STEMFest showcases students’ math, science projects in lounge

By Saj Sri-Kumar

Soccer-playing robots and go-karts were among the attractions at STEM Fest during activities period on Monday morning.

The event, hosted by the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics committee, featured displays of projects done by classes and clubs during the school year.

A major attractions was the soccer-playing robot built by the Robotics Club. The robot was featured in the nationwide For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology competition, where it placed 15th out of 60.

Computer science teacher Jacob Hazard’s Advanced Topics in Computer Science class displayed projects that they had been preparing for the entire school year.

The projects “are totally self-designed,” Hazard said. “They help each other to complete them.”

Spencer Gordon ’10, one of Hazard’s students, presented his computer game at the STEM Fest. Gordon’s game was “tile-based,” a style of video game programming that uses a square grid of tiles for each level. Almost every classic video game, from Mario to Zelda, uses tiles to animate them, Gordon said. “Instead of animating a different sky for each level, you can make one sky tile and fill in the background. You can make a tile for ground, for water, and nearly everything else.”

Gordon said that basing his video game on tile made the programming much more efficient, and as a result, he was able to finish the game in under a year.

Sticking with the same computer game theme as Gordon, Nick Treuer ’10 designed his own version of Nintendo’s classic game Super Mario. Truer found that programming the game took much longer than he expected, but he believes that his version “is better than the original.”

Many of Hazard’s students designed applications to run on cell phones, such as Apple’s iPhone and phones with Google’s Android operating system. Nick Mancall-Bitel ’10 designed a drum machine simulator for the iPhone that he plans to publish in the near future.

The Computer Science Club demonstrated two projects. Gabe Benjamin’s ’11 iHW iPhone application, which was featured in the April issue of The Chronicle, was displayed alongside the club’s simulation of the ancient Chinese board game Go.

As part of their project for science teacher Antonio Nassar’s Studies in Scientific Research class, Riley Guerin ’11 and Niko Natsis ’11 displayed the go-kart they made. Guerin and Natsis put together their go-kart by building a frame and adding an engine that they had purchased.

They tested it with different gasoline octane levels, and found that a higher octane level resulted in higher efficiency. They also experimented by cleaning out parts of the engine and found that the resulting increased oxygen exposure also increased the efficiency of the engine.

STEM Fest had three main purposes, according to Upper School Math Department Head Paula Evans, who organized the event.

The first purpose was to celebrate the accomplishments of the students and allow them to present their projects to the school community. Students can “meet the robot and check out the weather balloon whose ride was featured on NBC,” Evans said, referring to the SSR students who took video of the Earth’s curvature from a weather balloon they launched.

Second, the event meant to be educational. Exhibits by student researchers on topics such as using technology to alleviate poverty and help the environment were accompanied by discussions with researchers on smaller topics. Evans referred specifically to Alex Glancy’s ’10 and Jaqui Lee’s ’10 solar cooker, which is the same model as the ones being distributed to refugee camps in Chad.

Finally, the event was supposed to be fun for all students, Evans said. The STEM committee hired a DJ and served refreshments such as Jamba Juice smoothies and cookies.