Intern Spotlight: Exploring Technical Skills at the STEM Centers

October 4, 2023

Our interns worked hard this summer to teach professional development sessions for coaches, to give Gotham Tech students a first taste of robotics during the summer bridge program and to complete projects to make the STEM Center easier and more intuitive to use for new community members. Here are some of the projects they worked on, and the processes they used to create them.

RFID Check-In System

The check-in system hanging at our STEM Center @ Cornell Tech

Created by Onkar, Karol, Carlos and other community members

Led by Onkar as the project manager, this group created an RFID check-in system to detect when a student card is tapped at the entrance to the STEM Center. The purpose is to easily track usage of the STEM Center. Our previous check-in system used QR codes; this new system provides a quicker and easier check-in process. 

As a first step, they did research on card types and decided to use an RFID-based system. They purchased an RFID reader and RFID cards to run tests and understand how they work. Then they created a Google sheet and a Python script that will sync based on the card number. Each time a card is tapped, the card number determines the name of the person ‘checking in,’ and fills out the name and time on our Google sheet that tracks attendance.

After testing the software using the RFID reader, they determined other functions that would be useful to students when leaving the STEM Center, including displaying the weather and train times. They installed a screen to create a ‘front-end’ experience using HTML, Javascript and CSS. For the back-end, they used the MTA API to get the most accurate train times and the weather API available from the U.S. government. They then laser cut a box to protect the entire system when it’s hung up.

Shelves and Shelf Coverings

Created by Nicholas and Dylan

Nicholas and Dylan built prefabricated wire shelves to store materials for the STEM Center’s credit-bearing courses, then realized that the shelves had a critical design flaw: items could fall through the shelving. To solve the problem, they chopped 6 foot by 2 foot boards down to the size of the shelves, and placed them on the wire shelves. Problem solved!

Signage for Shelves

Created by Nicholas

Nicholas holding a sign he made for our credit-bearing course for the Young Women’s Leadership School (TWYLS)

Nick created signage to better organize the shelving and designate specific shelves for the schools participating in our credit-bearing courses. Nicholas first created prototypes of signage using cardboard, then used the STEM Center’s 3D printer to create brackets to attach the signs to the wire shelving. After testing, he decided to make the signs thinner, and include heat-set inserts on the 3D printed brackets, to make the signage less likely to fall off.

Decals Using the Cricut

Created by Elizabeth and Molly 

One of the decals Elizabeth and Molly created

Elizabeth and Molly recognized the need for some signage in the space to introduce NYC FIRST staff members, and give community members some guidance on using the STEM Center. Elizabeth created digital artwork using Adobe Fresco, then transferred the artwork to Adobe Illustrator. After looking into the size and placement needs, they cut the designs out of vinyl using the Cricut machine, then placed decals around the space. 

Drawer organization

Created by Dylan and Jace

One of our newly organized drawers at the STEM Center @ Cornell Tech thanks to Dylan and Jace

This group noticed that parts for our FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) teams were hard to find inside the drawers. They put all of the FRC fasteners and tools into the drawers to determine spacing. Then, they recreated the drawer in AutoDesk Fusion360 using approximate dimensions, and prototyped the organizers by laser cutting cardboard. After user-testing with the cardboard prototype, they realized they needed to elevate a section, so that users’ hands could reach the smaller parts. Once the design was finalized, they cut the pieces from wood using the laser cutter at our STEM Center. 

Cord Organizers

Created by Minna, Eden, Nera and Alex

Photo of the mice and charger organizer. You can spot the 3D printed cord organizers on the mice.

With so many computers and computer accessories in the space, cord organization is super important. This group of interns wanted to make the cords at our NYC FIRST STEM Center @ Cornell Tech more manageable. First they did research and found an STL design file of a cord organizer off of the internet to 3D print (STL is a commonly used file type for 3D printing). After printing the file, they noticed it wasn’t the best fit for the problem because it could be easily taken apart. They needed to edit the design – which isn’t very easy to do when using STL files. To edit the STL file, they converted the file from a ‘mesh’ to a ‘body’ using AutoDesk Fusion360 software. Then they created a key to lock it in place and make it more robust before reprinting. They tested their new design by pulling it in every direction, and they were unable to take it apart with the key in it!

Concurrently, Alex created a laser cut prototype to test a structure to hold mice and computer chargers. He first prototyped it using cardboard, and the final design is pictured above.

LED Clock

Created by Daniel, Zawad and Eden 

A photo of Daniel, Zawad and Eden's clock in progress

Recognizing the lack of clock at our STEM Center, this group of interns decided to try to make one. Inspired by a Twitter video of a clock with LED strips mimicking a sundial, this group designed a clock using OnShape (a CAD software used by FIRST® Robotics Competition teams) and prototyped their ideas using an arduino microprocessor, LED strips, and a foam base manufactured using the STEM Center’s CNC machine (a machine that utilizes computer numerical control to cut 3D models). They finalized the design by adding slots for it to attach to the wall and 3D printing an attachment for the LED strips. They then carved the top out of wood using the CNC machine and laser cut a plywood base before putting it all together. 

Thank you to our 20 interns who made this a summer for experimenting and learning at our STEM Centers. If you have a project you want to complete, please check out our STEM Centers — we are open year-round and are here to help guide you through the production process and troubleshoot fabrication.