Digital Design Lab: High-School Inventor’s Paradise

Dustin Diep and Ahmed Gedi from Franklin HS, holding their F.A.F.

Here's Dustin (left) and Ahmed (right), holding their F.A.F.


regon MESA’s program called Digital Design Lab (D2L) allows young inventors to design and create their own projects, from start to finish, over the course of six weekend sessions. We had a chance to speak with two of those inventors, Dustin Diep and Ahmed Gedi from Franklin High School, and take a look at what they call the “Friggin’ Awesome Fedora.” The F.A.F. plays mp3 music and is controlled by buttons placed on the brim.

When they demonstrated it to GetReal, they played My Generation, by The Who. We recommend clicking that link and listening, while you read the rest of our exclusive story.

The F.A.F. uses the LilyPad, a special Arduino board specialized for crafts with fabric, and a couple other parts to allow the wearer to play music out of speakers, which they embedded into the crown of the fedora. They managed to get this up and running in just five weekend sessions at D2L, with only minimal independent work between sessions. See the pictures for yourself:

The FAF speakers and control buttons

The F.A.F. uses these four buttons to play music out of its green speakers. Good sound

The LilyPad Arduino exposed.

The LilyPad Arduino board, usually hidden behind the striped band, controls the F.A.F. music-playing systems.

View of the inside of the FAF; you can see the mp3-controller board, and some wires.

The built-in mp3-controller board, hidden inside the hat, sends audio signals to the speakers.

Image of the tiny battery used to power the FAF

Here's the tiny battery, which powers the F.A.F. To compare, notice the edge of the LilyPad board, at the bottom of the image.

Image of Dustin wearing the FAF

Dustin, who wore another fedora while he worked on the Friggin' Awesome Fedora, donated this one to the project. Here, he wears it for old time's sake.

Dustin and Ahmed, both proud to be Portlanders, got the idea when they first thought to make a glove-phone—a glove with speaker and microphone, which would answer when you made the “call me” hand gesture and held it to your head.

After some research, where they discovered how complex it would be to do—working with bluetooth and analog signals with Arduino gets pretty messy—Dustin and Ahmed decided to refine their idea to something that could fit into the remaining five sessions.

Image of Ahmed wearing the FAF

Ahmed, a classy young gent, demonstrates how one can tip the brim politely, while simultaneously activating the F.A.F.

Dustin and Ahmed have both worked on some interesting projects in the past. Dustin contributed to the FHS App project, an open-source web app which lets Franklin HS students follow relevant notifications.

The code is going to be used for a Franklin/Wilson community safety app, so residents can follow police notifications and the like (open-source is great!).

And Ahmed has been featured on D2L YouTube videos in the past, with a Simon Says game for Arduino. Both are hardworking and bright high-school students.

These two high school sophomores are already well on their way to building great portfolios of work they’ve done—just because they decided to turn one of their ideas into a reality.

See, every time you have an idea for an invention, you’ve got the potential to be an engineer. Some people might forget about those ideas, some might play with them, and some might even write them down in a notebook somewhere. But what do you do with those ideas?

If you’d like to take that idea, and turn it into a creation, you’re an engineer.

Have you ever wanted to make one of those invention ideas? Because through programs like Digital Design Lab, you can. Express your interest in having more D2L sessions by writing a short email to MESA.

Here’s a video of other D2L projects from a previous session.


Meet an OSU grad who gets to work on one of the coolest telescopes ever.


elcome back from the break, and we hope everyone is enjoying their winter term of school!

Today, we wanted to give you a great example of an Oregon college graduate who went on to do awesome things—the kinds of awesome things we talk about right here on Get Real!

Michael Thorburn graduated from Oregon State University some time ago, with a degree in mathematics. After that, he got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

From there he went on to do a whole slew of awesome stuff, including being named the head of the Department of Engineering for ALMA.

What’s ALMA? It’s what happens when scientists and engineers work together to make a super-telescope, with the power of its 66 combined individual telescopes. We mentioned it a while back. Also, check out this video that ALMA released.

Here's an image ALMA produced—this is what radio telescopes are capable of! Image by European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Here's about what the ALMA radio telescopes look like—these ones are the prototypes, gazing into the heavens. Image by ESO.

It stands for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, because it’s a radio telescope which scans in the millimeter frequencies. As an awesome side-note, ALMA is Spanish for “soul.”

We’ve also talked about the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which is a lot like ALMA. The differences are these: ALMA is much nearer completion (scheduled to be done in March, as opposed to SKA, whose construction begins in 2016); and SKA is going to be a bit bigger, since it’s newer.

Here's what the completed ALMA will look like. Image by ESO.

Why should you care about radio telescopes? Because you can look back in time—Because only travels so fast, the further away from Earth you can look, the older the stuff you see actually is.

“We can look at stars 13.5 billion light years away,” Thorburn said. “The Big Bang is said to have happened 13.7 billion years ago.”

Awesome engineering.

Read on:

Oregon Leaders Eager to Listen to High School Students.


nd they really listened when high school senior Savannah Loberger spoke at an Oregon Leadership Summit. We’ve written about some of the other things Savannah has done, such as designing and running an all-girls program called Girls Get IT.

Listen to her speech about high school engineering:

She cracks a couple good jokes, too.

Savannah was pretty lucky, because she got to go to Hillsboro High School which has an excellent engineering program under Don Domes. And maybe not every high school has an engineering program like it, but she sure got a lot of people listening to her.

By the way, she spoke just a few minutes after the governor of the state of Oregon. And she was speaking in front of business leaders and politicians (state and national legislators)—the kind of people who, listening to Savannah speak, can actually do something about it.

Savannah Loberger is the mastermind of Girls Get IT, and acted as a student mentor this year.

Here’s the point: Those leaders want to listen to you. They want to make your schools better, and they want to give you opportunities. And they want to hear what you have to say. Which means we need more people to speak up about what they want.

If you’ve ever had a problem with the way things are taught, especially if it has to do with a lack of classes you’re interested in—like engineering or computer science—you ought to tell someone how you think schools can improve, and see what you can do yourself. Rattle some cages! These people are eager to listen, and if you work hard you could get the same kind of recognition that Savannah does.

Bonus—check out this free informational event about how to apply for financial aid for college: College Goal Oregon)

OSU’s own Aerospace Club launches


regon State University has recently launched another great engineering club, giving you one more reason to study there when you go to college. Students Brandon Thoennes and Michael Roos, both of whom are engineering students, got the club off the ground this year with the help of a few faculty advisers—but as a “sponsored student organization” they’re in charge of running it themselves.

This rocket is an example of what OSU's AIAA club will launch in future competitions. Image from Daily Barometer.

Brandon and Michael and the president and vice president, respectively. They make all the decisions for the OSU chapter of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The club plans to build remote-controlled rockets and enter into competitions with other university AIAA clubs, just like OSU’s SAE club currently does.

Currently they’ve got over 20 members, and hope to grow fast. By the time you get to OSU, they may be huge. If rocket science interests you, watch October Sky and join this club when you get to college.

Read on:

Tour Hillsboro Highschool’s Engineering Program for Free.


illsboro High is one of our favorite schools in Oregon, and we think it’s a great example of a good engineering program for high school students. And we’ve covered their (awesome) antics extensively (check out Thunderdome of Engineering and Girls Get IT, for example).

This Wednesday, they’re having an open house for their engineering program, with students and teachers presenting their projects (like the ones we just linked you to above). The Electronics Manufacturer’s Association will be there too, sponsoring the event.

You can enjoy refreshments and hear some great stuff about what it takes to get ready for an engineering degree in college. This is useful stuff for anyone, not just Hillsboro HS students, not just high school students, but for anyone!

Click here to register for the free event, which includes entering an email address for them to email your tickets to. Today is the last day to sign up!

Oregon’s move towards tidal energy—Starting at OSU


aves are one of our most ignored sources of energy. Think about the fact that tides are made up of water (very massive, compared to air for wind turbines) and move constantly and predictably—always constant, thanks to the gravitational pull of the moon.

The world is quickly catching on by investing in ways to harness this energy (like America’s first tidal turbine in Portland, Maine). Oregon scientists, green as this state is, are not far behind. As it turns out, OSU may be building a tidal energy testing facility in the next few years.

Right now the two locations being discussed are Reedsport, about two thirds of the way down Oregon’s coastline, and Newport, in the middle. OSU’s NNMREC is the group that will build it, and the facility will be called the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC).

Probably the most familiar-looking form of tidal power collector, the tidal stream turbine basically looks like a wind turbine.

The plan is to decide on a location by the end of this year, and build as soon as NNMREC can secure funding. If all goes well, that means it may be built by the time you’re in college.

As you’ve probably heard in high school, and won’t hear the end of in college: the way we’re living right now is simply not sustainable. We’re driving head-on into the end of the world as we know it and, without renewable energy alternatives, some bad things might happen once we run out of coal and oil.

But it’s not all doomsday. “Greengineering” is one of Oregon’s most focused-on subjects in engineering, because Oregon cares about the environment and we’re known for being on top of this whole environmental sustainability thing.

This is the world's first commercial-scale tidal turbine: SeaGen, in Ireland. It's a tidal stream turbine, with two huge turbines underwater. It reliably generates 1.2MW of power for 18-20 hours per day.Wind turbines are made to have that capacity too, but due to wind patterns they usually produce only 10% of that.

Besides being able to design cool stuff like wind or tidal turbines, or solar-power collectors, or any other creative ways to live sustainably, if you like DIY projects you’d easily be able to build something similar for your own home (hello, free electricity!). If you care about helping protect Earth while simultaneously protecting our species and solving problems, think about making greengineering your job.

And if it’s not your thing, applaud Oregon for being so awesome that we’re among the first states move towards tidal energy, one of Earth’s best sources of power.

Read on:

Girls Get IT for the second year running


Girls Get IT. A lineup of their events this year.

ut honestly girls always have. This year Hillsboro High School had its second annual Girls Get IT! summer camp—and it’s definitely grown a lot, which just goes to show you how many girls are in to technology, engineering and computer science.

Savannah Loberger is the mastermind of Girls Get IT, and acted as a student mentor this year.

Over 110 girls from middle to high school ages attended, compared to last year’s smaller turnout of 40 (last year there was just one week-long camp offered, this year they had three). And often, when people think of science and technology, they think of it as boring and not very social. But girls were hanging out, listening to whatever loud music they wanted to put on, and generally having a great time, while still having a blast with their projects.

But one of our favorite things was the swag. All of the girls got their own t-shirts, and decorated their own safety glasses with glitter or whatever they wanted. And the fact that everyone was there with the same goal meant everyone enjoyed a friendly setting where girls could focus on learning and having fun, not worrying about potentially unfriendly people.

Oregon senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward decided to visit. If you participate in extracurricular camps like Girls Get IT, you can have the chance to meet people like her!

Girls who attended participated in several activities which integrated things like jewelry, chocolate cake and games with technology-themes like binary, programming and engineering. On the day we visited, we had the chance to see a couple fun ones: the human calculator and electronic bling.

This was the logic gate mat that girls used for the human calculator

In the human calculator event, girls stood on a giant mat and played the parts of a computer chip’s logic gates, which send specific data based on their inputs. In a hilariously complex and fun version of telephone, the girls sent data and added numbers, checking their results with the expected outcome.

For E-Bling, girls turned this...

Electronic bling is about exactly what it sounds like. Girls took circuit board resistors, LEDs and other parts—which the camp supplied by the spool—and made bracelets, rings, and necklaces out of them. On top of that, girls could design their own acrylic jewelry parts using CAD software called RHINO 3D, get the pieces custom-cut, and use them in their projects as well. When they were done, they got to model their creations for the class on a projector—an IT modeling runway.

...into this.

On the other four days of the camp, girls did similar projects related to computer programming, robotics, hardware and computers—doing things like building a computer from scratch, making one-minute chocolate cake using power tools and canned CO2, and 3D-printing cookie cutters of their own design.

Marina and Rachael, two more Girls Get IT mentors. Everyone was extremely friendly

Girls Get IT! was, just like last year, an awesome event for girls to get into science and technology—or even just try something new out—without worrying about anyone making things feel unfriendly or awkward. We’ll see it again next year and, if you’ll be in middle or high school next year, we really think you should check it out and sign up. It’s a great place to see how technology, engineering and computer science are big parts of your life, and a great place to make new friends.