3D Robotics

We set up onstage beforehand with Christopher and it was apparent even then that he was freaky smart. But then he does a demo programming a Parrot AR.Drone to fly geometric patterns with Mathematica, and then debugged the program in real time on stage in front of a packed house. Amazing. When I was 13, I was still having trouble remembering the months of the year. (Of course, he is the son of a genius. But still!)

Report from Makezine here:

Mathematica creator Stephen Wolfram gave a talk at World Maker Faire New York 2012, but his 13-year-old son Christopher stole the show by doing some Mathematica programming on the fly to control a quadricopter.

His plan was to have a single line of Mathematica code that would make the quadricopter fly a specified 3D path. He had a list of points for a square, entered the line of code, and pressed Shift-Return, and… nothing happened!
I guess Christopher has debugged quite a lot of code in his 13 years. And now he set about doing it in front of the audience. A missing function definition. A missing command to connect to the device. He was finding quite a few things. And I was getting ready to call out that he should just give up.
But then… the sound of quadricopter blades, and up the quadricopter goes… flying its loop on the stage, and landing.
It had actually worked! It was pretty neat, being able to just type one line of code into Mathematica, and then having some physical object fly around in the pattern one had specified:


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  • I also did the "sport compact car" thing just before that exploded (in a bad way) with "The Fast and The Furious" crap.  

    Apparently I'm a pretty good predictor of upcoming trends. ;)

  • Developer

    ahhh.. Yes.. when "Parkour" didn't have a name just meant being outside and fooling around.. :) We should start an old mans group and talk about how much better everything was back in our day..  :P

  • Ah yes, I remember seeing some of that back in the day, I think early 90's.  I wasn't involved, but saw some of it when I visited other geeks at home, mostly for playing LAN games I think.  This was also the pre-internet era with dial up networking which I was slightly involved in.  So I touched on a little of that, but I was more heavily involved in "extreme outdoor sports" before the word "extreme" was invented and that all went mainstream.

  • Developer

    It's all about what you are exposed to as a kid. Here in Scandinavia for example my generation of nerds grew up with something called the Demo scene, leading to some very advanced low level programming at an early age. Stuff that I would grind my teeth doing today. It's amazing what you can do, when you are young and don't know any better. :)

  • I don't care what the barrier to entry is or isn't.  All I know is that I would consider that kid very gifted considering he's doing stuff at 13 that I don't understand at 36, and with an engineering degree to boot.  Perhaps it's simply a case of certain parents being able to afford a private education that not everybody can, because courses that teach what he is doing were not offered in the public system I attended.  As I said, our high school computer science class was very "BASIC".  

    Man, I thought I was doing pretty well having taught myself C++ over the past year.  But if it's not remarkable for a 13 year old then, I guess I must be a bumpkiss.  ;)

  • I "discovered" Mathematica 2 years ago when I got a wild hair and took "Calculus and Mathematica" from University of Illinois. It was hands down, the best math course I have ever taken. The text books were, in fact, Mathematica notebooks.

    You learn (or re-learn) Calculus and Mathematica all in one shot. I am very interested in the future of Mathematica and Robotic Systems.

  • Developer

    Jack's comment may have been in bad form, but what I perceive as the essential message behind it is true. Today computers are readily available for anyone, and the threshold to use one is MUCH lower then what it used to be. This naturally leads to a certain dumbing down of the users.

    Earlier you had to have a fundamental understanding of how a computer works, just to use one. And to program one you really had to know the ins and outs. So as a "old schooler" it is easy to get a knee jerk reaction at what by some is considered "genius" levels today.

  • Its a great time for geeky kids.  All we had, when I was his age, was teletype terminals connected to HP main frames, and rubix cubes.  So many toys, so little time, and then puberty hits. 

  •   My initial comment was meant to be taken jokingly rather than sarcastically.   Jack is light years ahead of the curve on this forum.  In fact, each time he makes a new post I am always overwhelmed at how much I don't know.  It's obvious the roots of his knowledge were planted at an early age, just as this young man.  However, not everyone is afforded the opportunity to learn what some may consider rudimentary skills at such an early age.  I consider fortunate the ones who are though.

  • Moderator
    Us oldies got involved back then too.
    In 1974 our College offered Computers 12/22, even though we didn't have any computers!
    We worked with punch cards and verifiers and wrote Fortran code, which we mailed away to the University, which ran the programs and couriered the printouts the next day.
    Index of /
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