RoboRival: Zero to Roboticist in Six Months
When Sheila G. pitched her concept for RoboRival — an autonomous robot that would defend a soccer goal, enabling solo practice for aspiring athletes — she’d never written a line of code, nor soldered two wires together. Nevertheless, the Venture Board saw the potential of the product, as well as Sheila’s passion and drive.
Jeffery Flagg, our STEM Director, Sean Lueder, our Upper School Technology Specialist, and Director of Technology Michael Taggart worked weekly with Sheila on topics ranging from computer science to acoustic physics. She absorbed knowledge like a sponge, applying new discoveries to her first small prototype robot. By March, it was clear Sheila had internalized much of the skill knowledge necessary to make RoboRival a success, and we moved on to a larger robot chassis. Adding more sensors, this robot was able to move around a complicated environment without running into anything, while detecting objects and plotting an “intercept course,” the way a defender would on the soccer pitch.
Sheila's worked has not stopped. Her next and largest chassis is on its way, utilizing state-of-the-art laser rangefinding technology to create a virtual “map” of the environment for her robot to navigate.
MathBird: Making an App the Hard Way
August D. benefited from our advanced computer science curriculum before applying to MirmanX. He took the skills he developed in our Web Apps courses and set out to create a new kind of math app. Services like Wolfram Alpha will take your complex math homework and show you the solution step-by-step. However, for a diligent student like August, this was no way to truly learn the discipline of mathematics. He reasoned that a student could not be expected to learn well when given the answer. What’s more, giving the answer away robs the student of a sense of accomplishment. Still, students needed help with their math, so August arrived at the following middle-ground: provide strategic hints for a student as they attempt to solve the problem.
Using tech industry-standard technologies, August first built what’s known as an API — Application Programming Interface — that would take a typed math expression, parse it, and figure out what hint to return. That it takes only a sentence to describe this product belies the monumental effort and deep computer science work necessary to achieve it. August and fellow teammate Eli not only delved into college-level computer science, but interrogated the very nature of numbers to build a “parser” for math expressions. When can a plus sign follow a number? When can’t it? What about when a letter is next to a number? We don’t think much about these rules, but their software had to.
After the API was complete, August continued into the summer building the “frontend” of his app—the user-facing side. The result speaks for itself:
August is not finished. Although he’s now a student at Geffen Academy, August continues his work on MathBird as part of their I-Track program. Chalk it up as a successful launch for a MirmanX startup.
Safer Streets: The Making of a Filmmaker
Sophie S. wanted to address the dangers of texting while driving. It seemed to her, and the Venture Board, that a YouTube documentary from a child’s perspective might be a powerful message.