(photo) report on the Baltic competition

    Good for students, for which they just didn’t come up with, and the Imagine Cup and Hack Day and Chaos Constructions , and this is only the first thing that came to mind. And what about talented (or considering themselves as such) students?

    But the schoolchildren were also not offended, and I will tell you about the wonderful annual event that took place a week ago in St. Petersburg (but the competition is all-Russian, and indeed, international).

    Under the cut you will see 6 megabytes of photos of happy children and their works, seasoned with my detached thoughts on education and an overview of the work in the sections "Technics" and "Computer Science".

    My attention was drawn to a robot, unfortunately not huge, not combat, and very relatively human-like. The peace-loving nature of the robot (which cannot be said for its “facial expression”) and an innate sense of rhythm allows it to beat the drums in any relatively uncomplicated composition. As you can see, it is built on the basis of the Lego Mindstorms you already know . In addition to the difficulty in designing the limbs of the robot (and they need to make up to 10 accurate beats per second), the problem of synchronizing the shock part with the rest of the MIDI file was also solved (transfer to the controller occurs via Bluetooth). And this is not only in practice - the guys provided theoretical calculations substantiating the applied methods. And here are the designers themselves:

    I am glad that some schools have the opportunity to “take advantage of” innovative technologies, if I had such a designer about 5 years ago ... However, this alone is not enough, because without the absence of a research approach, the result can hardly surprise. An educational institution should encourage reasonable experimentation, and not impose template approaches. Who would have thought that an ordinary dental drill can do the exact job when carving wood?

    And if you spend enough time (work on a brooch and a hairpin took almost 2 months, in the evenings after school, but don’t worry, these are certainly not mythical man-months), then the result may surprise:

    Is it difficult to get students to "sit quietly" in a lesson? Of course, perseverance refers to the personal qualities of each student, but captivating them is the primary task of the teacher.

    Interest alone is not enough; when a person does not understand why he is doing work, any difficulty can lead him astray. Therefore, the children should have a certain motivation, and it cannot be imposed just like that, the task of teachers is to explain why the children themselves should be interested in learning, to prove to them that it will give certain results, and not now, but in the future.

    For this, students need to set specific tasks. They will not come up with tasks for themselves, they will not find more or less interesting problems in school books. And an experienced person (supervisor, mentor), well versed in issues, can easily make a list of feasible scientific (and near-scientific) problems.

    I’m not sure that the task of fighting icing pipes is something completely new. However, a person trying to solve it must deal with physics, mathematics and even economics. Interesting applied results are rarely obtained on the basis of one kind of science; ideas need to be sought at their junction.

    It is always a pleasure to communicate with a person who has an idea of ​​what he is doing. This is not an abstract paper where several sources are mixed up without much understanding - this is a living study that yields “live” results.

    Let us return to the conference itself; it is worth noting that the “reporting” form is poster. It is not enough to do the work, to solve the problem, you still need to be able to talk about the results achieved, answer questions. Therefore, such conferences and competitions are pushing children to “correct” communication, to the ability to quickly and clearly formulate an idea, present themselves and their creation.

    The Baltic Competition is not the only event with a similar theme, its analogues exist in Moscow, and the final of the competition takes place in the USA and is called the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Yes, successful schoolchildren are "sent" to defend their work right to America (and a great way, by the way, to see the world).

    By the way, ACM contests have nothing to do with these competitions, although usually there and there are guys from the same schools, but the direction is completely different. And the guys are usually different. The olympic activity, obviously, has its advantages, but like any sport, it also has a negative effect.

    Here, all the results (if possible) are new and publicly available, in olympids (almost always) - the same techniques, and fierce competition between the participants (which makes them, of course, hide their decisions). Creative competitions broaden their horizons, and Olympiads increase the concentration of knowledge in one area.

    And every year, participating in contests, we write merge sorting and read text files, but for the first time I came across a model of a take-off and assembly line for shuttles:

    Inside the red box is a fully-featured programmable microcontroller that controls other equipment: servomotors, a cascade of LEDs, a system sound alert. I would also be proud of myself if I could create such gizmos.

    The author of a home-made machine for milling printed circuit boards, controlled by a computer through a COM port. The drivers (not the program, but the mechanics) for the horizontal and vertical stroke guys (several developers) designed themselves.

    In 7 minutes, such a machine cut out the logo of the TV channel, containing smooth bends. Good result:

    And here is a demonstration of another robot based on Lego Mindstorms; he likes to play billiards. True, the task of the game is simplified here - you need to "drive" balls into the pockets of the corresponding colors, and keep within the time per minute. But this is not as easy as it seems, because you need to correctly recognize the ball, pocket, calculate the necessary speed and direction of the throw, take into account the possible situation of deflection during the throw (for example, due to an uneven surface), finish off the ball. And if the ball rolled away, then you need to find it. And all this by means of rather primitive sensors with a refresh rate of up to two times per second (and this is hardly enough).

    It is easy to see that the trials take place in a very informal setting, and are accompanied by communication with the participants. And it’s not scary that there was no special billiard table, it was replaced with a sheet of paper and improvised “sides”, which had to be put in real time. Something Chaos Constructions Hackaround reminded.

    Nevertheless, poster presentations are more pleasant than classroom presentations, on the part of the participants there is an opportunity to find an individual approach to the composition of the jury (and how could it be without it) and to other participants. And more attention is paid to listeners - in total, there is up to 6 hours to show work, versus, on average, 10 minutes to an audience report.

    It is very nice to talk with a person who understands the architecture of RISC processors and is ready to offer his solution and even its implementation on the basis of FPGAs. An interesting design feature is a flexible architecture that allows variable bit widths of registers.

    The competition featured more than two hundred works in various sections, not only “Technics” and “Informatics”, but also “Physics”, “Biology”, “Chemistry”. For 6 hours they cannot be completely circumvented, and there was no such purpose. But I am sure that among them are not few worthy. At least that's what the jury thinks.

    There were also representatives of the fair sex (and who said that science is only for men?).

    But unfortunately, in the technical sections, the ratio of girls to boys is clearly not in their favor. And maybe there is nothing to regret :)

    And here are the winners; students of the Laboratory of Continuing Mathematical Education will go to America, with work, not surprisingly in mathematics, “special Ries-Sushkevich semigroups”.

    The awards do not end there, about a third of the contestants were encouraged with valuable prizes and gifts provided by the sponsors of the contest.

    Here is such a “window to the world" for young professionals.

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