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Spotlight on geekStarters: Robert Mayall

Spotlight on geekStarters: Robert Mayall

Robert Mayall is a dedicated member of the geekStarter community, mentor to Notre Dame Collegiate team, and co-founder at FREDsense Technologies. In this photo, he provides feedback to teams at geekStarter’s 2017 High School Jamboree in High River.

10 Quick Questions for Robert

    1. How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

I am a scientist and entrepreneur interested in combining technologies to create new products and solutions.

    1. What do you love the most about your work/school?

I love being able to work at FREDsense because there’s a team of incredible people working together to solve problems that affect people’s lives.

  1. What is your best accomplishment so far?

My proudest accomplishment so far has been seeing the FREDsense technology grow from an idea into a product that we can actually hold and have tested with partners around the world.

  1. What is something you are working towards right now?

I’m working on finishing up my PhD right now so that I can focus full time on FREDsense.

  1. How do you like to spend your downtime?

I like to spend time relaxing by cooking spicy meals, working on my car or trying my hand at woodworking projects.

  1. What is something you can’t imagine your life without?

I couldn’t imagine my life without my phone, as it plans my entire life.

  1. What is one thing that people will be surprised to hear about you?

Just how much I love spicy food. I may have a bit of a problem…

  1. What is something you are afraid of?

I’m always afraid that my latest idea will be my last, even though that hasn’t been right yet!

  1. What would you like your work to be ten years from now?

I’d like to be working on “out-there” scientific concepts like how to merge proteins and cells with computer hardware.

  1. What is one thing you appreciate about geekStarter?

The chance to work with students who are excited and interested in what kind of cool things they can do with science and technology.

Spotlight on geekStarters: Innovations Club at Ross Sheppard High School

Spotlight on geekStarters: Innovations Club at Ross Sheppard High School

Flight mission – Photo of Ross Sheppard team members taken by their FPV drone

Check out this recent interview with the robotics team from Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, and learn about their plans for the 2017-18 season and beyond.
• What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments?

We have the freedom to be creative and build hands on electronic projects.

A recent memorable moment: During our recent open house, we were showing off some of our drones. One of our team members tested the speed of one of the drones by flying it as fast as he could towards a teacher’s stomach. Important side note: The teacher was willing and prepared for the test! Unfortunately, the tester had forgotten to change one of the settings and the drone didn’t stop. Instead, it bounced off the teacher’s stomach and then the wall, returning to its flight in the hallway unscathed!! There was a crowd of parents and prospective students watching and they all thought it was part of the act!! It all turned out very funny and very dramatic!

• How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less?

We utilize 3D printing and open source materials, such as instructions, code and 3D printing files, to build and program self driving racing cars, drones, and rockets with self deploying parachutes.

• What has been one highlight of working on your project so far?

Capturing aerial footage using our drone.

 What is your team’s biggest challenge?

Troubleshooting code! Our self driving cars, and the ball following car didn’t work right away. The open source code needed to be de-bugged before it worked. Once the self driving car is operational, we will continue to modify the code and make it faster and able to avoid opponents on the race track. Having the perseverance to keep de-bugging using trial and error with code is time consuming and frustrating!

• What is your team’s favourite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond?

We have begun a fun competition within the club – Actually, two: 1. Indoor drone racing, and 2. FPV (first person view) Raspberry pi car race and obstacle course. This is just a fun competition, but we are going to keep track of points and continually update the league tables. It will also hone our skills. Eventually we plan to enter a self driving car race called Formula Pi , where we would compete by submitting our code.

What are some ways in which your team connects and collaborates with the wider community?

We are beginning to use our drone to take photos of the school and school activities. Once the snow melts, we have plans to collaborate with the school football team and shoot some video of practices, and maybe some games too. Once we get more comfortable and skilled at drone video, we will also work with the school Yearbook team, leadership and photography class, to provide video footage and photos of various school events.

We are also planning to develop a one week summer camp in August, for Grade 9 students. Our team members would facilitate the building and activities that we have come to be skilled at at our club: Raspberry Pi cars, Lego Robotics, Indoor Drone racing, Building a Rocket with self deploying parachute. The process was started and we are now waiting to hear back from some locations, and insurance details.

 What does your team hope to achieve by the end of this season?

1. Self driving car race – with at least 2 racing cars so that the code can be modified to develop the speed and obstacle avoidance. Code will then be entered into the international Formula Pi competition.

2. Complete the building of several indoor racing drones, and develop the racing drone competition within the club, to hone our flight control skills.

3. Build a water rocket that has a self deploying parachute and attach a data logger with various atmospheric sensors to collect data.

 Where would you like to see your project go in the future?

Bigger and better…..

The self driving car concept could be scaled up. We have discussed using the raspberry pi concept with a larger more powerful platform. Bigger motors, bigger chassis etc.

Drone building. Build an outdoor racing drone. Maybe complete a Drone flying course. Use the drones to capture footage of activities and events.

Using the data logging platform from our rocket and putting them on a weather balloon. Sending the weather balloon up to low orbit!! With camera?

• What is one thing your team appreciates about geekStarter?

Having the support to develop our innovative ideas and an encouraging culture of building electronic projects that connects us with other like minded groups at conferences/workshops. This culture and support focuses our projects so that we can proudly showcase them at the end of year and other community events.

Spotlight on geekStarters: Notre Dame Collegiate Syn Bio Team

Spotlight on geekStarters: Notre Dame Collegiate Syn Bio Team

Recent photo of team mentor Emily Hicks and 6 of the 20 student team members in their school’s lab

Check out this recent interview with the synthetic biology team from Notre Dame Collegiate in High River, and learn about their plans for the 2017-18 season and beyond.
What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments?

Something that makes our team unique is that it has an age range of grades 7-12, and we built our own incubator from scratch last year using materials found at the Home Depot. Some of our favourite moments from the past few years include the iGEM lab workshops in Lethbridge, as well as the Jamboree that we hosted at our school last spring for synthetic biology and robotics teams to present their projects and get to know each other.

What is your team’s favorite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond?

One way we bond as a team is by eating lunch together before our meetings start. This gives us time to share ideas and get to know each other better.

How does your team use social media?

Our team currently does not have a social media account, but we do plan to make an instagram and facebook account for 2018.

How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less?

We are currently researching two different ideas: plant antifreeze and breaking down fatbergs. Our fatberg bacteria would work to breakdown “fatbergs” that block drains and major sewage systems which is becoming problematic in many areas around the world. Our plant antifreeze bacteria would protect Alberta crops from flash frosts; this idea has been pursued by many teams so we are doing more research to see if there is any way we can change or improve past designs to be successful.

What has been one highlight of working on your project so far?

At the end of last year we ran our first successful gel electrophoresis in the lab. It was very satisfying to see the strands of DNA glow, knowing that our plasmid finally made it into our bacteria!

What is your team’s biggest challenge?

So far we have had difficulties in choosing a single project to go forward with. We have limited our choices to two different ideas, a bacteria that breaks down fat (fatbergs) and an antifreeze bacteria for crops.
We do not have access to specific equipment, so we have had to make it ourselves. Our do-it-yourself equipment hasn’t worked as well as we had hoped so we have had to make changes to improve their function. This year we purchased new parts to improve our designs, and so far, so good!

What does your team look forward to the most this season?

We are looking forward to completing a project from start to finish and, hopefully, we will be able to take our project to iGEM in 2018.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of this season?

Through improving research and lab skills we plan to finish our project, and benefit the people with the problem we try to resolve – whether that be Fatbergs or Antifreeze. Our team hopes to bring our project to iGEM 2018.

Where would you like to see your project go in the future? What are your team’s dreams for the future?

We would love to develop a working prototype that can be used by our target consumers.