For this year’s project, I am designing a database through which current Upper School students can search where recent alums with similar academic and extracurricular interests attended college. This will allow current students to connect with people at colleges they are interested in. As a current senior going through the college process, I would have enjoyed conversations with college students that have the same high school background. Often times, current students can reveal more about what real college life is like compared to any information or tour could.
The first graph shows my passion vs. my confidence with this project. While I am very passionate about this project, I have no background in computer science or coding so I am not very confident in my own skills. Adversely, I feel that this project will have a relatively high impact on the NA community because of just how many students will use it. It will also involve a fair amount of engineering to get the database to do everything I would like it to do.
This year I hope to work with the ODU Cytotechnology department. I plan on creating a portable microscope for a cellphone, a microscope which students and teachers can use during class or during times when they are outside of the classroom. The microscope would feature a focusing lens that the cell phone camera attaches to, allowing the observer to look at a magnified view of a subject or slide.
The graphs shown here reflect my confidence, passion, community impact, and engineering involvement. As I am interested in the medical field, this is an excellent opportunity to learn about how simple microscopes work. There are also multiple resources to investigate the process, although I have no doubt that this project would involve many prototypes until I reach a final product. As such, my confidence for this project is relatively high, and this project would hopefully reach a moderately wide community.
This year the EDI Fellows will be following a different process for how they propose, design, and carry-out projects. An outline of the process is below.
Ideate – Think about what interests you and identify potential communities/topics that you are interested in working with or learning more about. If you are struggling, try making a mind map starting with one of your interests or an issue that you are curious about.
Project Statement – Try to write out your project ideas in two or three sentences. This statement should be enough that it communicates your project idea to other people. Try to come up with several different projects to consider.
Pretotyping – Pretotyping is the process of quickly evaluating a project idea for viability. Begin by making your Pretotype Plots seen below. There are two pretotype plots, one that plots your passion for the idea against your confidence that you can do it and a second plot that considers the community impact of the project versus how much engineering it will incorporate. When we say engineering, what we are after is the ability to plan, build, test, and repeat with some aspect of your project.
The next step is writing two short paragraphs for each of your project ideas. One paragraph should be about what success for this project would look like in three months. Try to write as if you are yourself in three months looking back on a successful project. Define what would constitute a successful project. The second paragraph is about what failure would look like for the project in three months. What could possibly happen that would cause the project to fail? Define what would constitute a failed project.
After writing your success and failure paragraphs consider what quick experiments you can do to determine if one or more of your ideas might not be viable. Think about what questions you need to ask now to determine if your project is going to have any chance of success. Try to answer any questions that you can answer quickly with a small amount of research. Your research might involve talking to someone about the project idea.
These steps should help you select and refine a project idea that you can begin to work with.
Prototype and Collaborate – As you begin a project start reaching out to possible collaborators. Remember that you are approaching them to learn, you are not coming in to this as an expert. Strive to maintain your relationships with collaborators through regular, effective communication.
Always keep in mind the “plan, build, test” process. Even if you are not physically building something you should be thinking carefully about what you need to do, and how your recent work could be improved. Keep track of your plans and work every day in your EDI Notebook.
Building Sustainable Solutions and Enduring Relationships – Remember that often your ultimate goal will not just be a product or a quick solution. Some projects will have clear endings because of how they were defined but other projects will only be effective if they continue to be sustained. Consider what type of project you have and how you can make your solutions sustainable. Often this happens through collaborators who might be inside or outside the EDI Fellows program.
As your work on a project comes to a close you have three responsibilities. 1) Write a blog post summarizing your work on the project. This post will serve as a record of accountability to the community that supported your work on the project. 2) Create a final product whether it be a model, a prototype, a final product, or a notebook detailing all that has happened with the project. This will be a more detailed, tangible legacy that future fellows can learn from. 3) Determine if there is future work to be done and clearly communicate what that work is. Try to find people who can do that work if you are unable to yourself.
This year, Dr. Call and I decided to structure the EDI curriculum, such as speakers, case studies, hackathons, and more, around the theme of housing. Housing touches everyone in our community of Hampton Roads, our country, and our world. A complex issue, housing involves societal challenges, economic factors, engineering, ingenuity, stewardship, conservation, material design, and more. We thus considered housing a highly relevant topic for us to explore.
We began with the choice of our summer reading, The Carpenter’s Life as Told by Houses by Larry Haun. I selected this book for a few reasons: (1) it presents a history of housing in America from sod and straw to premanufactured; (2) the author discusses building materials in a thoughtful way through a lens of conservation and stewardship; and (3) the book addresses practical design and affordability. I thought that this would be a helpful introduction to the theme.
Dr. Call came up with the brilliant idea of having a project associated with the theme. The EDI Fellows will each ask a question that interests them, such ‘what are some renewable building materials?’ or ‘what is the most affordable and durable housing for folks who cannot afford much?’. Fellows will then write a 2-page report on their findings, the report which will accompany a physical model of a house that reflects their research. The housing project should take 20 hours to complete this Fall and will offer a different outlet of creativity while the EDI Fellows work on their individual projects.
I am excited about our EDI theme of housing and cannot help but draw parallels between our theme and the theme of belonging at Norfolk Academy this year. It is amazing how four walls, a physical space, can promote a sense of belonging and safety, but it is important to remember that people and community make them stick.
This past week we visited California, trekking all over the Silicon Valley. The rising Juniors and Seniors of the EDI fellows toured Carbon, learning about 3D printing. We met with Greg Mulholland, CEO of Citrine Informatics and NA’03 alumnus. Over two dinners, we discussed technology, business, and engineering with two Norfolk Academy Alumni, one from Apple and a software Engineer from LinkedIn. At Autodesk, we received an invigorating tour of past projects, ending with a fun driving simulation. Vasper allowed us to get a workout in on their unique cooling machines after a thorough explanation of the processes involved. We went on to walk through the massive wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center and seeing demonstrations of the aerodynamics of flight in the Fluid Mechanics Lab. While in San Francisco, we explored the Bay Model and traversed the traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. The trip was very informative whilst staying fun and interactive. Every stop and person was full of adventure and we left with stories in mind.
This week has been a fun one. There were ups. There were downs. As a cohort we all bonded and learned more about ourselves and our friends. My favorite part of the trip was sitting down with Norfolk Academy alumni Michael Dekshenieks. Mr. Dekshenieks was a former football player, lacrosse player, and wrestler, and continued to play lacrosse at the University of Virginia. He participated in the ROTC program at UVA and then became a midshipman in the Navy for 6 years. After he left the Navy, he went to grad school and then out west to do consulting with start ups. I enjoyed my conversation with him greatly and learned a lot about ROTC, college, start ups, and life. It was particularly helpful for me because I am interested in ROTC and also the University of Virginia so I was able to ask very specific questions about his experience.
Additionally, I enjoyed our visit of Autodesk. Autodesk is a company that specializes in technology you would probably see in movies. From the tallest building in the world, to 3D printed shoes, they do it all. The thing that differentiates them from other companies is their variety. They focus on three field: architecture, video game design, and product design. No other companies attempts to tackle all three of these branches which makes Autodesk very cool.
This trip has been a fun one and prepared the EDI senior and junior class for a fun school year focusing on housing.
On the fourth day, we visited NASA Ames and got to not only see a smaller wind tunnel and water tank but we also walked into both the 1st and 2nd largest wind tunnels in the world! My uncle, Dr. Farid Haddad, and his colleague, Dr. Rob Fong, kindly led a 4-h tour of the facilities and answered many of our questions.
Our first stop was the Fluid Mechanics Lab (FML) where Rob works. Two interns showed us around and explained to us the work that they do there. Their job is to run small scale wind tunnel and water tests to determine how those models will perform in flight. In their lab, they have a 4 foot by 4 foot test section in the wind tunnel in which they can place models for testing.
My uncle explained to us the seemingly complex nature of a wind tunnel in simple terms. On one end, a fan generates the wind which then travels to a diffuser board to guarantee that the wind hits the object directly, not in a vortex. The object that is in the test section is then hit with the wind, where it is possible for them to take both quantitative and qualitative measurements.
We then traveled to the two larger wind tunnels, the 80×120 and 40×80. Rob explained to us how NASA engineers built the 80×120 and then expanded the facilities to include a 40×80 wind tunnel test area. A complex set of door-like veins close off certain sections that switch the flow of the wind for either a circular or linear flow.
From there, we walked in the wind tunnel! We started out in the 80×120 test section as my uncle explained how the test model is fixed and brought into the test area. We walked all the way down to the bottom of the air intake area and learned about different properties such as the sound proofing of the test section so that engineers can reduce the sound of helicopter and supersonic aircraft.
We then walked through a set of the door-like veins into where engineers control the air flow to the two test areas and into the massive turbines that draw in the outside air. The wooden blades were incredibly large about 3 humans tall. Rob explained that they still use wood because it is the easiest to fix and most reliable, although updating the wooden blades is highly debated among the scientific community of the Ames Wind Tunnel.
Last stop was the outside of the 80×120 wind tunnel intake, where we could view the ongoing construction of the Google’s new main campus. We took some photos outside and then it was time to head off to the escape room.
During our Silicon Valley 2019 summer experience, the 2020 and 2021 EDI Fellows met with NA’03 alumnus Greg Mulholland, the CEO of Citrine Informatics. Greg shared some of the lessons he learned at Norfolk Academy – lessons, which prepared him for success as a founder and CEO of a startup in a new market.
Greg’s three take-aways from Norfolk Academy
Surround yourself with the best people who give you honest feedback and clearly communicate.
Hone your writing ability. The Wuthering Heights paper and learning to avoid the passive voice were crucial for writing clear company materials and convincing proposals well.
Be driven and try new things. Greg attributed his ability to try new things and to push himself to teachers at Norfolk Academy like Mr. Tom Duquette and his advanced stats course. Teachers pushed him, he said to the EDI Fellows, yielding a confidence to try new things.
Standing before the next wave of innovators, Greg encouraged the EDI Fellows to ask about creating an inclusive culture as they meet with professionals from Silicon Valley companies. In the near future, he predicts that this will be a trait of successful adventures and professionals in Silicon Valley and the tech industry. He urged them to start thinking about how to create an inclusive culture and to learn from people who are most equipped to deal with this issue.
More Information on Citrine Informatics. Back in the old days of developing materials, companies relied on ‘the person.’ This person would have the experience, insight, or sheer luck to create a new material in the chemistry lab – a material that had better or desirable properties. It was a classic chemistry experiment. Greg and a few others saw a way to improve that process with computational analysis, creating a new market. Rather than the person with the ideas, Citrine Informatics aggregates the data and analyzes the past experiments to find the best solution that is multifaceted and yields the greatest improvement. One success story from Citrine Informatics is helping to discover the first two aluminum alloys that are not only approved for aeronautical use, but are weldable. Learn more here about Citrine Informatics.
On Thursday, we first visited Vasper Systems in the NASA Ames Research Park. There, we met with the founder, Peter Wasowski, who gave us a background on his company.
Vasper Systems (Vasper being short for Vascular Performance) focuses on developing exercise machines that use cooling and compression to create an effective and efficient workout. According to the company, their machines can give the same results of a 2-hour workout in 21 minutes. As explained by Peter, the cooling and compression “hacks” the human body to increase the production of growth and recovery hormones. The compression cuffs are worn on the arms and legs, where they compress the muscle to quickly build up lactic acid to an amount that would normally be gained through a hard and intense workout for a long period of time.
The cooling in the cuffs also helps more blood and oxygen to reach the muscles. Normally during a workout, the body temperature increases and more blood flows to the skin to help with sweating for cooling the body, which leaves less blood and oxygen for the muscles. By cooling the body, the blood oxygen levels remain high, and more blood reaches the muscles to give the oxygen and take away, which prevents the muscles from fatiguing heavily and increases performance. Also, it reduces or completely eliminates sweating, which is a nice addition.
These machines have helped many people recover from major injuries. For example, an Army Veteran, who suffered from spinal shock and was paralyzed from the waist down, was able to walk again with the assistance of a walker after 8 months of using the Vasper Machine. Vasper also develops machines for NASA astronauts. While they are in space, the absence of gravity makes it hard to do hard and intense exercises, and when they land back on Earth, they have to rebuild their muscles. Vasper creates machines to assist in these exercises.
After Peter’s presentation, we all did 10-minute sessions on the Vasper Machines. During my experience, I could feel the lactic acid building up under the cuffs (basically it hurt) and it was a tough workout, but in the end I wasn’t sweaty and it really felt like I had done a hard intensive workout in 10 minutes.
To round out our trip, we ended by doing an escape room. We split into two teams by mentor groups. My team was Nik, Sarah, Keon, Charlie, and I. The other team was Maguire, Leah, Olivia, Caitlin, and AJ. We both did the spy-themed escape room, which gave us 60 minutes to solve puzzles around the room to eventually find a small brass key. Our team worked well and we managed to get out in 38:05, but while we were waiting for the other team to finish, we could hear the other team, especially Maguire and Olivia, yelling at each other. They finished in 56:42 thanks to a misreading of a clock. In the end, it was fun way to wrap up our trip and bond with our mentor groups.
On Wednesday, July 17, the EDI Fellows set out on a visit to a professor at Stanford University. At around 10:30 we all met with Mr. Lo, a professor specializing in GPS. Mr. Lo and his students work on different parts of the Global Positioning System, or GPS. Some students specialize in attempting to fix the security problems in GPS. One potential problem with GPS is that anyone can send out a false satellite reading to customers and cause a person to go to a false location. The student working on this problem is working on software to fish out where exactly this satellite reading is coming from and how to stop the person that is sending the false readings. We also learned that the GPS chips in our phones are smaller than our fingernails and cost just a dollar. Mr. Lo taught us a lot of interesting facts that we did not know about GPS. We ended our meeting with Mr. Lo with a nice group picture and a walk to the beautiful Stanford Memorial Church. After our meeting, the group took a walk to the Hoover Tower that gave us an opportunity to see the campus at a nice height.
After a thirty-minute pit stop for lunch, the group went to The Tech Museum of Innovation. This was a nice way to interact with the activities. The favorite exhibit amongst the fellows was the cyber detective exhibit. This exhibit included an escape room that only took around 20 minutes. While the museum was fun and interactive, it was a great addition to the trip.