All posts by tvallery

Team Little Kids Update – Post by Maguire McMahon EDI’20

Hello. My name is Maguire McMahon and this year I worked with Keon Tavakoli on a project named “EDI in Aftercare.” Every other Wednesday Keon and I would venture down to the lower school to run build projects for children in 4th through 6th grade. These projects were designed to encourage fun learning while teaching lessons in teamwork, planning ahead, and so much more. Our first priority for the children is fun, followed by Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math learning.

One such session Keon and I ran was a competition where the children were put into small groups of 2 to 4 and given straws and tape and told to build the tallest, free-standing structure. Keon and I tested this project weeks in advance, and were able to, with the same materials and time limits, to build a tower around 30-36 inches in total. The children had 2 separate trials in order to make them learn from their mistakes. The first trial, one group was very successful, tying Keon and me at around 36 inches. But tragedy hit for Keon and my record during the second trial in which a different group reached over 50 inches, with less time, less tape, and fewer straws than the first trial.

Below are photos Keon and I took throughout a few of our trials. Some of the trials we ran include having the children build an aluminum boat that can hold the most weight, build the tallest, free-standing balloon structure, and a paper airplane challenge. Keon and I hope to continue this project through next year while hopefully opening up to 1st through 3rd graders as well.

Hydroponic Garden Update by Charlie Walker EDI’21 and Olivia Danielson EDI’21

Design Change: In 2018, all of the EDI Fellows were given a design challenge proposed by Jarod Haley, a 2020 Chesapeake Bay Fellow. This challenge was to create a prototype of an hydroponic garden. This garden would be used to grow plants which would be given to local food shelters. While the original project was to create a hydroponic garden, it has since been changed to be built as an aquaponic system. An aquaponic system is a system which utilizes nutrients produced from fish in order to grow plants. These nutrients are sent into the water in which the plants rest on, resulting in the growth of these plants. This change requires several changes to be made to the initial design.

On May 7th, Olivia Danielson ‘21 and I presented our project to the other EDI Fellows. We have created numerous CADs (computer assisted designs) for the project and are currently attempting to find a functional, safe, and energy efficient design to move this project into the building phase. Throughout all of our prototypes, we have encountered many problems regarding the design. The current design stands approximately 4 feet tall and uses gravity to pump the fish nutrients into the plant beds. This design, however, could have many potential problems due to its height as well as its requirement for electricity. In order to be built without the need of professional assistance, the structure must be under ~5 feet tall. Along with this problem, the structure requires a helpful amount of electricity to pump the water from the bottom layer back into the top.

Due to the problems from the current design, Olivia and I have been brainstorming an easier to build, simpler design which eliminates both its unneeded height and electricity dependence. This design will most likely be simplified into a square with tiers which each contain one of the three components needed for an aquaponic garden. If this design is approved, the building phase will be started shortly after.

Atomic Orbitals Model – Post by Caitlin Johnson EDI’21

The NA chemistry teachers approached Christopher Asuncion EDI’21 and I last November to create a combined model of atomic orbitals for their Chemistry classes. We have been working on the model for several months, and now it is finally complete!

White/Clear Sphere – 2s orbital. Dark Green Lobes – 2p orbital.

Background:Orbitals are the areas in which the electrons of an atom are located, and they form different shapes.  Our orbital model features the 1s orbital, the 2s orbital, and the 2p orbital, with the 1s and 2s orbitals having a spherical shape, and the 2p having a teardrop shape. The project started in November 2018 with some initial research, and ended in April 2019 with the final touch-ups.

Light Green Sphere- 1s Orbital. Clear Sphere – 2s Orbital. Dark Green Lobes – 2p Orbital .

Update: We developed the design in CAD, and 3D printed it once the design was finished. We settled on half of an atom, with a full 1s orbital in the middle. Additionally, we printed many prototypes, as we wanted to make the 2s orbital slightly translucent, which necessitated many trials. After three prototypes, we printed a final orbital model, where we then secured the halves together with magnets. This allowed the chemistry teachers to open the model and show the 1s orbital to their classes, while also letting them close the model back up. When the model was printed, however, we came across breakage at the points where the 2p orbital met the 2s orbital. I then used a special pen to use melted 3D printer filament to weld the 2p and 2s together. I also painted the 1s and the 2p in order to differentiate the two orbitals. I coated the 1s in glow-in-the-dark paint, and the 2p in dark green paint. Christopher and I are now working on a d orbital model, which has a more complicated shape, and will require more consideration in the process of creation.

Field Day Map update by Patrick McElroy EDI’19

The chaos of Field Day has long been a part of the charm of the day for me, but, as I’ve gotten older, not having some of the schedules or locations on hand has become more of a nuisance. Thinking on it, I realized that it must be worse for those who haven’t been at NA for 12 years like I have, or who have trouble getting around. Because of this, in Fall 2018, I set out to create an interactive electronic map that people could use to navigate the events and scheduling of Field Day. After meeting with Ms. Dougherty, the organizer of Field Day, I realized that this map could also be used in the planning of the day itself, as many of the different teams working on the day could use different layers to make a comprehensive electronic map.

One of the hardest parts of the project was finding and learning the software. After I learned the basics of creating layers and linking to other PDF pages with interactive buttons, I created prototypes for the map. I sent Ms. Dougherty the prototypes that I made, and I incorporated her feedback into the next iteration of the map. Though the final product of this work was not in place during this year’s Field Day, I hope the framework behind the map can be used for years to come and that younger EDI Fellow takes on this project, to create an easier and more understandable Field Day for everyone involved.

Outdoor Middle School Courtyard – Update by Frances Harrington eDI’19 and Kevin Smedley EDI’19

Here are Kevin Smedley EDI’19 and Frances Harrington EDI’19 about their project related to using an outdoor space here at NA.

Today we presented our final plan for the outdoor space in the middle school. Our project started in the ninth grade as one of the first projects of our cohort. Due to prior issues, however, we were unable to continue working on it until this year. Our original inspiration for this space came when our team realized that Middle School students had no outdoor quiet study space. The Pit is often tumultuous during times when students might study, and almost all other outdoor spaces are not utilized. Furthermore, teachers don’t have an option to teach their students outside.

hoped to create a space that could be used by students to study outside  and also used by teachers as a classroom. In multiple studies involving children undergoing large amounts of stress, it was found that nature left these children in a far more relaxed, focused state. Adam Alter, a psychology professor at NYU states in his 2013 book, Drunk Tank Pink, “People who are exposed to natural scenes aren’t just happier or more comfortable; the very building blocks of their physiological well-being also respond positively.” Alter also points out that nature gives us the chance to think as much or as little as we’d like, and the opportunity to replenish exhausted mental resources. William James, a psychologist in the 20th century, believes that there are two types of attention: Directed and Involuntary attention. He explains that nature attract our attention involuntarily.

When we first began this project in the ninth grade, we ended the year with only the base of the hexagon: 7 feet on each side with rocks on the inside. As we moved through this year, we came up with the final plan of having benches placed on four out of the six sides of the hexagon. One side will be left open as an entrance and on the opposite side will be two posts that can hang a whiteboard. This way, when teachers want to teach an outdoor class or have a student help session, they now have an alternate area to turn to as opposed to the Pit. Additionally, this space can double as just another hangout space for middle school students. Moving forward into the future, we hope to pass this project on to someone from a younger cohort.

Biodegradable Food Packaging by Sebastian Singh EDI’19

Here is Sebastian Singh, Senior EDI Fellow ’19, describing his current project.

Recently, I have taken up a project relating to biodegradable food packaging. Currently, there are two main problems with food packaging materials and methods, the first being the use of styrofoam; Styrofoam is manufactured by using HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, which have negative impacts on the ozone layer and global warming. Additionally, styrofoam contains styrene, which is labeled as a possible carcinogen, meaning it can directly hurt humans. Second, thousands of birds, turtles, marine mammals, and other wildlife are killed every year by discarded 6-pack rings. Some animals get entangled in the pack and it wraps around their beak or muzzle, preventing them from eating. While my project target more than just these problems, I have focused on these because they are, perhaps, the most urgent of the issues.

The market for such a project is expansive, considering that the global food packaging market size was estimated at USD 277.9 billion in 2017, and exhibits a compound annual growth rate of 5.1% over a ten-year period. Growing demand for packaged food by consumers owing to quickening pace of life and changing eating habits is expected to have a major impact on the industry. If biodegradable food-packaging options can be provided at a low cost, the market could be completely transformed.

Thus far, I have been engaged in material research and exploration as well as networking. I have talked with a brewery about using spent grain to create a biodegradable, but structurally sound six-pack ring and have recently spoken to mentors about different materials that could potentially contribute to the structure. I plan to potentially continue this project into the summer and create a final product for distribution to restaurants in the local area.

Biomimicry in Urban Architecture – By Keon Tavakoli EDI’21

Adapt by Amina Khan. The presentation dived deeper into Chapter 8 – Cities as Ecosystems: Building A More Sustainable Society

Every few weeks EDI fellows are split into three groups and each group is assigned a chapter from the book Adapt by Amina Khan. This blog post will discuss one of the presentations from the past week. The topic of the presentation was biomimicry, the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes. Patrick McElroy EDI’19, Frances Harrington EDI’19, Connor Holland EDI’19, Kevin Smedley EDI’19, and AJ Keels EDI’21 put together a very appealing presentation.

Their presentation specifically focused on current examples and potential implementations of biomimicry in cities around the world. They provided several examples of biomimicry in our Hampton Roads area, including a CHKD hospital in Norfolk and the Brock

CHKD Hospital

Center in Virginia Beach. The CHKD hospital displays fish on the floor in part the hospital, and the fish react to any passerbys by avoiding their steps and swimming away. This simple implementation of nature in our community helps to calm down nervous kids before a procedure or provide a fun distraction for kids walking away from one. Another example, the Brock Center, was built next to Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach and the natural scene coupled with the

The Brock Center, Virginia Beach, VA

extremely green power of the building promote the center’s mission to make the world more eco-friendly. This tribute to the natural world implements biomimicry in the sense that the building itself was built near the beach. Being surrounded by

Keon Tavakoli ’21

nature further represents the foundation’s commitment to making the world more like nature, the same goal biomimicry attempts to accomplish. Each of these buildings act as optimistic precedents for a more natural world in the future.

A Hackathon Hosted by the Seniors – Written by Kevin Smedley EDI’19

By Kevin Smedley EDI’19

This past Thursday, February 5th, the senior EDI fellows ran a hackathon for the younger fellows and the directors. The seniors designed this Hackathon around the concepts of sustainability and eco-friendliness, as every day, we use various things that affect the environment in a negative way. Many of these things also produce an excessive amount of waste. For this hackathon, the seniors wanted teams of EDI fellows and directors to design a compact product that people (and more specifically students) could use, with a focus on reducing any possible negative effects toward the environment. At the end of the project, two things must be presented: a CAD design of the product and a rough physical prototype that demonstrates how it would work. Each team had to explain why students would want to use their product and why it would make their lives more environmentally friendly.

Each team of three was provided the following materials to create their prototypes: cardboard, straws, rubber bands, glue, and cardstock. We, the Seniors, judged each team on their design and quality of their presentation. We were focused on two main categories for our judging: eco-friendlines and why students would want to use it.

The seniors were presented with 4 designs: a biodegradable syringe, a smart water bottle, a fidget spinner phone charger, and a urinal

Schematic of the urine battery technology that already exists. Figure Borrowed from Walter et al. 2017 Applied Energy <>

urine battery. The biodegradable syringe came in first place as the presentation was

Schematic of Urine Battery Internal Structure. Figure taken from Walter et al. 2016 Biotech for Biofuels. <>

beautifully executed and the idea was very creative. The smart water bottle, which provided a tracker to show you how much water you drank throughout the day as well as a hatch to expel water for plants, came in second place with a smooth presentation. In third place came the unconventional fidget spinner which could power a phone similar to a hand cranked flashlight. The team of directors used materials other than those listed in the guidelines and were thus placed last. However, their design for a urine battery which could be implemented in bathrooms to power the lights was highly innovative and was a brilliant implementation of a normal urine battery.

A Model for Modeling: ODU’s Dr. McKenzie and the Engineering of Simulation by Patrick McElroy ’19

Dr. McKenzie, Department Chair of Modelling and Visual Simulation at ODU

The Robot from ODU in the Hawaiian Competition

By Patrick McElroy EDI’19

On Wednesday, January 24, the EDI Fellows had to privilege of hearing from Dr. McKenzie, the chair of the Modelling and Visual Simulations Engineering department at Old Dominion University. The field of study is relatively new, especially as an undergraduate program like it is at ODU. However, as a branch of engineering, it is broadly applicable. Dr. McKenzie presented examples that ranged from game physics engines, war simulations, a birthing simulator, to even a system for drug administration, all of which utilized Modeling and Visual Simulation in some way. It can be used for such various purposes because of its nature as a general problem solving tool, with Dr. McKenzie referring to it as “problem solving on steroids”.

As we move into the future, this kind of modelling technology will only become more crucial and integral to companies, schools, and labs. Dr. McKenzie pointed out that a lot of the underlying theory behind this major was put in place in the early 90’s, but at that point, the field lacked the computational power. As our computers continue to grow more and more powerful, we will be able to model increasingly complex systems with more accurate results. But even today, places like ODU are reaping the benefits of an education in modelling and simulation. The undergraderatues in ODU’s Modelling and Visual Simulation Department have seen success in a variety of areas, with one team even winning money as part of a autonomous boat competition in Hawaii. In the future of this competition, they hope to be able to build the entire environment within a simulation and test a virtual model of their boat within it.

The branch of engineering that Dr. McKenzie introduced us to was interesting in itself, but I think it was also useful for us because many of us, especially the seniors, who are in the midst of deciding their future discipline. Seeing this example of a powerful and yet non-traditional engineering majors gave a lot of us a new perspective on engineering as a whole, and what we might be interested in more specifically pursuing. Thanks again to Dr. McKenzie for coming and talking to us, and giving us such an in-depth look at this field!

Blog Post about Speaker, Kim Jenks

In October, we invited Kim Jenks to skype with us about her career as an aerospace engineer. She gave us a very engaging and informative insight on her journey in becoming an aerospace engineer. She also provided many helpful tips if we were also interested in pursuing a career in engineering.

An aerospace engineer designs, builds, and tests aircraft, spacecraft, rockets, and missiles. Jenks herself currently specializes in missiles. She was initially interested in becoming an aerospace engineer because of her interests in astronomy and physics. Through college courses at UCLA, she cemented her plan on becoming an aerospace engineer. A typical day in her work life can vary. It can include technical and/or social tasks including developing simulation code, analyzing data, improving efficiency in manufacturing, testing hardware, and other responsibilities. These tasks could also include traveling to other places.

She then explained the different requirements and expectations of an aerospace engineer. An aerospace engineer must have honed critical thinking and problem solving skills to help analyze and improve designs, must have a drive to improve not only oneself but also the company, and must have the ability to cooperate with others effectively in a team dynamic. She also recommended joining school clubs such as a robotics team and to focus on certain subjects throughout school including obvious courses like math, physics, and programming. She also explained that a proficiency in English is very important in engineering for expressing results to others. Becoming an aerospace engineer requires at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, but certain disciplines such as focuses on systems and control, aerodynamics, and propulsion require a master’s degree.  Some real-world skills can also be obtained through means of internships and research, but training in the industry comes from hands-on experiences.

Jenks has thoroughly enjoyed her career as an aerospace engineer. From her career, she has been able to do many fun activities like designing and building model airplanes, rockets, and robots, launching a weather balloon, and taking flight lessons. She has also found her career to be very rewarding from doing meaningful work, working with great team members, and being able to travel and explore the world.

Overall, it was very inspiring to learn about her career as an aerospace engineer, and we took a lot of great advice from her journey.