Community Oriented Club Projects

For my STEP project I decided to design and develop a project to help the local Columbus community. In order to accomplish this I partnered with the National Society of Black Engineers. A project committee was created and we decided to design a baby monitoring system to help address the high infant mortality rate in Columbus. This project has been a really hard process. The biggest obstacle when working with the club and university was time. It takes a long time to incorporate meaningful processes into already established frameworks. Funding, organizing and exposure are understandably hard to manage while working on a project like this.

Before my STEP project I thought that planning and organizing was fairly straightforward. However, I found that often decisions on the project were contingent on other members. As a result, organizing can be naturally difficult. These experiences although stressful helped me work better with members and forced me to keep up with planning and organizing in order to ensure that we reached our goals. The project was initially focused on detecting ions in water. This idea came to light, because my friends and I participated in Ohio State’s Make-A-Thon in Spring 2017. The idea was an impromptu solution to crises such as the Flint Water Crisis. We didn’t aim to solve any crisis of this magnitude but wanted to explore if it was possible to create a cheap solution on how to test water supplies. Inner city Columbus at times can be effected by water issues as well. In fact, it is common to find unwanted particles in water like nitrates which can have a profound effect on young children and babies. Our project at Make-A-Thon failed quickly due to limited supplies and lack of experience. Even after working on the project after Make-A-Thon we found that the IR sensors we purchased were incapable of giving us data where we could perform spectrum analysis.

The project committee within NSBE falls under the duties of the Technical Outreach for Community Help (TORCH) Chair. After the Make-A-Thon project proved to be too difficult to handle, NSBE and its leadership gave me the platform to work on a project to help the community. After a year of collaboration with clubs, planning, organizing and ideas we officially started the committee. The project was adapted and shifted to a baby monitoring system project in order to address infant mortality in Columbus.

Infant mortality in Ohio is a very big problem. In fact, Cleveland is considered to have the worst infant mortality rate in the country among underrepresented groups. Columbus is not an exception to this problem. The problem has gotten out of hand and as a result the state of Ohio has issued $500,000 in initiatives to reduce infant mortality. This funding has gone towards home screenings, educational programs and as a product of these efforts the “ABC’s of Safe Sleep” was created in order to educate the public about how babies should sleep. SIDS and suffocation are common causes of infant mortality. The state of Ohio and experts suggest that infants should be alone, on their back and in a crib (hence the ABC’s) in order to reduce the rate of sleep deaths in infants. This has been widely publicized in Columbus as part of the initiative as well. With technology such as deep learning and computer vision, we can identify whether infants and their guardians violate these safe sleep practices.

The baby monitoring system was 3D printed with PLA and assembled. The camera is a common Raspberry Pi Camera and is driven by a Raspberry Pi Zero W. In order to give the user  feedback there’s an LCD touchscreen driven by an Adafruit LCD driver. The system is regulated by an Adafruit power management board. We included an HCSR-04 ultrasonic sensor for motion detection.

Often when the world doesn’t present any life threatening challenges into your life, it’s easy to not understand the struggles of others. Infant deaths are often reduced in severity and the general public does not give enough attention to the problematic infant mortality rate across the country. It’s linked to many other factors that can affect the child through its development. Stress, diet, sleep and many other factors in regard to the mother can influence the infant mortality rate. Mothers who are exposed to undesirable environments out of no fault of their own are often faced with this issue. Researching this topic and understanding how socioeconomic status and race play a role has been particularly interesting as well. This is a problem that boils down to a lot of social issues and as a result communities are losing children.

This project helped me become more cognizant of my habits as an executive board member to an organization. In college, group activities and long term projects are typically only taken seriously because they’re tied to a grade. In this project it has pushed me to be more open and understanding of the groups I’ve worked with. The experience has shown me that a lot of problems in life are presented as surface level problems, however, issues that involve multiple people typically have a more complex mapping of issues associated with them.

This change has been significant to my life for many reasons. I’ve wanted to do work with robots for a long time. I didn’t know what skills I needed in order to do this until college, but at the time I didn’t know how to develop these skills. College has also shown me that I want my work to impact the community. This project has allowed me to take technology associated with robotics (artificial intelligence) and use it to impact the local community where I’m from. It’s given me the opportunity to be a leader on campus and those skills will help in the future for any other technology and community oriented projects I would like to work on. STEP and NSBE have given me a platform to merge my personal interests and desires to help the Columbus community.




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