In recent weeks my blogging has fallen into a rut. while representing my week’s learnings in these retrospectives has provided critical insight in to my work so far; I fear that it does not get to the true heart of what this is all about. This experience is not about going through the motions of taking a class, nor is it about memorizing syntax and reciting it to you all. This experience is about gaining real life skills. In this week’s blog I will not be teaching you how to make a spell checker, or teaching you syntax; I will be telling you about how the story of a project of mine.
In addition to my independent work this year I have been taking Design and Engineering as a science elective. The combination of these two courses has been nothing short of magical. Design and Engineering is all about doing; machining things, cutting wood, and building something physical. CS50 is the study of the abstract; conceptualizing crazy ideas and building programs to make these ideas real.
I have been flying multirotors (drones) for several years now, and developing software to fly them for the past few months. It is undeniable that drones are somewhat unescapable in the medias as of late, every local news station has run some insane puff piece on how they are all spying on our kids. In truth, Drones are not weapons of deceit or terror, but they are the revolutionary device of our life time. In the past ten years, innovations in battery and processor capacity have made autonomous RC vehicles assessable to anyone with a little bit of pocket change. However, no one has ever pushed this technology past the hobby stage. Let me propose something to you.
Currently farmers have no way to assess crop growth in their fields. If a farmer wants to make real time maps of his fields, he will most likely turn to a crop duster pilot once a season to give him a low resolution map for a large sum of cash. There is no way to do any real quantitate analysis on this data collected because all it is photos, and expensive ones at that, so it’s not particularly repeatable. Now what we a farmer could purchase an off the shelf drone that would produce real time maps of his fields, collecting light and data from both the visible and infrared spectrum that can be used to get information on crop performance, pest infestation location, and countless other data sets. This would allow the farmer to better grow crops, use less fertilizer, and save money. All because of a drone.
This is the problem I took on for design and engineering, how do we build an intuitive solution to a problem the market has mainly ignored. This is where CS50 and D&E begin to show their true combined merit; this is not exclusively a hardware problem, nor is it a software problem, it’s a real problem. To solve it you must have real skills in countless areas, design, agriculture, software development,
To cut the rest of the story short, solving the problem of reliable agriculture mapping has turned into something much larger. Roger, Rachel, Jade, Pfleuger, Miguel, Emma, Lukas, Tom, and I now lead Aether Aeronautics which is working to build a drone platform to preform a variety of tasks, namely medical supply delivery and agricultural mapping. This January Second we will be taking the main stage at the Young Innovators Fair to tell our story. In just two weeks from now we will be flying our first prototype around some the fields near Westtown. If you are interested in learning more our website is deeplinked above.
I realize this may seem unrelated to my course work so far. However, the study of computer science can often feel isolated from the real world. Even the most obtuse concepts in the field exist for a reason, unlike mathematicians (and their n-dimensional space), computer science is a practical field. Every concept exists for a reason and has a real world application. While dealing with the realities of pointer arithmetic it is hard to see the context that this all fits into the real world. Spending these past few weeks pouring myself into solving a real world problem has really given me the context I’ve needed to rejuvenate my work in the course.
Next week we’ll be returning to the regular format and be talking about web severs, which should be a ton of fun.