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Our first intern

Hello, my name is Luke Taylor, I did my internship at the MIH Media Lab for a week and was asked to write a blog post about myself and my experiences.

Luke in the Lab

To introduce myself, I’m a 15 -year old robotics junkie from Cape Town and a grade 9 high-school learner at the German International School in Tamboerskloof.  I am passionate about CS (Computer Science), recently discovering my interest in the sub-category of AI (Artificial intelligence). I enjoy creating robots and applications with dedicated algorithms and software.

Short story how I landed up at the MIH Media Lab
Beginning of this year I had this idea to program my Mindstorms NXT robot in English. This lead me to embark on a project called “Programming in Pure English” which I used to enter the inaugural Google Science Fair (GSF). The huge investment of time and effort paid off when I was informed on 23 May – my 15th birthday – that I had made it into the finals!  I was going to fly to Googleplex in Silicon Valley, California, to present my idea to a panel of acclaimed judges. That was definitely the greatest birthday present in the history of Luke’s life. The absolute highlight of it all was meeting and interacting with inspirational scientists like Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the internet) ,Peter Norvig (Director of Research at Google) , Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway) and many more! What more could a 15 year old ask for?
Well, it didn’t end there.  Various exciting doors have opened since then.  Following my story in the media, the MIH Media Lab decided to invite myself and other learners from my school for a tour at their facilities at Stellenbosch University. I was fascinated and kept on thinking why school couldn’t be like the lab! At the end of the outing, I asked Gert-Jan if it would be possible that I do an internship at this exciting place during my school holidays.  He replied with a yes, and not too long thereafter, everything was set; I just had to wait for the school term to end!

My visit at the Lab
As school slowly took its curve to the holidays, my excitement grew exponentially. At last, finally, my big day had arrived; the internship was about to begin. The first days were spent learning Java and Android development. After that I started linking up my phone (Android) with my robot (Mindstorms NXT). I love that feeling where you spend a lot of time in something, get a lot of unwanted mysterious results, and finally out of ‘nothing’ it just goes right. I kinda felt like that when I got a string sent over to the NXT, which was then outputted to the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). After that, I had a look at NFC (Near Field Communication). Gert-Jan kindly gave me three tags, with which I could play. I found a sample program, which I tweaked a bit yielding my wanted results. The App could read simple data that were stored on a tag and display it in the center of the screen. Originally the plan was to work on a project, involving a robot to explore its environment and save its knowledge on a tag, so the next robot could just read it and know what this place looked like, and which route to take. I aborted this, however, when I had another idea which I thought may be suitable for a new project for the next GSF – teaching a robot language.  To explore this further, I spent the next day talking to Gert-Jan and Stephan Gouws.  This was no doubt productive and gave me deeper insight into what I should be aiming at. The last day I spent playing around with the Arduino Uno – a very cool little inventor’s kit that teaches you the basics of electronics. I made some LEDs (Light emitting Diodes) blink, apparently this is the equivalent to “Hello World” when starting out with a programming language.

The Mindstroms NXT robot and some books on coding

To come to an end, I really loved my stay. I loved the opportunity to stroll around, talking with the students in the lab about their projects. Who knew there was a fourth dimension?! The thought still bruises my brain. I loved the lectures Gert-Jan kindly gave me, all the way form NLP (Natural Language Processing) to the bare bones of a computer, 1′s and 0′s. Once again my brain gets bruised when I think of 3D Video games; double whammy. What a fun and educational week.

Unforgettable moments
Drinking coffee in the morning before heading off to code. What more could one ever want? The Incubator – Socializing with cool people, eating good food and of course playing guitar hero! And the cherry on top: The Laser Fingerprint Scanner! How cool is it to enter a room with the force of a single finger.

Last words
I should finish this blog post with a new language I’m starting to get the hang of – why only talk to computers with it, when Geeks around the world would rather speak this as their mother tongue.


 

 

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    John Gilmore on Sunday 23 October, 09:19 AM #

    It was great to have you visit us Luke! Good luck with your studies and don’t forget to keep in touch.

  2. 2
    Justin Groep on Tuesday 08 November, 17:42 PM #

    What a nice read, the media lab is definitely a place where the possibilities are endless! This environment that promotes innovation and creativity should be promoted all over campus!

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