PR Log - Aug 10, 2012 - Robert Capita, President of the Capita Foundation, which provides grants for research into hearing loss, still chuckles about having offered a small equipment award to Jonah Kohn, then a 13 year old eighth grader at the San Diego Jewish Academy.
"When we heard about his project I saw this opportunity to encourage a promising young scientist," recalls Capita, whose instincts were justified when Jonah Kohn's experiment won first prize in the Cognitive Science Junior Division at the California State Science Fair, and then was selected winner of his age group by a jury of renowned scientists at the International Google Science Fair just last week.
Kohn’s project involves an innovative application of tactile sound to improve the experience of music for people with hearing loss. He came up with the idea after learning that he could hear a guitar clearly over noise by putting his teeth on its neck while it was being played. His school, San Diego Jewish Academy, encourages its students to pursue science projects and has a history of science fair prizes.
“It’s because I was interested in music,” saids Kohn, “Most hearing research emphasizes speech because it’s a priority for people with hearing loss, but by asking if tactile sound could help with music I had to try things that researchers hadn’t explored.”
Kohn is by far the youngest recipient of a grant from Capita Foundation, which sponsors many research projects annually. “We identify some of the most interesting hearing research projects in the USA and around the world and provide seed funding for innovation,” says Robert Capita who directs the foundation started by his father who suffered from severe deafness. “Our seed grants enable researchers to develop proof of concept which is a critical step for securing additional funding.”
Recently San Diego hosted a conference of world-renowned hearing researchers and Capita Foundation invited their grant-recipients and donors to a get-together at the downtown Chuck Jones Gallery. “There were neuroscientists, otolaryngologists, and medical doctors from Harvard, Scripps, Johns Hopkins, University of Washington, and then this eighth grader from San Diego Jewish Academy,” said Capita. “When it was his turn, he got up and introduced his project as if there was nothing unusual about it.”
Capita Foundation’s scientific advisory board is currently selecting its grant-recipients for 2012-2013. Meanwhile, back at the San Diego Jewish Academy, Jonah Kohn is preparing himself for the coming academic year.