Science students take projects to new heights


Staff Writer

They’re not just tinkering with Tinker Toys in school these days. Freehold Regional High School District science and engineering students at Manalapan High School are definitely in the loop when it comes to creating their senior projects.

The students recently presented the results of their efforts.

Kim Fox, science and engineering supervisor, said, “The senior projects are the culmination of three years of hard work in the advanced topics of computer design, drafting, electronics and advanced math and science. The science and engineering specialized learning center is a very challenging program offering accelerated courses and activities not normally seen at the high school level. The program pushes students to excel beyond their own expectations.”

Marcelo Cerullo and Ben Shappee presented “The Belligerent Blaster: An Autonomous Grenadier.”

Cerullo said, “Our final goal was to build an apparatus that would identify a target at a distance, raise a projectile launcher, determine the distance to the target and then fire [the projectile] at the target.”

In order to identify the target, the students used an L-shaped template to analyze pictures, which were captured in the frame of a video camera screen. Finding the distance between adjacent points and using a formula which employs color-coding, the students were able identify the target, along with its height and width.

Then next part was to construct a platform which would allow movement of the barrel of the blaster. Using a gear-driven platform which turned left and right and a screw-driven device for vertical movement, the barrel could be raised, lowered or turned.

A bellows was added to provide additional energy to the projectile and by using a computer, the students were able to locate the target and fire the blaster.

“Our future goals would be to optimize the algorithm,” said Cerullo. “We want to make night circuit boards and make it wireless.”

“We want to improve the precision of the device,” Shappee said.

The students demonstrated the project successfully by using a ping-pong ball as the projectile.

A second demonstration, “Applications in Astronomy: Building a Dobsonian Telescope,” was made by Kavita Ramachandran and Murtaza Naqvi, who attempted to take pictures of the sun and the moon. The pair constructed a telescope, researched photography and integrated the two to produce the photos.

“We decided to build a Dobsonian telescope, which is a reflective telescope where incoming light is intercepted and reflected off a mirror to a secondary mirror. From the secondary mirror it’s reflected off to an eyepiece,” Ramachandran said.

Motion is achieved from side to side by the mount, explained Ramachandran.

“This [kind of] telescope was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1670,” said Naqvi, who explained how the light moves the inside of the telescope using such terms as focal points, angles of reflection and angles of incidence.

Ramachandran explained the pros and cons of using this type of telescope, noting that it is inexpensive, but can have aberrations, blurring and changes in colors.

Special care must be taken to make sure the mirrors are clean and free of fingerprints, Ramachandran said.

Naqvi cautioned about the dangers of looking at the sun through a telescope.

The pair showed pictures taken of the sun through their telescope and pictures taken of the moon, showing some details on the surface of the moon.

Other projects demonstrated during the morning session included “Metal Detection” by Alex Ho and Sherwin Shahraray.

“We created a BFO (beat frequency oscillator) metal detector using the principals of electromagnetism,” said Ho. “We were able to have magnetic materials affect an electronic signal, such that the change in this signal could be made audible by a speaker.”

“We hope to come to a conclusion about the difference between detecting ferromagnetic and non-ferromagnetic materials,” said Shahraray.

Robin Chen and Brittany Gladney created a “Musical Bar Code Scanner” which was comprised of a circuit, a platform and a computer program.

Chen said, “We printed out barcodes on clear plastic sheets and ran them through the scanner.”

“A laser shone through the sheet and into a phototransistor,” said Gladney. “The data was transmitted to a computer, where the program translated the binary data into musical notes.”

Steve Lee, Victor Ng and Dmitriy Yakovlev produced “Minijet: The Endeavors of a Homemade Ramjet.” The students built a small ramjet engine and at the same time researched various properties of aerodynamics, including the law of continuity and Bernoulli’s principle.

The students tested the engine with different fuels from propane to kerosene. They also measured the thrust output of their engine.

After lunch, Giri Gopalan and Chris Solidum demonstrated “A Project in Digital Interfacing: Webcam Tracking,” which used a webcam that focused on a specific object as it moved through a given space.

Brian Bickerton, Kyechin Chen and Richard Lin demonstrated “Crazy Train: A Project in Magnetic Levitation,” which investigated arrangements of permanent magnets called Halbach arrays and used magnetic fields, electromagnetic induction and other electromagnetic concepts.

Caryl Dizon and Andrew Freddo’s project, “Analyzing the Heavens: The Spectra of Stars,” explored spectroscopy. The students built a spectrometer and tested it with known elements. They then moved their exploration to the heavens and began taking pictures of stellar spectra. They then compared their work to that of other astronomers. Future plans include quantitative analysis of the results.

Adam Elmachtoub and David Tu explained “Handwriting Recognition: A Study in Mathematical Curiosities,” which uses optical character recognition. The students developed a program that can look at letters within an image and can convert them to a form that can be recognized and interpreted by a computer.

Matthew Preziotte and Kevin Wu demonstrated “Building Bricks: A Study in Laser Communications,” which was a version of the game called Brick. Using a computer, photodiodes and a lot of words which few people understand, the students were able to make their variation of the game.