This November 28, 2023 article by Philip Drost for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) The Current radio programme highl8ights two youthful inventors, Note: Links have been removed,
Anush Mutyala [emphasis mine] may only be in Grade 12, but he already has hopes that his innovations and inventions will rival that of Elon Musk.
“I always tell my friends something that would be funny is if I’m competing head-to-head with Elon Musk in the race to getting people [neural] implants,” Mutyala told Matt Galloway on The Current.
Mutyala, a student at Chinguacousy Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., created a brain imaging system that he says opens the future for permanent wireless neural implants.
For his work, he received an award from Youth Science Canada at the National Fair in 2023, which highlights young people pushing innovation.
Mutyala wanted to create a way for neural implants to last longer. Implants can help people hear better, or move parts of the body they otherwise couldn’t, but neural implants in particular face issues with regard to power consumption, and traditionally must be replaced by surgery after their batteries die. That can be every five years.
But Mutyala thinks his system, Enerspike, can change that. The algorithm he designed lowers the energy consumption needed for implants to process and translate brain signals into making a limb move.
“You would essentially never need to replace wireless implants again for the purpose of battery replacement,” said Mutyala.
Mutyala was inspired by Stephen Hawking, who famously spoke with the use of a speech synthesizer.
“What if we used technology like this and we were able to restore his complete communication ability? He would have been able to communicate at a much faster rate and he would have had a much greater impact on society,” said Mutyala.
… Mutyala isn’t the only innovator. Vinny Gu [emphasis mine], a Grade 11 student at Markville Secondary School in Markham, Ont., also received an award for creating DermaScan, an online application that can look at a photo and predict whether the person photographed has skin cancer or not.
“There has [sic] been some attempts at this problem in the past. However, they usually result in very low accuracy. However, I incorporated a technology to help my model better detect the minor small details in the image in order for it to get a better prediction,” said Gu.
He says it doesn’t replace visiting a dermatologist — but it can give people an option to do pre-screenings with ease, which can help them decide if they need to go see a dermatologist. He says his model is 90-per-cent accurate.
He is currently testing Dermascan, and he hopes to one day make it available for free to anyone who needs it.
You can find out about Anoush Mutyala and his work on his LinkedIn profile (in a addition to being a high school student, since October 2023, he’s also a neuromorphics researcher at York University). If my link to his profile fails, search Mutyala’s name online and access his public page at the LinkedIn website. There’s something else, Mutyala has an eponymous website.
My online searches for more about Vinny (or Vincent) Gu were not successful.
Ms. Shetterly was at the University of Toronto (Hart House) as a mentor at Tundra Technical Solutions’ 2023 Launchpad event. The company is a ‘talent recruitment’ agency and this is part of their outreach/public relations programme. This undated video (runtime: 2 mins. 27 secs.) from a previous Hart House event gives you a pretty good idea of what this year’s Toronto event was like,
On the heels of [US] National STEM Day, a landmark event unfolds tonight to advance the role of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Tundra, a trailblazer championing diversity within the world’s most innovative industries, hosts its annual Launchpad Mentorship Event at the University of Toronto’s Hart House.
This event welcomes hundreds of high school female students across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area?] to inspire and empower them to consider careers in STEM.
The night opens with a fascinating keynote speech by Margot Lee Shetterly, acclaimed author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures. Margot will share her insights into the critical contributions of African-American women mathematicians at NASA, setting a powerful tone for the evening. The spotlight also shines brightly on Arushi Nath, a 14-year-old Canadian prodigy and Tundra Launchpad Mentee of the Year whose contributions to astronomy have propelled her onto the world stage.
The Launchpad Event panel discussion features an impressive lineup of leaders, with Anne Steptoe, VP of Infrastructure at Wealthsimple; Linda Siksna, SVP of Technology Ops and Platforms at Canadian Tire; Natasha Nelson, VP of Ecostruxure at Schneider Electric; and Allison Atkins, National Leader for Cloud Endpoint at Microsoft. Moderated by Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean and Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Professionalism at the University of Toronto, the panel tackles the challenges and opportunities within STEM fields, emphasizing the need for diversity and inclusion.
In a seamless transition from Shetterly’s keynote to the voices of present-day STEM leaders, the event spotlights the potential of young women in these fields. Arushi Nath [emphasis mine], the 9th-grade Canadian astronomy sensation, embodied this potential. Fresh from her success at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, Arushi’s presence will be a vibrant reminder of what the next generation can achieve with support from initiatives like Tundra’s Launchpad Event.
Tundra’s commitment to nurturing and developing STEM leaders of tomorrow is evident through its substantial investments in youth. Every year, Tundra connects thousands of students who identify as female and non-binary with mentors, awarding scholarships and prize packs to help students excel in their future.
Tundra’s dedication to diversity and empowerment in STEM remains unwavering since the Launchpad’s inception in 2019. The event is a testament to the bright future that awaits when we invest in the mentorship and recognition of young talent.
Female-identifying or non-binary students in grades 10-12 can apply for Tundra’s next Launchpad Scholarship here [deadline: December 3, 2023].
You can find out more about the Tundra Technical Solutions STEM initiatives here. (I’m not sure why they’ve listed Vancouver as a location for the event on the STEM initiatives page since there is no mention of it in the news release or elsewhere on the page.)
Arushi Nath was last mentioned here in a November 17, 2023 posting where her wins at the 2023 Canada Wide Science awards and the 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and her appearance at the 2023 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards were highlighted.
Almost 150 students from across Toronto and the region attended the event. In addition, around 20 mentors from several organizations gathered to interact with the students. Many staff members from Tundra were also present to support the event.
Keynote Speech: Science and Space is for All
The evening started with a keynote speech from Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures book. Hidden Figures [movie] explores the biographies of three African-American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and others at NASA.
In her speech, she talked about her journey writing the book and what drew her to the topic. The fact that one of the three women was her neighbour was a big inspiring force. She shared the background of these brilliant women mathematicians, their personal stories, anecdotes and the crucial roles they played during the Space Race.
Several questions were posed to her, including how she felt about having her book transformed into a movie before the book was even complete and how students could merge their other passions with science.
Prizes and Awards: Winning 2023 Mentee of the Year Award
At the end of the raffle, I was surprised to hear my name called on the stage. I was honoured to receive the 2023 Mentee of the Year Award. I thanked the organizers for this gesture and for organizing such a wonderful evening of fun, learning and networking.
More about Hidden Figures on FrogHeart
First mentioned here in a September 2, 2016 posting titled, “Movies and science, science, science (Part 1 of 2),” it focused heavily on Margot Lee Shetterly‘s 2016 nonfiction book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.”
The movie focused primarily on three women but the book cast a wider net. It’s fascinating social history.
They were computers
These days we think of computers as pieces of technology but for a significant chunk of time, computers were people with skills in mathematics. Over time, computers were increasingly women because they worked harder and they worked for less money than men.
Canada has emerged as a world leader in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and many new jobs and career opportunities that have emerged in recent years are STEM-related. As more and more businesses and organizations look to innovate, modernize and grow, the demand for people who can fill STEM-related jobs will only increase. Canada needs a workforce that can continue to meet the challenges of the future.
Additionally, young Canadians today need to think carefully and critically about science misinformation. Misinformation is not new, but the intensity and speed in which it has been spreading is both increasing and concerning, especially within the science realm. Science literacy encourages people to question, evaluate, and understand information. By equipping youth with science literacy skills, they will be better positioned to navigate online information and make better decisions based on understanding the difference between personal opinions and evidence-based conclusions.
The Government of Canada and its federal partners have put forward several new opportunities that are aimed at increasing science literacy and the participation of Canadians in STEM, including under-represented groups like women and Indigenous communities.
CanCode (Innovation, Science and Economic Develoment Canada)
CanCode is an Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) funding program that provides financial support for organizations to equip Canadian youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills they need to be prepared for further studies. This includes advanced digital skills, like coding and STEM courses, leading to jobs of the future. For more information on the program and future Calls for Proposals, visit the CanCode webpage.
Citizen Science Portal (ISED)
The Citizen Science Portal provides information and access to science projects and science experiments happening in various communities for Canadians to participate in. Some may only be available at certain times of year or in certain areas, but with a little exploration, there are exciting ways to take part in science.
Objective: Moon – including Junior Astronauts (Canadian Space Agency)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) aims to engage young Canadians, to get them excited about STEM and future careers in the field of space through a suite of resources for youth and educators. The CSA also helps them understand how they can play a role in Canada’s mission to the Moon. As part of Canada’s participation in Lunar Gateway, the Objective: Moon portfolio of activities, including the Junior Astronauts campaign that ended in July 2021, makes learning science fun and engaging for youth in grades K – 12.
Actua is a Canadian charitable organization preparing youth, ages 6-26, to be the next generation of leaders and innovators. It engages youth in inclusive, hands-on STEM experiences that build critical employability skills and confidence. Through a national outreach team and a vast member network of universities and colleges, Actua reaches youth in every province and territory in Canada through summer camps, classroom workshops, clubs, teacher training, and community outreach activities.
Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that designs and delivers internships and training programs in Canada. Working with universities, companies and federal and provincial governments, Mitacs builds and maintains partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. More information on Mitacs’ programs can be found here.
Science fairs, STEM competitions and awards
The Government of Canada supports the discoveries and the ingenuity of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and inventors.
A grade nine student from Toronto, Ontario, Arushi Nath has had quite the year,
Nath describes one of her latest outings in a November 3 (?), 2023 posting on the HotPopRobot website (more about the website later), Note: Links have been removed,
On 1 November 2023, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awarded this year’s top NSERC Awards at a ceremony held at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. As a back-to-back winner of the top awards of the 2023 and 2022 Canada-Wide Science Fair, I got an invitation to join this ceremony. You can learn more about my research on developing algorithms for asteroid astrometry and photometry to measure the success of the NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission [emphasis mine] at www.MonitorMyPlanet.com
I could not attend the ceremony last year, but I was determined to attend it this year, and I am glad I did. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the exceptional research carried out in Canada on issues ranging from astronomy to microbiology, ocean sciences, wastewater and machine learning and how it impacted us. I even got to meet and talk to several researchers, ask them questions, and understand what it takes to produce impactful research.
[description of awards and recipients]
Some Suggestions to Raise a STEM-ignited NexGen in Post-COVID-19 World
I think the research investments and funding should start earlier, to even include school students. We are the most connected generation ever and are aware of scientific research and developments happening in the world, be it in the area of astronomy or marine sciences, microbiology or machine learning. Our learning pathways have also changed. COVID-19 lockdowns spurred the use of Zoom, online courses and virtual conferences to learn about a new topic, connect with researchers, collaborate with them, undertake projects and then present them virtually – while attending school. STEM conversations and collaborations are starting earlier and need to be encouraged so that more students pursue STEM, undertake curiosity-driven projects, and maintain this curiosity and scientific temper no matter what career paths they choose.
It calls for greater investments in school science project scholarships, new and expanded science centres, research collaboration platforms, open-data sharing, allowing students access to conferences, creating community maker spaces, opening up high-speed computing facilities to students, more science festivals, fairs and competitions, and encouraging greater diversity in science.
Nearly 900 people gathered in Edmonton at the 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair awards gala to celebrate the curiosity and ingenuity of Canadian students and announce the fair’s top winners. A total of 220 students shared more than 1.6 million in scholarships, awards, and prizes with the top awards in Discovery and Innovation going to Elizabeth Chen (Edmonton) for a project on alternative cancer treatments and Arushi Nath (Toronto), with a project on planetary defense [emphasis mine]. Arushi, who also won best project award at last year’s CWSF, becomes the first back-to-back best project award winner since 1989 – 1990.
The 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) was held in Brussels, Belgium. It brought together 136 promising young scientists aged 14 to 20, from 36 countries across the EU and beyond for a five-day competition.
I was honored to represent Canada as Winner of 2023 Top Award at the 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair.
My project “Developing Algorithms to Determine Asteroid’s Physical Properties and Success of Deflection Missions” won the second prize [at EUCYS]. I was the youngest contestant and the prize winner.
It was a wonderful experience to interact, form friendships and partners with bright young scientists across the world.
I found the descriptions of Nath’s work about ‘planetary defence’ and her paper is about algorithms for deflecting asteroids more accessible.
By the way, congratulations to Elizabeth Chen (Optimization of CAR-T Cell Therapy using RNA-Sequencing Analysis for Biomarker Identification) who won a top award at the 2023 EUCYS., as well as, an award from 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair.
I have some news about conserving art; early bird registration deadlines for two events, and, finally, an announcement about contest winners.
Canadian Light Source (CLS) and modern art
This is one of three pieces by Rita Letendre that underwent chemical mapping according to an August 5, 2020 CLS news release by Victoria Martinez (also received via email),
Research undertaken at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan was key to understanding how to conserve experimental oil paintings by Rita Letendre, one of Canada’s most respected living abstract artists.
The work done at the CLS was part of a collaborative research project between the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) that came out of a recent retrospective Rita Letendre: Fire & Light at the AGO. During close examination, Meaghan Monaghan, paintings conservator from the Michael and Sonja Koerner Centre for Conservation, observed that several of Letendre’s oil paintings from the fifties and sixties had suffered significant degradation, most prominently, uneven gloss and patchiness, snowy crystalline structures coating the surface known as efflorescence, and cracking and lifting of the paint in several areas.
Kate Helwig, Senior Conservation Scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute, says these problems are typical of mid-20th century oil paintings. “We focused on three of Rita Letendre’s paintings in the AGO collection, which made for a really nice case study of her work and also fits into the larger question of why oil paintings from that period tend to have degradation issues.”
Growing evidence indicates that paintings from this period have experienced these problems due to the combination of the experimental techniques many artists employed and the additives paint manufacturers had begun to use.
In order to determine more precisely how these factors affected Letendre’s paintings, the research team members applied a variety of analytical techniques, using microscopic samples taken from key points in the works.
“The work done at the CLS was particularly important because it allowed us to map the distribution of materials throughout a paint layer such as an impasto stroke,” Helwig said. The team used Mid-IR chemical mapping at the facility, which provides a map of different molecules in a small sample.
For example, chemical mapping at the CLS allowed the team to understand the distribution of the paint additive aluminum stearate throughout the paint layers of the painting Méduse. This painting showed areas of soft, incompletely dried paint, likely due to the high concentration and incomplete mixing of this additive.
The painting Victoire had a crumbling base paint layer in some areas and cracking and efflorescence at the surface in others. Infrared mapping at the CLS allowed the team to determine that excess free fatty acids in the paint were linked to both problems; where the fatty acids were found at the base they formed zing “soaps” which led to crumbling and cracking, and where they had moved to the surface they had crystallized, causing the snowflake-like efflorescence.
AGO curators and conservators interviewed Letendre to determine what was important to her in preserving and conserving her works, and she highlighted how important an even gloss across the surface was to her artworks, and the philosophical importance of the colour black in her paintings. These priorities guided conservation efforts, while the insights gained through scientific research will help maintain the works in the long term.
In order to restore the black paint to its intended even finish for display, conservator Meaghan Monaghan removed the white crystallization from the surface of Victoire, but it is possible that it could begin to recur. Understanding the processes that lead to this degradation will be an important tool to keep Letendre’s works in good condition.
“The world of modern paint research is complicated; each painting is unique, which is why it’s important to combine theoretical work on model paint systems with this kind of case study on actual works of art” said Helwig. The team hopes to collaborate on studying a larger cross section of Letendre’s paintings in oil and acrylic in the future to add to the body of knowledge.
The latest news from the CSPC 2020 (November 16 – 20 with preconference events from Nov. 1 -14) organizers is that registration is open and early birds have a deadline of September 27, 2020 (from an August 6, 2020 CSPC 2020 announcement received via email),
It’s time! Registration for the 12th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2020) is open now. Early Bird registration is valid until Sept. 27th .
CSPC 2020 is coming to your offices and homes:
Register for full access to 3 weeks of programming of the biggest science and innovation policy forum of 2020 under the overarching theme: New Decade, New Realities: Hindsight, Insight, Foresight.
300+ Speakers from five continents
65+ Panel sessions, 15 pre conference sessions and symposiums
50+ On demand videos and interviews with the most prominent figures of science and innovation policy
20+ Partner-hosted functions
15+ Networking sessions
15 Open mic sessions to discuss specific topics
The virtual conference features an exclusive array of offerings:
3D Lounge and Exhibit area
Advance access to the Science Policy Magazine, featuring insightful reflections from the frontier of science and policy innovation
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to engage in the most important discussions of science and innovation policy with insights from around the globe, just from your office, home desk, or your mobile phone.
Benefit from significantly reduced registration fees for an online conference with an option for discount for multiple ticket purchases
The preliminary programme can be found here. This year there will be some discussion of a Canadian synthetic biology roadmap, presentations on various Indigenous concerns (mostly health), a climate challenge presentation focusing on Mexico and social vulnerability and another on parallels between climate challenges and COVID-19. There are many presentations focused on COVID-19 and.or health.
Margaux Davoine has written up a teaser for the 2020 edition of ISEA in the form of an August 6, 2020 interview with Yan Breuleux. I’ve excerpted one bit,
Finally, thinking about this year’s theme [Why Sentience?], there might be something a bit ironic about exploring the notion of sentience (historically reserved for biological life, and quite a small subsection of it) through digital media and electronic arts. There’s been much work done in the past 25 years to loosen the boundaries between such distinctions: how do you imagine ISEA2020 helping in that?
The similarities shared between humans, animals, and machines are fundamental in cybernetic sciences. According to the founder of cybernetics Norbert Wiener, the main tenets of the information paradigm – the notion of feedback – can be applied to humans, animals as well as the material world. Famously, the AA predictor (as analysed by Peter Galison in 1994) can be read as a first attempt at human-machine fusion (otherwise known as a cyborg).
The infamous Turing test also tends to blur the lines between humans and machines, between language and informational systems. Second-order cybernetics are often associated with biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana. The very notion of autopoiesis (a system capable of maintaining a certain level of stability in an unstable environment) relates back to the concept of homeostasis formulated by Willam Ross [William Ross Ashby] in 1952. Moreover, the concept of “ecosystems” emanates directly from the field of second-order cybernetics, providing researchers with a clearer picture of the interdependencies between living and non-living organisms. In light of these theories, the absence of boundaries between animals, humans, and machines constitutes the foundation of the technosciences paradigm. New media, technological arts, virtual arts, etc., partake in the dialogue between humans and machines, and thus contribute to the prolongation of this paradigm. Frank Popper nearly called his book “Techno Art” instead of “Virtual Art”, in reference to technosciences (his editor suggested the name change). For artists in the technological arts community, Jakob von Uexkull’s notion of “human-animal milieu” is an essential reference. Also present in Simondon’s reflections on human environments (both natural and artificial), the notion of “milieu” is quite important in the discourses about art and the environment. Concordia University’s artistic community chose the concept of “milieu” as the rallying point of its research laboratories.
ISEA2020’s theme resonates particularly well with the recent eruption of processing and artificial intelligence technologies. For me, Sentience is a purely human and animal idea: machines can only simulate our ways of thinking and feeling. Partly in an effort to explore the illusion of sentience in computers, Louis-Philippe Rondeau, Benoît Melançon and I have established the Mimesis laboratory at NAD University. Processing and AI technologies are especially useful in the creation of “digital doubles”, “Vactors”, real-time avatar generation, Deep Fakes and new forms of personalised interactions.
I adhere to the epistemological position that the living world is immeasurable. Through their ability to simulate, machines can merely reduce complex logics to a point of understandability. The utopian notion of empathetic computers is an idea mostly explored by popular science-fiction movies. Nonetheless, research into computer sentience allows us to devise possible applications, explore notions of embodiment and agency, and thereby develop new forms of interaction. Beyond my own point of view, the idea that machines can somehow feel emotions gives artists and researchers the opportunity to experiment with certain findings from the fields of the cognitive sciences, computer sciences and interactive design. For example, in 2002 I was particularly marked by an immersive installation at Universal Exhibition in Neuchatel, Switzerland titled Ada: Intelligence Space. The installation comprised an artificial environment controlled by a computer, which interacted with the audience on the basis of artificial emotion. The system encouraged visitors to participate by intelligently analysing their movements and sounds. Another example, Louis-Philippe Demers’ Blind Robot (2012), demonstrates how artists can be both critical of, and amazed by, these new forms of knowledge. Additionally, the 2016 BIAN (Biennale internationale d’art numérique), organized by ELEKTRA (Alain Thibault) explored the various ways these concepts were appropriated in installation and interactive art. The way I see it, current works of digital art operate as boundary objects. The varied usages and interpretations of a particular work of art allow it to be analyzed from nearly every angle or field of study. Thus, philosophers can ask themselves: how does a computer come to understand what being human really is?
I have yet to attend conferences or exchange with researchers on that subject. Although the sheer number of presentation propositions sent to ISEA2020, I have no doubt that the symposium will be the ideal context to reflect on the concept of Sentience and many issues raised therein.
For the last bit of news.
HotPopRobot, one of six global winners of 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 challenge
We are excited to become the global winners of the 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 Challenge from among 2,000 teams from 150 countries. The six Global Winners will be invited to visit a NASA Rocket Launch site to view a spacecraft launch along with the SpaceApps Organizing team once travel is deemed safe. They will also receive an invitation to present their projects to NASA, ESA [European Space Agency], JAXA [Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency], CNES [Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales; France], and CSA [Canadian Space Agency] personnel. https://covid19.spaceappschallenge.org/awards
15,000 participants joined together to submit over 1400 projects for the COVID-19 Global Challenge that was held on 30-31 May 2020. 40 teams made to the Global Finalists. Amongst them, 6 teams became the global winners!
The 2020 SpaceApps was an international collaboration between NASA, Canadian Space Agency, ESA, JAXA, CSA,[sic] and CNES focused on solving global challenges. During a period of 48 hours, participants from around the world were required to create virtual teams and solve any of the 12 challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic posted on the SpaceApps website. More details about the 2020 SpaceApps COVID-19 Challenge: https://sa-2019.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/Space_Apps_FAQ_COVID_.pdf
We have been participating in NASA Space Challenge for the last seven years since 2014. We were only 8 years and 5 years respectively when we participated in our very first SpaceApps 2014.
We have grown up learning more about space, tacking global challenges, making hardware and software projects, participating in meetings, networking with mentors and teams across the globe, and giving presentations through the annual NASA Space Apps Challenges. This is one challenge we look forward to every year.
It has been a fun and exciting journey meeting so many people and astronauts and visiting several fascinating places on the way! We hope more kids, youths, and families are inspired by our space journey. Space is for all and is yours to discover!
What better way to say ‘Happy Canada Day’ than to highlight a data sonfication project from HotPopRobot. These are not all of the awards won by the HotPopRobot team (based in Toronto, Canada), from the hotpoprobot.com homepage,
Micro:bit Challenge North America Runners Up 2020.
NASA SpaceApps 2019, 2018, 2017, 2014.
Imagining the Skies 2019.
Jesse Ketchum Astronomy Award 2018. Hon.
Mention at 2019 NASA Planetary Defense Conference. Emerald Code Grand Prize 2018.
Canadian Space Apps 2017
Here’s more about this intriguing team from the site’s About Us page,
HotPopRobot is a maker-family enterprise co-founded in 2014 by Artash […], Arushi […], Rati, and Vikas to bring discussions on Science, Space Exploration, Astronomy, and Technology in our everyday conversation. It encourages families, kids, and youths to become creators (and not consumers), scientists, artists, or whatever they want to be by undertaking projects on space, robotics, coding, and science.
We started this enterprise after winning the NASA Space Apps Toronto 2014 Award for our Mars Rover: CuriousBot. We ended up among the top 5 NASA Space Apps Winners (people’s choice) globally! We won the NASA SpaceApps Challenge Toronto again in 2019, 2018, and 2017 as well as the Canadian Space Agency’s Space Apps Challenge 2017 for our project – “Yes I Can” which used RadarSat-2 satellite data to recreate the #Canada150 logo. We ended up getting invited to the Canadian Space Agency to present our project and meet the new Canadian Astronauts.
The latest project is a musical based on data sonification of data on COVID-19 impacts in Toronto, Canada. Here’s a video of the ‘Toronto COVID-19 Lockdown Musical’ or more formally the ‘Musical Scales Project’,
As of June 2020, Artash and Arushi are in grade eight and grade five, respectively, which means they are likely 13 and 10 years old now and were seven and four years old, respectively, when they and their parents started the HotPopRobots enterprise in 2014.
Definitely visit their website if you’re interested in artificial intelligence, robots, machine learning, as well as, their other topics.
Regarding their latest project, here’s more about the Musical Scales Project from a June 19 (?), 2020 posting on their website,
The beauty of the human mind is that once you set it free, it soars high. Our mind too was teeming with big questions that we wanted to find the answers about. Would the COVID19 lockdown have increased the bird density in the city skies, would the closure of all economic activities have affected the rotation of the Earth, would an Alien civilization be able to figure out that something drastic must have happened on Earth?
All questions are good questions. But from our previous experiences of making projects, we knew we had to limit our imagination for the time being and focus on practicality to come up with workable project design. Once we have made something and it works, we could always keep improving it or make newer versions of the same.
So between the two of us [Artash and Arushi], we limited our questions to:
Has the noise levels on our streets gone down?
Has the air we breathe become cleaner?
Have the traffic levels on our streets gone down?
Has the lockdown affected the vibration of the Earth due to the stopping of businesses, economic, and construction activities?
We often have to dismantle some of our older projects to get the components for our newer projects. It is not a good feeling as we often use our older projects to give demonstrations at various public events. So where possible we try to make our projects modular so that we can use the same components for more than one project.
We ended up collecting the following sensors and cameras for this project.
Light Sensor: It measures the light around us. It has a photo-resistor whose value decreases when light falls on it. It is the base sensor that will help us visualize separate daily data readings as well as changes in data collected during day and night.
Sound Sensor: To listen to street noise around us. It is similar to a microphone but gives analog values of sound levels. This raw data then has to be calibrated to understand how it changes with the change in sound levels.
PM 2.5 Dust Sensor: It is a sensor to measure particulate matters of 2.5 microns in the air. There is a small heater in the sensor which directs the flow of air in the sensor in an upward direction (convection current). The flow of air passes through infrared light which bounces around. The more the bounce the more the particulate matter or more polluted the air.
Temperature Sensor: We wanted to see how much the temperature was changing around us. The sensor is just like a digital thermometer but it prints out the readings.
Humidity Sensor: It measures how damp the air around is. We measure humidity and temperature as they both affect the pollution levels.
Intel RealSense Camera: To get a wide overview of the traffic on King Street. Its high resolution allows us to apply machine learning for object identification and tracking.
In addition to getting data from our sensors, we had to rely on external databases to get some other information.
Covid19 Infection Rates in Toronto: from City of Toronto Public Health website
The intensity of Night Lights Over Toronto: Using NASA Night Light Data to understand changes in night lights over Toronto during different weeks.
Seismic Vibrations in Toronto: We got the displacement data of Earth along the vertical direction from the Leslie Spit Seismic Station in Toronto.
We used the free Musical Algorithm software (www.musicalgorithms.org) to bring all the data together and create the COVID19 Lockdown Musical.
The descriptions and instructions are comprehensive, which is very helpful if you’re planning your own project.