Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior Michelle Hua, a Troy native, is a rhythmic gymnast for Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics, holding the highest level in the gym, level 10. Hua was awarded the $75,000 George D. Yancopoulos Innovator Award in 2021 for her video training application.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior Michelle Hua, a Troy native, is a rhythmic gymnast for Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics, holding the highest level in the gym, level 10. Hua was awarded the $75,000 George D. Yancopoulos Innovator Award in 2021 for her video training application.

Photo provided by Kris Kelly

Cranbrook Kingswood senior’s love for technology and rhythmic gymnastics pays off

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 8, 2023


BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The Cool Math Games website any 2000s kid would remember from school was the ultimate form of free time in the classroom, but for Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior Michelle Hua, it was the ultimate test when it came to creating her own game.

“I remember at the end it wasn’t even working the way I thought it would,” Michelle Hua said, laughing. “It was like a bunny catching, like, falling carrots from the sky. I remember sitting in the computer lab we had the class working on it every day and working with a teacher on it, but after the project due date, it didn’t work.”

Between Hua, a Troy native, and her middle school teacher, an answer to why the game wasn’t working became difficult to find.

Hua’s interest with computer science was always there, since her first middle school class, but the bunny and carrot game brought out a different side to her.

“I remember after the class ended, after the school year and into the summer, I was able to work on it in the summer on my own, and eventually I got it working,” Hua said.

Her persistence would not only strengthen her love for computer science, but also show why her 11 years at Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics has led her to a level 10 ranking, which is not only the highest at her gym but the highest ranking in the United States Olympic Junior Program.

Mixing her love of computer science and rhythmic gymnastics, Hua’s video training algorithm won the $75,000 George D. Yancopoulos Innovator Award in 2021, which is the top award at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair.

Hua won the top honor in a field of over 1,800 participants and was the first female to win in over a decade.

The competition took place over Zoom, with judges analyzing and critiquing different projects, and ended with all the Michigan-based entries watching the ceremonial announcement from a movie theater in Birmingham.

Even after it came down to the final announcement for first place, Hua said she was in shock when she heard her name called.

“I obviously didn’t think I would win, but I remember watching the livestream, and there was, like, a cameraman from ‘Local 4’ just putting the camera on me, and I was like, ‘Well, why are they recording me?” Hua said.

Now Hua’s application has netted her a top-40 finalist position in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, which is the nation’s most prestigious and  oldest science and math competition, according to the organization. Hua was selected from a pool of over 1,900 entries, with each finalist receiving $25,000.

Hua’s training routine is a phone app that can take a video of a gymnastics routine and create a silhouette to continue learning from.

“For each image, I find the silhouette,” Hua said. “So when you combine the silhouette and mend them all together, it’s kind of like a 3-D cloud kind of thing with all the silhouettes, and from there you’re able to see what needs to be corrected and where changes need to be made.”

The pandemic gave Hua ample time to explore her interests and take chances.

With Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics only doing practices over Zoom, complications arose for Hua to try to perfect her gymnastics craft.

“I wanted to see if I could use my knowledge in computer science, specifically AI, to alleviate the difficulties we faced during the pandemic and create this kind of real-time coaching algorithm and action recognition algorithm to do it.”

Taking online courses on artificial intelligence she found on the internet, Hua was able to begin coding her application and bringing it to life.

Hua, who has already been accepted into Harvard University and the University of Michigan, continues to attend science fairs and various competitions, but also continues to serve as a team captain on her gymnastics team.

Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics program director Karyn Glover said Hua’s application was a perfect representation of her two favorite things.

“What was cool from our point of view is that she loves gymnastics, she has a huge passion for gymnastics, and she’s a beautiful gymnast, but she also has a passion for science,” Glover said. “It’s a beautiful pairing of the two.”

Already a mentor as a veteran rhythmic gymnast, Hua said her ideal job is to one day be a professor in computer science.

While she may be moving away from the Oakland Rhythmic Gymnastics’ training facility at East Hills Middle School in Bloomfield Hills, Hua said she plans to come back to the studio whenever she can to continue to teach.

Whether it’s her application, her endeavor to one day be a professor, or her gymnastics, Hua said teaching is something that will always be on her mind.

“I definitely want to coach someday,” Hua said. “Whether it’s at my club or wherever I’m at in the future, I definitely want to come back in the summer. I know a lot of graduates from our club like to come back in the summer and help out in the gym, do a two-week coaching, and just helping out at summer camps. It’s definitely something I want to do.”

Hua and the other top finalists will compete in a week-long competition this month at the Regeneron Science Talent Search in Washington, D.C., for a grand prize of $250,000.