Trash Trek

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Our Team

Our team name is STOBOR #684. There are nine members in the team (in picture in the front, from Left to Right), Davesh, Vamsi, Aakash, Pearl, Akhil, Safal, Laasya, Salil and Sriya. Our Coach is Sambasiva Andaluri and the co-coach is Priya Andaluri. Our parents bring us to each meeting where we meet every week and discuss on what to do and what all we did until then. We also have a forum where we discuss and help each other with some things. This is where we discuss about our competition strategies and project progress.

Sources and Field Trips

We started our season with a home experiment where we weighed, sorted and recorded each piece of trash we throw out. We recorded all of the information in a spreadsheet and our goal was to realize how much trash we were producing. We were told to try and reduce the amount of trash every day and reuse or reduce the recyclables.

We went to many field trips to learn more about how much trash is being wasted in the society. We went to a Covanta factory in Hempstead and were given a tour of the factory and told what it does. The Covanta turns trash to heat and electricity to prevent the use of landfills and the amount of pollution in the air. Trash that is collected from the Town of Hempstead is taken to the Covanta factory and they burn it. The smoke from the factory is “cleaned” by scrubbers and sent back outside. This reduces the amount of pollution in the air and helps to save space that is used for landfills. We learned that there are other ways to reuse and find another purpose for trash.

We also went to a restaurant in New York City that uses an ORCA machine to turn food waste into clean water. Most of the waste produced in the world is food waste. Restaurants and homes all around the world produce a lot of food waste all day, every day. The leftover food from the restaurants and homes are usually thrown away which wastes a lot of food. Instead of throwing the food away, the ORCA machine turns the food into clean and usable water by using disinfecting bacteria. The restaurant is very busy and has a lot of customers in it. When the restaurant waiters go back to the kitchen with food that wasn’t eaten, they put it in the ORCA machine. We learned that people all around the world are trying to find a way to reuse and find a new purpose for food waste.

We visited local WholeFoods store and were impressed by their recycling program for yogurt cups and the bulk bins where you can purchase common house hold food items in bulk thus not wasting packaging.

Meeting with Subu Musti, VP Mobile Developement, MasterCard

Our coach knows someone that could help us with our project. He came one day with a slideshow to teach us about apps, as he manages a team of developers who develops apps at MasterCard. He taught us that if an app isn’t very good, people will soon forget about it and it will become a “zombie app”. He showed us a few videos about some cool apps that were developed to promote something. He also showed us an app developed by the Nordstrom Innovation Lab that helps the user decide which sunglasses to buy by comparing two selfies that are taken with the glasses. He also showed us a video about an app that gives you a higher discount the faster you get to a store. He showed us the processes to make an app and how to make an app better and more popular.

Research Project

For the competition, we need to choose an innovative project related to the theme that will score us points in the competition and shows the judges how hard we have worked. To choose what project we were going to do, we had to brainstorm many ideas that were related to trash. We did the brainstorm using a program called Xmind. We brainstormed almost 100 ideas and chose to make an app to help the society reduce trash. While we brainstormed ideas, we learned that there were a lot of ways to help the world reduce the amount of trash that was being produced each day.

When we were coming up with ideas for contents for our app, we had to research many other trash reducing apps. We collected information for almost 100 apps. Here is the excel spreadsheet that shows our research. We used many sources to help us learn how to make the app. We all took a Scratch course and used tutorials from MIT App Inventor. Both of the websites taught us basic programming skills and different ways to program even though we were provided with similar programming blocks.

The team also enrolled into a mobile app development course on edx. The edx course taught us how to program mobile applications using animated objects on the website itself. We were provided with guided videos and were told to follow the videos to program and try the programs out. The videos showed us different programming blocks and their uses in different programs. After the videos, there were questions that followed that were related to the video and what they would do in a specific program. There were also quizzes after a specific topic and tests after a few quizzes. We were graded on them and had a progress bar that showed us how we were doing.

On MIT App Inventor, we still used similar blocks to edx, but we programmed apps instead of animated characters. We were able to test our apps on an Android device after we downloaded a software onto our computer. This would allow us to test our apps on an Android device. We were also provided with guided videos on how to enhance our apps. The blocks were similar to Scratch and were very specific to what they were used for.

Robot Design and Programming

We all worked together to make the robots out of the provided legos. We were given directions on how the robots should look and work. For the competition, they provided us with a programming board that we have to program a robot to complete. We have a programming team which consists of 4 people from our team. They program the robots and enhance the app. They meet every week and work for hours by the programming table to finish the challenges so we can earn points at the competition. The other 5 people are the research team. They meet with the programming team and our coach every other week. We discuss our progress and discuss what we will work on until our next meeting.