Eighteen-year-old Daniel Handlin of Lincroft finished eighth in the Intel Science Talent Search competition completed yesterday in Washington.

For his work developing a cheap-yet-accurate way of tracking satellites, Handlin — a senior at the High Technology High School, also in Lincroft — won a $20,000 scholarship.

From the Star-Ledger:

Handlin, the son of Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), said being a “Star Trek” fan led to an interest in space from an early age. His sophomore year, he began researching ways to track satellites with a commercially available night-vision scope, a camera and two low-power telescopes.

After figuring out the math involved, he set up a network of amateur astronomers in New Mexico and Washington state to feed him data. His calculations on this position of orbiting satellites were nearly identical to those being generated by huge, government-owned radar arrays.

“Daniel’s project is extremely relevant for national and international security,” [top judge Andy] Yaeger said. “It was an incredible innovation. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself that you’re looking at projects produced by high school students.”

The overall winner was a 17-year-old girl from Oklahoma who built a cheap-yet-accurate version of a spectrograph, a molecule-identifying device that normally markets for $100,000; hers cost a few hundred bucks.

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