Attendance-bot: Freshmen team of science fair competitors place third in regionals

Published on: March 31, 2017

Filled Under: ARS News, News, Showcase

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The Ann Richards School has its first science fair regional winners (???), and this team of robot coders are moving on to the state competition in April. The third place-worthy project these students have been pursuing for the past few months is an “attendance-bot.”

“We basically just wanted to help teachers find a faster way to take attendance so that it would be easier- especially for substitutes and other people [to take attendance],” Maya Borowicz (9), the main coder for the project, said.

It started when the three group members (current freshmen Maya Borowicz, Micky Johnson, and Lannaa Ahlberg) were in middle school. They had participated in Ann Droids, the Ann Richards robotics team in middle school, and once they reached high school they still wanted to compete in coding. One day a substitute was talking to the class and recommended competing in the science fair. After some thought the three teammates decided to give it a try.

“We honestly weren’t going there to win,” Ahlberg said. “We were just doing it for fun, just having fun with coding and everything.”

The product of this team’s science fair project is a program built on a computer known as Raspberry Pi using the coding language Python. The program connects to a barcode scanner where students would scan their ID to check into class. This barcode scanner inputs student ID numbers into their program and tracks who is in class and who isn’t, thus creating an efficient attendance taking system.

Although the team has made great progress, the project is still not finished. Because they placed third in regionals, competing in Computer Science Software and Embedded Systems, they are moving on to the state science fair competition in April. The team is using the last few weeks before the state competition to improve their product.

“We are making a few changes to our program, like making the display a little nicer and enhancing the physical aspects,” Borowicz said. “We want to make it a little bit more compact and user friendly, as well as maybe add the data in a database. Currently once you close the program basically you can’t access it again with the present and absent list, which would be kind of hard if you wanted to actually implement it.”

After the district science fair the team began coordinating with Ryan Cho, a judge from the regional fair.

“He told us that if we learn a little bit more about the coding, we have a really good chance of excelling at state,” Ahlberg said.

All with very little involvement from teachers. The team had worked with Mr. Oren Connell and Mr. Matt Smith in the robotics club in middle school and continued this collaboration within the robotics aspect of science fair project. Ms. Mikaela McCrady, a teacher who oversees the science fair teams at ARS, said that, apart from that collaboration, they were very independent.

“They are super hardworking and eloquent speakers,” McCrady said. “I got to see them do some presenting at SXSW and they impressed everyone that came by. I love that their project is practical and helps out their teachers.”

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