San Jose

San Jose Teen Makes Popular Mechanics List of '15 Young Innovators'

17-year-old Maya Varma is helping people breathe a little easier.

A San Jose teen made the pages of Popular Mechanics this month for her work on diagnostic spirometers – expensive machines that are used to measure the health of the lungs.

Here’s the kicker: 17-year-old Maya Varma of Presentation High School created her spirometer for less than $35. The machine can be used to calculate lung capacity and flow rate, as well as diagnose asthma, COPD, emphysema and restrictive lung disease.

Varma, who is featured in the magazine’s "15 Young Innovators" spread, made the potentially life-saving device with a 3D-printer, her own impressive engineering skills and an app that she uses as a data repository.

NBC caught up with Varma back in April when she was taking her spirometer to science fairs. The teen has been entering the science-friendly competitions since 6th grade, and she’s always managed to take home a prize. Despite her many victories, however, Varma insists she enters for the fun of it – and, of course, the good that her devices can bring to people all over the world.

"I don’t really do science fairs to win," the 19-time champion said back in April. "I do it for fun…and when it comes to COPD and these pulmonary illnesses, 90 percent of the deaths occur in developing nations since they don’t have access to the equipment that they need. "

Varma has also created devices to help people suffering from diabetes, machines that can be used to deter distracted driving, and even her own DNA-sequencing computer.

"Every year, I try and make something that can help people," she said with a smile.

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