Robotics Project Takes Flight For ESD Students

ESD robotics students Alexander Eggers, left, and Renner Brown fine-tune a drone. (Photo: Chris McGathey
ESD robotics students Alexander Eggers, left, and Renner Brown fine-tune a drone. (Photo: Chris McGathey

While rowing on the ESD crew team, Alexander Eggers had an idea.

He saw the crew team using remote-controlled “quadcopters” with a GoPro camera to follow boats on the water and track their movement.

“I thought, ‘we could try to make one of those, but make it completely autonomous, so no one has to control it,’” Eggers said. “So that’s where the idea came from.”

From there, Eggers and two other ESD students presented the autonomous aerial-tracking project to their computer science teacher, Deb Goudy.

Now completed, seniors Eggers and Renner Brown will present a paper on the system at the Global Conference on Educational Robotics, which runs July 30-Aug. 3 in Los Angeles.

Third project member, Michael McCrory, graduated in May.

Brown said they worked on the project for the entire school year.

“[Goudy] tried to get us to do bookwork, but we just focused all of our attention on this instead,” Brown said.

The three teenagers have had some issues with the project, from using a wrong computer to control the drone to frying one of the processing boards.

Donna Hull, head of Upper School at ESD, said failures are a part of creating something great.

“They’ve had some successful failures,” she said. “And I think that’s important because they learn from what doesn’t work.”

The computer science class is one step above an AP class, so only three students are enrolled.

Because of this, the students are able to study more independently.

“We’re doing a lot of learning on the fly,” Eggers said. “We came into this really knowing not much about what we were doing. We all have some java coding background and none of this has been working with java, so we’ve been doing a lot of research on the Internet.”

With their senior years soon approaching, the two are making postgrad plans: Eggers hopes to study engineering in college, while Brown hopes to continue with computer science.

This story appears in the August issue of Preston Hollow People, on stands now. 

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