Forget about never letting the competition see her sweat. When Jackie Magaha, 8th Grade, enters the room at the annual Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Robo-Challenge, it’s the competition who is perspiring.
Consider her stats: In 6th Grade, Jackie entered the Hopkins competition for the first time as a member of a GFS team. Competing against more seasoned middle and high school teams, Jackie and the team garnered an Honorable Mention.
Last year, Jackie stepped up her game by competing individually in both the “So, You Think Your Robot Can Dance?” and the Tumor Challenge, two of the competition’s several categories. Channeling her inner-Dancing Queen—or to be more precise, programming a robot to dance the Cha-Cha-Slide—she slid effortlessly into 1st place. In the Tumor Challenge, she came in 2nd place against (again) older, nearly all-male teams. Watch a video of her dancing robot here.
This year, Jackie upped her game for the 2012 competition. On May 5 at the Hopkins Homewood campus, she and her robot did not disappoint. She brought home yet another 1st place win, this time in the Innovative Use category—and beat 12 predominantly male, middle and high school teams in her event. Out of the more than 100 kids competing that day throughout all the events, Jackie was the only female solo competitor. “The competition was tough, especially being the only girl [competing individually]," she states.
Innovative Use is considered the premier event at the competition, requiring a student to design an innovative, practical use for his or her robot. Jackie created BOEPAD, a Basic Stamp Board of Education (BOEBOT) robotics kit to which she added a mechanical arm and a Sharpie pen. Using her Tablet PC to program it, BOEPAD wrote all 26 letters of the alphabet.
Watch a video of her robot here.
Her inspiration came from last year’s Middle School Robotics Team, which researched the area of robotic prosthetics. “My main goal for BOEPAD was to help people with disabilities,” says Jackie. “Programming each letter, I realized how complicated it is for a robot to perform simple moves.” The letter “B” was especially complex, consisting of 23 different actions.
In addition to demonstrating her project, she presented both oral and written presentations, wowing the judges and JHU faculty with her “Anatomy of a Letter” diagrams detailing each angle requiring programming calculations. Jackie’s robot has implications for the field of prosthetics, highlighting not only what the future holds in robotic arms but her talent in the field of engineering.