Monday was the last day of the semester, Expo day. Amidst the mayhem of packing, last-minute problem set submissions, and figuring out holiday presents, every student gives a presentation of something they’ve worked on over the course of the semester. With each student scheduled to stand at their booth and present for an hour per project, and attendees ranging from your family members to employees at your dream company, Expo may seem daunting at first.
But it’s not stressful, it’s relieving. Many students have spent countless tiring hours during finals week working to complete their projects and prepare their presentations for their classes, and Expo happens after all of that mayhem. All throughout the Academic Center, students are sharing their work, relieved that their hardest sprint is over. Expo represents both the passion and hard work that students put into their projects over the course of the semester. From the musical performances to ridiculous robots to media activism presentations, the diversity in student work is amazing and inspiring. Finals are over, projects are complete, and everyone, dazed by the end of the semester and the oncoming break, is happy to share the amazing projects they worked on.
Students sharing the results of their gelato making passionate pursuit at Expo.
I presented a few of my projects, including a Pictionary-playing robot I worked on for my Computational Robotics class, in which you show the robot a written prompt on a whiteboard, and then it searches for suitable images online, finds a simple one that it can draw, and then runs a script that finds all of the edges in the image and converts them into a series of contours. It then filters down the number of points in these contours, and then scales them up to the size of the paper it is drawing on, and proceeds to draw the image (You can read more about it here). We took ideas from the Expo crowds to tell the robot what to draw. Below is a picture of it drawing a lemur.
One of my Expo presentations: A Pictionary-playing robot.
Expo always reminds me how important it is to remember to share my work. People of all ages, including middle schoolers, prospective students, company representatives, and grandparents, come to Expo to see Olin’s projects. At Olin, I often feel acclimated to all of the things that are happening at the school--pancake making robots, student-built Segways, musical compositions--they’re all the norm here, and I’ve gotten so used to seeing these crazy student projects that I’ve forgotten how impressive they really are. All of the people that come to Expo leave amazed by the work that students have thrown together in only a few short weeks. Many people were incredibly amazed by the Pictionary-playing robot I’d made, reminding me that although I’d spent so many weeks working with it and debugging it, it was still an impressive accomplishment. Expo really exposes the intensity and the passion of the work that we do at Olin, and really brings to light the value of our project-based curriculum. Olin’s project-based experience allows students to work on and share projects that they are passionate about, which can be incredibly exciting and inspiring for both the students who did the work and the people who saw it.