On any given day at Olin, when walking around the hallways of the Academic Center, you will find scattered project teams, hear the buzz of the shop machines, and probably see a robot or two. On Expo day (last held 12/17/18, at the end of last semester), you find all these things and much more!
Expo happens at the end of every semester, but the 2018 Fall Expo was particularly energetic with almost 70 student presentations. On this day, we bring together the semester’s projects for a final presentation to the community and beyond. The day started at 10:00 am with the Olin Baja project team presenting their off-road vehicle, the Olin Rocketry team with their semester’s rocketry test progress, and so much more. The magic of Expo comes from its diversity: you can see a highly technical computer model project followed by a table of creative art followed by a beautifully welded bike frame. With limited time, it is hard to make it around to all the interesting projects before the next round of students set up their presentations.
At this Expo, one of the projects during the 10am session was an interactive display of a several foot tall opening flower called the Wisp. This project was for a class called Principles of Engineering, where students are given half a semester to design, test, and build something that “...has a significant electrical, mechanical, and software component.” The Wisp’s project team consisted of sophomores Hwei-Shin Harriman, Shawn Albertson, Jonah Spicher, Diana Hernandez, and Camille Girard.
“We wanted to build something interactive,” Hwei-Shin says. As you come closer to the Wisp, it opens in a majestic spinning motion to reveal a colorful illuminating orb. When asked what she found to be the most challenging part of the project, she says integration: “It was difficult to get all the parts working together...I appreciated the experience to work with a system that had a lot to keep track of,” she adds. The completed project had two arduinos powering several stepper motors and 156 LED lights!
One of the more delicious projects was Olivia Seitelman’s. She spent her free time this semester improving her baking skills. To the delight of all who attended Expo, she made several batches of cookies for live taste testing. Over the semester Olivia baked over 280 cookies. Her classmates were eager to help her with her Quality Assurance, and voted on the best recipes. Olivia says she learned how to implement any recipe without having to practice it first. We are all grateful to have Olivia working on making Olin a sweeter place.
We also experienced a computing project that used graph coloring methods to create a class scheduling algorithm. The algorithm took in class data and made an Olin class schedule that caused the least amount of conflicts among students, professors, and classrooms. This project, part of the Discrete math class, was done by Kristen Behrakis, Matthew Brucker, and Vicky McDermott, all in the Olin class of 2020. The team created a graph of Olin’s classes and put their own spin on the Welsh Powell algorithm. They were excited to find that many of their results matched Olin’s real schedules. This tells them that their algorithm is close to an ideal schedule and could be useful for automatic scheduling in the future. In the end, Vicky says the hardest part was “...writing a proof that it was an NP-hard problem.” For this they spent several hours working directly with a professor to write the proof. For their team, approaching the problem and getting to understand graph coloring were the most exciting challenges. With over 10 hours of coding in just two weeks, the team worked hard to make a working algorithm.
On the artistic side, Leila Merzenich and Jonath Montague, after their first semester at Olin, presented a unique project. Their goal was to improve their pottery making skills. Jonath focused on getting better at making articles on the wheel, while Leila worked hard to improve her work with the roller. They both agreed that the hardest part of the project was sticking with it through the busy semester admitting that “...it requires trying over and over again until you get it right.” Despite being busy with their first Olin classes, they made many beautiful pieces.
Bowls and Dishes made by Leila Merzenich and Jonath Montague
Other presentations included, as always, performances by The Wired Ensemble (playing music written by Olin students), PowerChords, Olin’s famous acapella group, and of course the Olin Conductorless Orchestra. Expo visitors represented a wide range of backgrounds - high school students, Olin parents, visiting educators, professional engineers, and curious community members. Overall, the fall 2018 Expo was an exciting ending to another busy semester at Olin!
Olivia Seitelman’s delicious semester long project