I have applied for a Provisional Utility Patent Application #62751939, Smart IoT Safety Child Seat, which connects to a mobile application and uses sensors to ensure the safety of a child accidentally left in a hot car. I achieved 1st place in Florida’s FBLA Coding and Programming state-wide competition. I am the lead SharePoint Developer and Linux Administrator for my school’s Network Administrator program, where we complete Software related projects for Pinellas County. I am also president of my school’s Key Club. This title means that I organize events for our 112 Key Club members with local elementary school- festivals, homeless kitchens, and Adopt-A-Block projects. I like to think of myself as sociable, accomplished and optimistic for the future. I have, however, changed in many ways over the last few years.
Middle school me was very focused on academics and programming. At 12 years of age, I studied hard and became one of the youngest people in the world to receive the Oracle Certified Associate, Java SE 7 Programmer certification. I was elated and felt on top of the world, achieving such a difficult certification. I tried and succeeded at achieving perfect on standardized tests. My academic focus left me with just a few friends, and my social life was most certainly lacking in comparison to my peers.
My lack of sociability led me to join many clubs. Beginning in 8th grade, I joined the Chinese club; I ended up being the Master of Ceremonies (MC) of a huge Chinese festival for our entire school. I had to present and speak in Chinese to more than 300 people. In 9th grade, I joined the swim team and robotics team. I was able to stay in shape and meet new people, while still channeling my inner nerd.
In high school, our robotics team was full of seniors, and I was the only freshman. In Sophomore year, I became the team leader, as I was the only one with any experience in competition. I recruited a group of friends and created a sophomore team, named Aluminati. Most of us were relatively new to the robotics scene. Nevertheless, we ended up receiving first place at our regional Vex Starstruck Competition, meaning our team could advance onto the State Championship! At the State Championship, we realized that we had a big problem. Eighty Percent of the robots were perfect replicas of one another. A cookie cutter solution employed by full-time school curriculum. We were competing with our unique –student-created- design, built after school in my garage, on a shoe-string budget. We did well. However, we learned a lot about the process required to be nationally competitive.
This failure after winning regionals has helped to teach me humility. Although we had built an amazing robot, with linear slides and stellar autonomous programming, the other teams had dedicated engineering mentors, financial backing and courses at their school dedicated to building a robot for competition. Although winning is awesome, I believe having humility and kindness is more important. Having respect for others without being rude or thinking of yourself as superior to someone else is critical to success, and to being an admirable person. I found this to be the foundation of both the First Technology Challenge and Vex Robotics Competition competitive teams. I met a lot of great people and learned much more than just programming and robotics.
As a hands-on learner, working with technology makes me genuinely excited about learning. I and two others came together to enter a competition called Next Generation Technology (NGT). In this competition, participants must come up with and implement a solution for a real-world issue.
I knew what I had in mind, right when the competition started. When I was just a kid, my parents had accidentally forgotten me in the car. I remember not being able to get my seatbelt off and screaming for help for what felt like hours. Eventually, my grandpa heard me screaming, and came to my rescue. Some children are not as fortunate as I was. In 2018 alone, 48 children died from being left in hot cars (NSC, 2018). Our design was a “smart” booster seat for children. The seat has integrated temperature and weight sensors, GPS tracking, and an LTE-M cellular chip to connect to the internet. This IoT (Internet of Things) connected seat then can communicate with a data logging server and an app that I have programmed in Android Studio. If the child were left in the seat, the app would initially set off an alarm on the parent’s phone to remind them to retrieve their child. If the parent does not acknowledge the risk, the app promptly contacts emergency services with the location of the child.
This example of a real-world issue truly ignites my interest in learning, as it lights my passion for technology and humanity.
I walk forward, feeling eyes like laser beams following my every move. I see a few of the figures exchange words, with their guarded stares. I feel out of place, unwelcome and uninvited. I enter the elevator with the sick feeling of uneasiness. The small elevator is packed to the brim with homeless people. I uncomfortably mumble a greeting, and we get through half of the ride with no incident until something unexpected happens.
The entire group started laughing. They cried out in fits of giggles “We don’t bite, boy” and “Don’t you wear the worried face.” With the tension in the air broken, I was able to relax. You see, I was volunteering at a homeless shelter, and I was terrified. I met a good deal of these people facing homelessness and made some new friends. One told me about how he lost his house trying to support his ill mother. Another told me how her husband had left her, and she couldn’t afford to support her children anymore, so they went to live with their aunt.
Something I had never contemplated before. Homeless people aren’t always homeless because of bad decisions they make. Many of them suffer unfortunate situations that led them to be homeless. They truly are people, just like us, and we shouldn’t treat them as any less.
The issue of supporting the less-fortunate is one of utmost importance to me. This lesson was taught to me by kind-hearted and genuine people who face unfortunate circumstances.
Cooking and Computer Science, two subjects that I enjoy, are more closely related than you might think. When I was younger, I would ask if I could cook something. My mom would groan, knowing that it usually involved a big mess and a not so delectable dish. Nevertheless, she supported her “little chef” and let me cook anyways. With a lot of practice and an equal amount of patience from my mom, my cooking skills improved substantially. Like cooking, my code was initially all a big mess, but as time progressed, I could put together comprehensive applications. Although cooking and programming are two very different activities, they share many of the same skills.
In my early childhood, I would invite friends over to cook. Cooking involved a lot of experimentation, throwing in spices and ingredients we thought might blend well together. I would always imagine the wonderful taste and the visually appealing product of my efforts. Cooking would often result in a foul concoction. On the occasion when the food came out appetizing, it was well worth the time spent. I came to realize that thinking creatively could sometimes yield amazing results.
When I’m cooking, attention to every detail is imperative. I work with many measurements, temperatures, timelines, and directions. Too much turmeric, setting the wrong temperature or using the wrong pan could result in a disastrous dish. Giving the dish just the right taste, making the dish visually appetizing and watching my friends take the first bite gives me a great sense of pride.
When I was initially successful with a dish, I would find that I could not repeat it. I neglected to write down the steps. I had many failures and felt documenting the process was a waste of time. I would often place the spices back in the cabinet randomly, sometimes never be able to find them again. In turn, I would burn food looking for the spices or ingredients needed. The lack of organization and a recipe created even more failures. Over time, I realized the value of both documentation and organization to improve my chance of cooking success.
After years of cooking, I began to realize what makes a successful meal, a meal enjoyed in both vision and taste by others. It takes more than my desire to produce a delectable dish. It takes more than just the opportunity to create a morsel for friends to eat. It takes years of practice and experimentation. Over time and experience, my skills at cooking improved. You can apply this life lesson to just about anything. If you want to be a musician, doctor or computer scientist, you will need to spend a lot of time practicing.
Cooking and coding encompassed complementary skills that have shaped my character more than I had initially realized. They have also manifested themselves into the Ramen Bot 2000, a robot I built and programmed to prepare Ramen autonomously. My hobby of cooking is more academic than one might expect, cooking has taught me how to improve my skills in many aspects of life.
In summary, the commonalities of cooking and programming are clear. My two passions, cooking and programming computers taught me the importance of creativity, attention to detail, experimentation, and organization. More importantly, I have learned that it is not necessarily cooking or programming that are my passions. It is the process of learning, creating, and solving complex problems whether it is the latest meal or writing the next killer application.
Nathan Hamilton’s St. Petersburg Robotics Vex and First Robotics Team Website