Getting Started in Engineering with Blue Stamp (Part 2)

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Today on “College Admissions Real Talk” we had a great conversation about how to get started with an engineering project with Jessie Contour. You can start with just $15, an internet connection, and a dream! Listen to learn more.


VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: That’s really helpful. For your students or for yourself what do you think is sort of the first coding language that somebody should start with or are there a couple of coding which is that people should get familiar with you know like I’m thinking if I’m googling examples like should I do like python or java or something else


JC: yeah that’s it’s kind of a hard question what coding language comes first I would say probably the first ones that our students typically pick up are java or c-sharp   and then but it also depends on what you want to work on so if you’re interested in like web technologies you’d probably learn JavaScript   if you’re interested in robotics that would maybe be the java or c-sharp. if you’re interested in making games we have a lot of game students that make up like video games that’s coded in C-Sharp a lot of the time and then uh if you’re interested in like machine learning or you know digging a little bit deeper into the coding side of things python is actually one of my favorite languages but it’s very different than the others so it can be   a little I would say python as like a second language I think is good because it’s very different you want one of the more sort of classic languages because it has more similarities to others so yeah   I like python a lot because it’s kind of unique but it’s definitely if you learn python first it sort of ruins you for the uh more classic languages like Java or C-sharp which are pretty similar in structure


AL: yeah I can imagine it’s like trying to it’s like learning mandarin so you can learn Spanish it probably doesn’t work


JC: yes


AL: very cool really interesting so let’s say I have a language I’ve chosen maybe it’s java or something like that what are the best I know there’s a lot of free ones out there or low cost I where am I actually housing that code


JC: so with Arduino specifically there is that software that works with the hardware so it’s called like the arts Arduino software that connects directly to the microcontroller itself through the USB port so you would code on your computer with this like it’s basically an app that you can install and you’d code and it would it would put code onto the Arduino   if you’re doing web development that’s a little bit of a different process   and then if you’re working on if you’re working in python let’s say we have a lot of blue sim students actually work with the raspberry pi which is essentially just a tiny computer   it works really similarly like to how just a computer works you can plug a monitor in and a keyboard and mouse and it can connect to the internet and open files and you know all of that same stuff   but the cool thing about it is it has little pins on it just like the Arduino does so it’s like a computer that you can like plug a motor into and make your computer like turn the motor on which is like so cool   but the if you’re coding on a raspberry pi you could code it in python you could use python to make stuff happen and the pi uses the   the terminal on the computer   if you’re if you don’t know what the terminal looks like it’s have you ever seen those screens where like it’s like hackers and it’s like a black screen which is like text on it you can type tell your computer what to do that’s kind of that’s the terminal you’re just connecting more directly with the computer through a text-based interface as opposed to the visual sort of desktop   so you can use python and have your terminal run python scripts and it feels very hackery which I think is cool   but yeah it kind of just depends on what you’re doing   and it’ll be different ways to make the code kind of work


AL: wow really interesting this is helpful for me there are a lot of people who don’t know as much about engineering and just want a like a primer how to get started so I you know obviously with COVID not working together in robotics labs or huddled around desks unfortunately so what advice do you have for people in in navigating the different fields of engineering in this remote world that we’re in now where we’re you know socially distance involved


JC: yeah I mean I think this is something that all of us are kind of adjusting to it  I have been really excited to see how students are kind of tackling the remote learning world now   and this is really like a great time for you to try to build projects try to learn from people online   we’re all using zoom or you know some kind of video chat and you can work with people remotely you know if you just put up a video chat and have your friends kind of sitting there maybe you all of you are working on the same project and you can kind of oh like I maybe I’m making my self-driving car maybe I wired up my sensor and it’s working what my friend wired up theirs and it’s not working so you can kind of compare you could share your circuits with each other   I think that one of the things that I like to do when I’m kind of trapped at home is just take on projects and you know make sure that I’m always trying to learn something new and better myself and technology is great because with an Arduino you might you’ll need to buy some stuff but you can do web development you can like make websites you can do digital content you don’t have to buy anything and a lot of the stuff is free for students so if money is like an issue that you’re concerned about you know there’s lots of stuff that you can do I could build like my own google home and have it connect to things around   for free just like at home I could make my own here or I could do machine learning projects if I have some kind of computer I can try to do some facial recognition so when I come to my computer it says hello to me you know and all of that stuff you can do without purchasing anything if you just have a webcam you know you could use the camera feed to do facial recognition   and the Arduino stuff that it’s really affordable to be able to buy an Arduino and just get some get some wires start off with just a breadboard you know making some circuits so there’s a lot of stuff that you can do at home and the online learning can be just great to connect with people if it’s building with your friends or I was actually I was just thinking about   when I was learning this stuff in the first place I just I felt the same I had no idea where to start I would often reach out to the people who wrote the tutorials I was learning from and say hi I’m a student I’m new to this I’m doing this thing I had a question can you answer me and oftentimes these people are just excited about what they made and they’re excited that you’re making it and so they’ll help you so   it’s a great time to like not really be shy about reaching out to people because a lot of times if you’re making something you’re excited about it you want to share and you know you’d be happy to help someone learn so I think we’re all kind of trying to embody that attitude of sharing and learning and you know self-betterment


AL: that’s great yes and uh I always say that you know there’s never a good time for a pandemic but at least you have really good technology that allows us connected during this time great video chat definitely so what are some examples of projects that students have created that you’ve guided them through in in the blue stamp program


JC: yeah so we have some really exciting stuff happening this summer and then I’ve uh run the new York program for bluestone for the past three years so I have a few favorites so this summer I’ve actually been super impressed by all the students who have taken on machine learning as a project they wanted to tackle and we’ve done everything from just kind of getting the basics of facial recognition or object detection so you could   show it something so I could like hold up a pen it would be like you’re holding a pen which is like kind of amazing   we’ve done some image recognition where you can show it a picture and it’ll tell you what you showed it a picture of so it can distinguish dogs versus cats or something like that and you can start get really digging into that just how this technology works and one of our students   is doing a double session and   just got the basics of machine learning in the in our first session and then this session is actually creating his own image recognition model where he’s training his machine learning model to look at parking lots and then detect how many open spaces are in the parking lot and we were like not sure if it was going to work but then this last week he really had a breakthrough and he was finally able to start getting answers about how open the parking lot was and I thought that was just so amazing because it was a really difficult challenge   and some other students we   there’s a project that we have that’s called the knee activity monitor and it’s like intended it’s this like knee sleeve that you put on it has some sensors that detect how your knee is kind of moving through space   for like athletes if they’re training to make sure they’re like working   running safely and then it uses Bluetooth to push the information online so you can kind of look at it on a web dashboard and one of our students was really inspired by this and modified it to make   smart shoes and so instead of a knee it’s on his feet and he put all these sensors on his feet and now he’s walking around and kind of pushing a lot of different data he’s got   accelerometers he’s got pressure sensors in the shoes to determine like how the foot is kind of falling on the ground   as well as like GPS information so he has like these like feet dashboards online which I think is so cool   and then one other project I would like to talk about is a project there’s a student who is really interested in music and   she wanted to build a piano for people who could not hear so for people who are hard of hearing or completely deaf and so like how do you build a musical instr ent for someone who can’t hear music and she ended up building a system that uses pressure sensor so when you kind of press on it like you’re playing the piano it pushes the information to the computer which then makes visualizations so if you’re pressing chords you’re getting kind of like colorful fireworks on the screens kind of show you that like how hard you’re pressing and you know the chords that you’re making and I was just so impressed not only with her ability to learn how to work with these sensors   learn how to make the Arduino communicate with an entirely different program that makes visualizations it’s like this kind of communication is a challenge and then also she actually built out this whole piano and used like woodworking and she like had these rods and you know everything was like movable and it was truly just this amazing project that she conceived of from day one like she came into our in my interview with her and was like I’m really interested in music I want to build this thing and we kind of talked about it and I was like yeah you could absolutely do that like I want to see this happen and she just really ran with it and I was so just impressed with her from start to finish and that’s one of my favorite projects I’ve ever seen   made in the program yeah that sounds really moving I would love to I don’t know if there’s like a YouTube video of that but I’d love to see how that works it’s like being experienced just to see all the visualization of that sound   and the impact it would make on the on the deaf community that’s amazing yeah uh yeah I can share that with you yeah


AL: great well   do you have any uh anything to share about how students can find out a little bit more about blue stamp do you want to share a little bit about what that is and how people connect with you yeah so I would love to take just a minute to talk about the blue stamp program


JC: So, blue stamp has been around for 10 years. It started in New York. Our co-founders’ names are Dave and Robin they’re really awesome guys. Dave’s an engineer and Robin is really an expert in startups he’s currently working in biotech but he’s really great at like starting companies and that we’ve been teaching students in the new York area for 10 years and then we’ve also been in several other places around the country but   we’re our other location is in the bay area right now and then when uh the pandemic started we unfortunately had to move to online   programming but   that has been amazing so we’re totally remote this summer and it has gone so well we were we had no idea what to expect you know we really tried to make it happen in person but it just it wasn’t safe for everybody but   we went remote and the students impressed us so much that we want to keep trying to offer this remote programming and so   we have a few things that are in the works we’re looking at week-long kind of after-school programs we’re thinking about maybe some weekend stuff but if you’re interested you could go to our website   which is bootstamp engineering.com or   you could email me my email is Jesse bluestampener.com and you can ask questions about the types of remote programs we offer but our goal is to offer them year round   and we’re still kind of figuring a little bit about what that looks like but   we’re like just so impressed by how the students have kind of taken on the challenge and really accomplished a lot that we think that it’ll be a cool thing going forward so that’s great yes I know students are looking for remote opportunities and I think that what you’re offering is so helpful and likewise we’re offering our emerging leader program which covers slightly different topics but you really have seen the value of building these online communities of students where they can take a passion project and really capitalize on that project for these weeks and have supportive instructors have support of other students it helps us feel more connected helps us be productive and difficult purposes and into growing and learning which is what life is all about anyway so we may as well live it however we live in this remote world


AL: yeah absolutely yeah finding good opportunities and outlets and ways to connect with people is so important yeah I’ve been happy every day to be able to log in and connect with our blue stamp students because I’m here you know at home with everybody else so it’s been great that’s great well anything else you want to share Jesse before we


JC: I do have one thing so for students who are interested in engineering I have my sort of favorite little words of wisdom  which is that engineering is a field that you can kind of think about like engineering is a tool for you to use so engineering can be like your hammer and it’s like what are the other things in the world that you’re interested in so kind of like what I was saying before you know are you interested in self-driving cars are you interested in space travel   are you like me were you interested in like muse s because if you’re interested in like exhibitions the same technology that you would use to build a self-driving car an Arduino you could use that to build things that are exhibiting in a muse  you know you could build something interactive they’re actually using them in the real world   are you interested in sports well you might look into how people are building   helmets to keep football players safe by using like pressure sensors and accelerometers to make sure that they’re not being hit too hard all of these things can use the same engineering tools to apply solutions to almost any field I’ve seen people working in fashion music sports like performance communications you know like any kind of field has some connection to engineering and what is so cool is that you have the opportunity to figure out like what is the overlap between your interests and in engineering and you can really make like an amazing kind of custom career for yourself by figuring out like what is this thing that what is this overlap for you and so that’s kind of like what I did is I found you know I was like art and engineering was something that was interesting to me and so I ended up in this very cool place where I was building just really awesome projects whereas some other people are you know they find their overlap and it’s just like just a cool thing for you to figure out how to do so engineering is really a very broad field it doesn’t have to just be the thing that you think of that’s like stereotypical engineering it can really kind of open the world to you in a really cool way so I hope that you kind of open your mind to what it might mean to actually be an engineer because it could be so much bigger than you think it might be


AL: thanks Jesse that is really inspiring and I just want to make a plug also to any young women listening that you know you should heed uh Jesse’s advice because I’ve worked with a lot of young women over the years and I know they face a lot of challenges and barriers in entering this field and I feel like the way you’ve broken it down and made it accessible is really helpful so I hope there are women listening that see this as an opportunity for them to jump on board


JC: Yeah. Definitely


AL: Well thank you again for joining me Jesse. To everyone online thank you for joining us as well this is College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt I want to say thank you to restream which is allowing us to stream on this many different platforms I will see you next time take care


VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.