This course focuses on scientific research and engineering. During the first part of the year, students conduct independent research projects that incorporate reviewing literature, making conjectures, developing methodology, designing experiments, and communicating findings. Their final projects are presented at a school-wide science fair, with the possibility for advancement to regional, state, and international fairs. During the second part of the year, students work in small teams in order to engineer new products – usually assistive technology devices. They meet with clients, conduct patent searches, design and build prototypes, demonstrate their products to expert judges, and deliver the products to their clients. Throughout the course, students practice incorporating purpose, clarity, organization, mechanics, and audience appeal as they communicate about topics in science and technology. Assignments consist of research papers, short essays, technical reports, and presentations. Students participate actively, as both writers and self-editors, and their works are consistently revised and often submitted for publication in online and print journals.
STEM II Project: A novel camera mount for wheelchair users
For STEM II, students simulate the organizational structure and build process of a four-person engineering company, working with a real-world client to construct a device that makes an important activity or function easier. I served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) on Empathetic Engineering Inc. with Isabella, CEO, Rianna, CIO, and Riley, CMO, and we constructed a novel camera mount for wheelchair users.
For individuals with disabilities, having the ability to move around independently is crucial for their quality of life, and assistive devices, including camera mounts and controls, must be designed to accommodate their specific needs. For wheelchair users, a camera mount is sometimes required to ensure that they are able to continually engage with passions such as photography and videography. There are no universal, cost effective, or flexible camera mounts on the market.
We created an app controlled camera gimbal with three degrees of freedom. The physical gimbal was constructed entirely out of 3D printed parts. The design has three ‘arms’ that attach to one another and offer pan, tilt, and roll control over the camera, which sits on the flat surface of the third arm. The design is able to support numerous different camera types, ranging from goPros, to Canons and phones. The device is mounted to a multi-purpose lap tray, via a holder that can be manually rotated forward and backward, offering a fourth degree of freedom.
The device is controlled via an app coded in Flutter using the programming language DART. The user is able to press buttons corresponding to both directions of the three motors respectively controlling the pan, tilt, and roll of the gimbal. The app communicates with an Arduino microcontroller using bluetooth, where the input is read and subsequently translated into motor commands. Additionally, the user can traverse to the apps of the support camera types to remotely capture images as well.