EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A glimpse of the future was offered Wednesday, Dec. 20 in the high school media center by some of the students who are likely to usher it in.
Representatives from several New Jersey colleges turned up for the inaugural computer science showcase. Students presented projects they worked on in class, for Stockton University’s recent Hackathon, or on their own.
Karina Gonzalez, an 11th grader, showed off artificial hands she created using the school’s 3-D printer while one of the teachers opened and closed the hand using strings that acted like tendons.
A small robot, under the control of senior Dexter Sullivan, zipped back and forth across the carpeted floors while loose knots of students listened to informal presentations from their peers around the room.
Computer science teacher Adam Swift said about 35 students participated in the Dec. 20 event, and he expected professors from Drexel, Rowan, Stockton and the College of New Jersey to be on hand throughout the day to speak with the students.
“I think this was a great opportunity for our students,” Swift said.
It grew out of Computer Science Education Week, a global initiative that took place Dec. 4-10. Swift said the school decided to extend it for the month of December, and the event Dec. 20 is a chance for students to show off their progress.
According to Carmelita Graham, supervisor of career and technical education and instructional technology for the township schools, these high school students know more about computers than she did when she graduated, and she majored in computer sciences. She said studies indicate that 94 percent of students want to study computer science, but only 40 percent of schools offer programs.
Egg Harbor Township is one of the few districts to offer classes not only use and programming of computers, but classes on the hardware side, she said.
“It’s very impressive. The kids have really taken the initiative,” Graham said.
Not every project was complete.
Student Noah Russ, who is building a computer, spoke to a classmate about his project. While the computer was not finished, he had booted it up and said it was running great, better than he had hoped. He learned how in a class called PC Systems Servicing, he said, and he was able to customize it for his needs.
Seniors Akash Patel, Nathaniel Masters and Mostafa Gad spent days creating an augmented reality game. You could see the game on screen, set up with three solo cups and a small ball. It was the same layout as a shell game, but they said their version would be honest. Using several different programs, they had it set so the game picks up cues from a placard in the real world.
They had a lot more work to do, but when it’s completed, a player will be able to put on a headset fitted with a phone and play in real time, they said. The virtual cups will appear to be in front of the player.
While that team works on bringing people into the virtual world, Gonzalez wants to bring the virtual into the real world.
Showing off a pair of hands printed in plastic with the school’s 3-D printer, she said the technology will have an enormous impact on the future.
For now, she said, conventional manufacturing remains cheaper for most production, but to create a single needed part, or for a prototype, 3-D printing is an effective tool. She used a program called Tinkercad to create shapes and designs. On screen, she had a model of the Taj Mahal she designed but had not yet rendered.
Across the room, Sullivan worked with a robot his team was preparing for the FIRST Tech Challenge robot competition.
In that challenge, students in grades seven through 12 build and program their own robot. Sullivan said he was working on the controls, which are connected via smartphones. He used two standard handheld game controllers, one to guide the robot and the other to control the arm that will allow it to pick up an object, which is rt of the challenge.
“I’m the programmer. The hardware people have worked really hard on this. They’ve worked on it for months already,” he said.