ARC Blog

Welcome to the participant blog for the 2015 ARC/ORNL High School Summer Math-Science-Technology Institute! Here, you can follow along with the students and teachers who are participating in this two week research experience. A different author will write each entry. Enjoy reading about their time at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory!

Thursday, July 23

Brien B., Student, Wintersville, OH

Today my group worked on our presentation for most of our morning. Our group also wrapped up most of our experiments. I enjoyed eating lunch with my mentor and I know that I will miss the program and the people I have met.

Wednesday, July 22

Lawrence M., Wellington, KY

Today In robotics we continued our work on the lynxmotion tritrack robots. After completing 2 obstacle courses over the past 3 days, it was time to think outside the box and have the robots roam. We proceeded to attach a pair of infrared sensors on the front panel. These sensors can be used to detect objects at rest and at motion by sending out a wave and reading the return wave. The robots were then trained via the program to follow solid white objects, such as a sheet of paper or card.robots blog 1

Already familiar with the robots this project took little time to code, but rather was more complicated to wire to the microcontroller. Within the hour we had robots following a guide man (someone holding a poster), but we decided to take it a step more. By attaching card to the backs of the robots and meticulously aligning them based on reaction speed, we were able to have the robots “follow the leader” across the office space. All went well until one robot in the middle lost sight of the robot in front of it going rogue and speeding away on its own path, leaving the others in a quickly piled mess.

After lunch we moved to a different facility. Here we were shown examples of 3d printers and their work, precise machines that use lasers to cut material, robotic arms, and functional/programmable small scale factories. After using the arms for about an hour we even got to program a 2 part light switch, a safety and power toggle.robots blog 2robots blog 3

Although the robots are a little buggy (pun intended), they are really easy and exciting to work with. Straying from the past weeks theme of follow the line was a nice way to change up an already fun area. With sound, an array of sensors, and efficient code running the robots are ready for any challenge humans or the environment can muster. I hope to use the coding knowledge I learned here to improve some of our technology we use today.

“Worst comes out when we behave like robots or professionals.” --Fernando Flores

Tuesday, July 21

Miklos O., Student, Oneida, TN

Today we started the PowerPoint presentation that we will be presenting on Friday. It has taken quite a while since it is just me and Treston in our group, but we did well today because we work together. Trying to come up with a great title was probably the hardest part. The title is the first impression and attention grabber. Another little challenge is the fact that we need a screen recorder to show all of the rendered molecules. Dr. Goswami looked over our report and said that he really like it which is a huge compliment and I’m very happy about it!

Robert M., Student, Freedom, NY

Seeing Titan was awesome. The very thought of being in that room, that so few people have entered, and being in the subset of that subset that was able to touch it is mind blowing. That, after the memories with my friends, was my favorite part of the trip. It was so neat, there were some blinking lights with all the hard drives that were pretty beautiful looking. The rooms temperature was also nice. It was colder than the rest of the building but still pretty warm. Titan is amazing.


Hailie E., Student, Burkesville, KY

Going to see Titan was incredible. I got to hug Titan! It was an amazing experience to get such a rare opportunity to do something even a great number of ORNL employees don't get to do! I will forever appreciate Shawn Brown for giving us this.

Dawson Y., Student, Bradford, PA

Never did I think I'd get to be a part of such a fantastically lucky group of people who would enter the supercomputer room, let alone touch the Titan supercomputer. However, one part of the tour was surprising. I noticed that I was almost more entranced by the room as a whole. Seeing not just Titan, but all of the other supercomputers, networks, and storage clusters.

Sunday, July 19

Logan K., Student, Wallback, WV

We visited the Museum of Appalachia and it was more than I anticipated! I expected a singular, traditional museum-style building to tour. To my surprise, there were numerous Appalachian style log cabins and structures, as well as large, more modern buildings to tour. It was interesting to explore the area on our own and see all of the crude, yet brilliant, farm equipment and other items that shows the ingenuity of the Appalachian people. The vast amount of 1800’s – 1900’s weaponry stood out to me and interested me the most. The craftsmanship of these people without the access of modern day industrial line equipment to perform the weapon’s assembly is astounding. We were also fed a superb barbecue dinner and had the company of the museum’s blue grass band to listen to. Today stood out on this trip, definitely!

Museum of AppalachiaMuseum of Appalachia 2

Saturday, July 18

Jennica E., Student, Sunbright, TN

Today, we had a great time at Dollywood… except for all the heat and getting stuck on a ride. We did various fun activities throughout the evening, including eating some ginormous pizza, eating lots of sweets (of course), watching shows, riding water rides to cool us down, and riding some terrifying roller coasters. The best rollercoaster of all was definitely the Wild Eagle with an extreme drop followed by turns, loops, and spins. Overall, it was a fun and exciting evening!

Thursday, July 16

Thorne L., Student, LaVale, MD

This morning in "Building a Supercomputer" we were able to make ethernet cables as we listened to salsa music on our mentor's, Papaw Jerry's, boom box. Although it was a bit annoying trying to arrange those tiny wires into the correct order and keep them that way, I had a lot of fun doing it and I am so excited that I learned a new skill! When I came into this group I did not expect to be doing anything that involved something so hands on as that.

Today's lunch special was crab cakes. Being from Maryland, I was excited to try some Tennessee crab cakes and compare them to those from my home state. Expecting them to be mediocre quite frankly, I was pleasantly surprised that they were actually quite good, but not as good as those from Maryland. The food on this trip has been great so far. On a side note, you also know you are in the South when you see six sweet tea dispensers right next to each other in the cafeteria.

Papaw Jerry has really gone above and beyond what is required of him to make sure we have a great time and learn a lot, too. So far, we've learned binary, octal and hexadecimal, sat in on a meeting about how to build your own Linux operating system from scratch, watched a conference call about cyber security, made ethernet cables, and learned all about the basics of computers and networking. I really cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next week. I have learned so much more about computer science than I had ever expected I would learn while being here. This program as a whole will definitely make an impact on what I choose to do in college, and I am very glad that I applied, not only for the added knowledge, but also for being able to meet all of these new amazing people.

Wednesday, July 15

Savanna B., Student, Saltillo, MS

This evening, we became rocket scientists! We split into groups of two and diligently began to work on building our rockets. We all followed the process as closely and quickly as we could, excitement boiling from within. After what felt like hours of fun, but in reality was only minutes, we were ready to launch.

As we prepared for the launch, it was as if we were about to shoot a real rocket off. We placed our rocket on the launch pad, clamped the wires, and waited for the count.

Prepare for launch

“3…2…1… BLAST OFF!” I quickly pressed the button as hard as I could and watched my creation soar to the sky before it safely floated down with assistance from the parachute.

Blast off

Although we were all from different states, regions, and cultures; we were brought together by the love for science and knowledge. As the sun set and the last rocket was shot, we realized we were more than a group, but family.

Wednesday, July 15

Tessa B., Student, Harrogate, TN

In robotics this morning, we did various programs. The first thing we programmed the robot to do was follow a square path.

After the robot followed the square path, we programmed it to follow a circular path… which was hard to do!

The next shape we programmed the robot to follow was a triangle. Programming the triangle was the easiest thing for me to do, because I was finally starting to get the hang of it.

In the afternoon, we learned how to hook up an infrared sensor and program our robots to use it.

Robotics Team

Tuesday, July 14

Hailie E., Student, Burkesville, KY

Today, the supercomputer group learned binary numbers. Learning how to write numbers and letter in only ones and zeros is very important, especially when working with computers. Computers read binary like we do English, so it’s very important to programmers and even students like us. Honestly, I loved learning binary from “Papaw” Jerry and my group. They were all really helpful, especially Robert. I made friends in that group that I (hopefully) won’t lose any time soon!

Monday, July 13

Silas B., Student, Warriors Mark, PA

This morning, I was exposed to a practically frightening, yet critically important talk about safety at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The man who gave us the safety talk told us the importance of several things: the critical aspect of reporting accidents and prohibited activity to the LSS or your guide, what general hazards to watch out for, and generally paying attention to activity around you.

Firstly, Mr. Sugarman made absolutely sure that we knew to report dangerous situations to our guide or the LSS. He gave us the number of the LSS, and told us that there is absolutely no incident not worth reporting, even minor unidentified spills. Secondly, he exposed us to the various types of hazards we could encounter in the labs. He warned us of the copperhead snakes, frequent rooms with radiation hazards, infections caused by various careless activities, and other miscellaneous threats to our health. Finally, he prepared us with the simple logic that you MUST pay attention to everything around you. He showed us a few videos to sharply enhance this idea, including a certain clever yet oblivious mouse who believes in miracles, but not in looking out for the broom behind him (while he aptly pulls the cheese from the mouse trap in front of him). Other than this hilarious informative technique, though, the safety man also helped us synthesize the fact that we need to pay attention by telling us in stern tones that we MUST be responsible for warning others of potential safety hazards as well as protecting ourselves from recognizable hazards.

Altogether, Mr. Sugarman delivered an inspiring speech that had us all thinking about how to contact those capable of stopping emergencies, what emergencies to watch out for, and how we can pay attention to prevent such emergencies.

Sunday, July 12

Robert M., Student, Freedom, NY

The Mountain Challenge originally appeared to be just a fun day of games outdoors but was actually an interesting and fun team building exercise. We started out with a game similar to Simon where you have to remember the order of a series, but unlike matching colors in Simon, we were passing a ball around. Each time we had to say the name of the person who we were passing the ball to. Any time it was dropped we would have to start over. Along the way we had some surprises, for example, after we finished once, we had to do it again with multiple balls. But half way through, instead of throwing a ball, a spider was thrown. We had to quickly adapt to the changes. By the end we had to make some changes to suit the team better, and had a good idea of everyone else's names.

After that, we went into the woods. After a short hike we made it to the next challenge. The next one seemed impossible at first. We had to cross across thin beams between several logs. There was one group of people who could assist with crossing, but only if the person asked for help. The catch though, was that everyone had to be in contact with at least one other person while crossing. With each attempt we made it farther, being able to support each other more, and cross better ourselves. We began realizing we had to swallow our pride sometimes and ask for help. In the end we were able to make it, overcoming impossible odds, but that was just the beginning.

Mountain Challenge

The final challenge seemed even less likely. There was a wooden wall with nothing on it; we had to get everyone on top of the wall. We had up to three people at the top at one time, while two boosted and one person climbed the wall. The catch though, was that each person could only lift people three times and after they had crossed the wall, they couldn't help lift people any more. We had to plan out an ideal order in which to raise people and decide who would be the final group of people to go up, because for the second to last person, there would only be one person to boost the person up, and the last person had to get up on their own. In the end, everyone was able to get up and over the wall. It took a lot of planning, teamwork and trust.

Mountain Challenge

By the end of the events, we knew all of our teammates well, and had learned a lot about each other, and how to properly handle teamwork. We learned to set aside our own pride for the good of the team, to allow ourselves to depend on our team and that through teamwork, we can do anything. It was a great way to start these two weeks of cooperation!

Saturday, July 11

Robert S., Student, Tuskegee, AL

Traveling to Oak Ridge was my first time flying. It was actually more funny than scary. I was in the very front of the plane – the first seat, 1A – right behind the pilot’s booth. I was upgraded at the airport because it was my first time flying. I felt everything! It was very funny. The people next to me were veteran fliers and they told me they flew hundreds of times. There were laughing at my every reaction. This was definitely my most memorable moment and I have the ARC/ORNL Institute to thank for that!

Cloudy Skies