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NYCSEF competitors strive for success

Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2019 by for Media, Terra NYC.

Surely, robotic body parts only exist in "The Terminator." There is no such thing as a real cyborg, right?

Wrong! As Midwood's very own Rana Mohamed '19 can tell you, robotic body parts are real. Mohamed won first place at the New York City Engineering Science Fair (NYCSEF) for her robotic passive walker.

NYSCEF is a competition where students from all over New York City come together and present scientific projects they've worked on all year. Students send in a research paper, and about 450 projects are selected to be presented at the science fair. Among the 450 projects, only 120 are selected to move on to the final round.

Midwood had 32 students selected to compete in the competition, and five moved on to the finals. Along with Mohamed's first place win, Annabel Xie '19 and Larissa Brijmohan '19 came in second place, and Fizza Nayab '19 and Maryam Khan '19 came in third place.

Mohamed's invention was a step towards the future of biomedical engineering.

"I built an actuated passive walker that mimics the movement of exoskeletons used by paraplegics, people who are paralyzed from waist down," said Mohamed. "I made this walker to conduct energy expenditure experiments to extend the battery life of my walker. Essentially, if I am able to figure out which variables can decrease energy consumption, I can project my findings onto an actual exoskeleton."

Traditional photo of a student standing in front of her poster.
Rana Mohamed '19 hopes to project her findings onto an actual exoskeleton.

The passive walker has a promising future. It can be used to help people paralyzed from the waist down or veterans with lost legs. They could use the passive walker to walk normally.

Mohamed is currently studying how to extend the battery life and lower the weight of the walker to make it possible to attach it to the skeleton of a human. She will be attending New York University (NYU) Tandon this coming fall to continue her research in biomedical engineering.

The science research class helped various students branch out into different fields they were interested in and get hands-on experience.

"You start research as a sophomore, and you do foundational work like how to write papers and how to write an argument," said Mr. Glenn Elert said. "Sophomores do the sophomore science fair, and juniors try to find internships in labs across the city to work there for about a year. Then they enter competitions in the fall of senior year."

Xie described her second place win as "an honor."

"I studied [and] did field work on monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus," said Xie. "I'm in a psychology lab. I worked with the ArcGIS, which is a system that allows us to map things, put data layers onto a map, and perform spatial analysis."

Xie did research and mapped out monk parakeet nests. Monk parakeets are small bright green parrots that can be relatively noisy creatures.

"Since monk parakeets are often viewed as a noise nuisance, my research can help inform people about where monk parakeets tend to nest so people who are not fond of noises would know to move away from these areas," said Xie. "If people like the noises, they can move closer to the birds."

This research gives the real estate market a new perspective on property value. Depending on the buyer, knowledge on where the monk parakeets are nesting can change the buyer's view of the property.

Whether its building passive walkers or mapping the nesting of monk parakeets, the future is bright for Midwood's NYCSEF competitors.

Written by Armin Pasukanovic (Class of 2020)
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Argus.