spread model that has four component populations: people who are susceptible, exposed, infectious, or recovered. Starting with the initially documented value of R for the Orange County, Sebastian tracked the R value over time as the state lockdown continued. His results showed that during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, the first R value in the county was high (3.22). This indicates a significant virus presence. However, after state-level safety measures had been taken, the reproduction number decreased significantly to 0.67. He says that the reduction demonstrated the benefits of limiting mobility, and that the lockdown successfully slowed the spread of COVID in his region of Southern California.

With these incredible findings, Sebastian was selected as 1 of 30 national finalists, in the 11th annual Broadcom MASTERS®, the nation’s premier Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) middle school competition.

Before submitting his project to Broadcom MASTERS®, Sebastian developed his passion for science by participating in Irvine Unified School District’s Science Fair in 6th and 7th grade.

“My advice for kids who want to do the science fair now and in the future is to choose a relevant topic that is interesting to you and that you can follow. You need to think beyond Google, do thorough research, and compile data to find the answers.”

As Sebastian reflects on his project today, a year after starting it, he says he would like to eventually use the same mathematical method to calculate and show how vaccinations are effective.

To learn more at Broadcom MASTERS® program and this year’s finalists, visit:  https://www.societyforscience.org/broadcom-masters/index/2021-finalists/

Do you know an amazing IUSD student? Share your proudest stories of educational excellence for a chance to be featured during IPSF  25th Anniversary Profiles in Excellence Showcase!

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