Q&A: Missing the beach? Check out senior Kevin Huang’s topographical sandbox in the Makerspace (video included)

Senior Kevin Huang has made a sandbox (with some assistance from Tom Wroten, director of technology) that uses a program that reacts as the sand is changed. It can also flood and drain water. The sandbox can currently be found in the Makerspace.

Q: What interested you in making the sandbox?

A: Tom went to a recording of “Science Friday” in Davis, and UC Davis brought the project on stage. He thought, “Why not make it ourselves?” and he came back to school and told me about it. I looked it up and thought it looked cool, so I decided to do it.

Q: How long did it take to make it?

A: We started design and everything at the beginning of October, so about three months.

Q: Did you make it by yourself?

A: We built all of the hardware, including the sandbox and the mount for the projector, but the program is from online. We downloaded it from UC Davis, but we built the rest ourselves.

I did most of the measuring and calculating, but Tom helped out a lot with cutting the wood and teaching me stuff like that.

Q: Did you have any trouble while making it?

A: The process of building the sandbox (and the box itself) and the mount has been surprisingly smooth. We made pretty accurate measurements, and the outcome has been coming out pretty well.

Q: What was the hardest part of making it?

A: The hardest part is operating the Linux operating system on the computer. Lots of the files and folders are set hidden, so all of the commands are done in the terminal.

The online instruction didn’t tell me what each was doing, just lines of code. It was frustrating sometimes when the commands I put in didn’t work or didn’t do what I wanted them to, and I needed to rethink the command line.

But later, I started to understand the command language and what each command line was telling the computer to do. That became very helpful because I could figure out what the command line was saying, then find and edit the file myself instead of using the terminal.

Q: What’s the name of the program that you used?

A: ARSandbox. Since it’s an open-source program, there are people who develop supplement applications to make the sandbox do different things.

Q: What do you plan to do with the sandbox in the future?

A: We are going to bring it to the high- and lower-school libraries so students can play with it. In the middle school there’s earth science, so the sandbox will help the students visualize what’s going on and will help the teachers.

(Latin teacher Jane Batarseh) already brought in her class to teach a lesson on Pompeii.

Q: What features do you plan to add?

A: We’re working on making the whole sandbox flood and drain water, but we’d like to make it snow as well.

We might not be able to do it, but we may be able to project a topographic image on the sandbox of San Francisco or Tahoe and build a 3D model of it using the sand and the map.

Q: Who has used it?

A: (Head of school Lee) Thomsen came in and played with it for hours. He brought in a lot of faculty and teachers.

Since it’s in the Makerspace and there’s a middle-school elective in there, a lot of kids have been playing with it. And they’re loving it!

By Quin LaComb

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