Student Engineers Tackle Real-World Challenges During Summer Bootcamp

On a hot July afternoon when many students might have been out for a socially-distanced bike ride or dipping their toes at a local pool, 18 St. Vrain Valley Schools middle and high school student engineers were busy collaborating virtually to design and prototype solutions to some of our world’s most pressing challenges.

As part of the PYNQ Bootcamp, hosted at the Innovation Center in partnership with Xilinx, students engaged interns and engineers to explore Python coding, computer science, and embedded systems – the primary components of Xilinx’s product, PYNQ. Students leveraged those technologies to prototype and design innovative products and engineering solutions. Students created small teams that focused on designing solutions within healthcare, smart textiles, or the aerospace industry. At the culmination of the camp, students presented their ideas to a panel of judges in a virtual showcase of their learning.

“Being from a computer science engineering background, it was great exposure for me to learn some electrical engineering along with students,” shared Anshul Dabas, an intern with Xilinx. “In my opinion, it was a huge platform for school kids, one that helped them dive into programming and robotics related applications.”

For rising Niwot High freshman, Taryn McDermid, the camp provided much more than an opportunity to engage in learning advanced technologies.

“What I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to work closely with other students in a virtual environment to discuss different ideas we had for addressing challenges we see in our lives today,” shared Taryn. “We focused on the coronavirus pandemic, and specifically on the challenges of schools, healthcare providers, and other organizations in efficiently conducting temperature checks and monitoring symptoms.”

Taryn was part of Team Health Guard, a collaboration of four young women engineers who developed a product prototype for a face shield (for healthcare workers) and a hat (for the general population) that included a temperature sensor that would remain in contact with the wearer’s forehead and would signal through LED lights and an auditory alert if the person had an elevated temperature.

“Each member of the team took a different role, based on our strengths, such as coding, prototype sketching, project management, and design,” added Taryn. “We also did a lot of testing after we wrote the code and adjusted as we went. I think an interesting future application could be a product that has the LED lights embedded right into the hat so that as students are walking into a school, teachers could see right away if someone had an elevated temperature.”

Other student team product innovations included: an exploration of image file and data transmission that could be used on robots on Mars; sensors to monitor temperature and humidity on spacecrafts; using sensors to give patients more control of their hospital room environment; data visualizations for COVID-19 tracking; a body temperature scanner; and exploring temperature and humidity sensors for extraterrestrial agricultural operations.”

As a college student, I’m able to witness and participate in all kinds of technological innovation,” shared Xilinx intern, Dustin Ramsay. “What really inspires me, however, is to see the same caliber of innovation and creativity happening at the middle and high school level. It makes me hopeful for the future.”

Partnerships are essential to supporting these types of learning opportunities for students. In addition to learning from industry experts, Xilinx provided students with their own PYNQ board, as well as additional equipment like a camera and multiple sensors.

“Xilinx was thrilled to partner with the SVVSD Innovation Center again on the PYNQ Bootcamp project,” added Xilinx employee, Mindy Brooks. “It’s important to Xilinx that we give back to our community, not just with monetary funds but also by investing our time and energy in the students, which are our future workforce. Xilinx looks forward to our continued partnership with St. Vrain Valley Schools and the Innovation Center.” 

If your organization is interested in engaging the Innovation Center or Career Development Center in developing virtual learning experiences – virtual tours, webinars, career talks – complete the Community Strong engagement form.