In a testament of ingenuity and determination, students from Morton East were able to land themselves in a unique and rewarding position at a Northern Illinois University programming/engineering event.
Having missed the deadline for Board approval to attend the event as a school function, seniors Arileny Chavarry, Gilberto Pineda, Alondra Corro, and junior Luis Vazquez – with permission from their parents – set upon themselves to participate in the competition. Upon arrival, the students discovered they were behind in planning and creating their project.
Spending just $50, the students bought items like a blender, hair dryer, handheld vacuum, miniature oven, self-propelled toy car, fishing reel, a light set, battery-operated drill, clock radio, strings, and some pulleys. After contemplation and false starts, the students decided to create a Smart Home Appliance Detector (S.H.A.D.).
By splitting their responsibilities, the students devised a way to test digital devices to sense sound, vibration, heat and light. They gathered the data and programmed the Arduino microcontroller supplied by the organization to send text messages to a display board.
With no pre-planning, and facing competition from university and affluent high school teams that had built robots and virtual reality devices, among other things, the Morton students spent the entire day and all night building, testing and finalizing their S.H.A.D. At 7:58 a.m., two minutes before the 8 a.m. deadline, the kids were finished and submitted the project electronically. Because of a slow connection speed, however, the judges disqualified the team. Because they had no teacher sponsor, the kids appealed to the judges on their own, receiving a favorable decision 45 minutes later.
After the late start, the short planning, and stiff competition, Morton West was able to leave DeKalb, Illinois, with their heads held high and first place in the Best in Show, the overall winners of the competition.