Skip to main content

ProjectORCSGirls 2023

ORCSGirls mentoring and encouraging girls to participate in the ProjectCSGirls competition goes back to 2018 and every year more girls joined in.  The challenge is simple. Build something using computer science and technology that can help solve an imminent social problem under one of four themes - global health, a safer world, intelligent technology, and bridging inequalities. 

Unfortunately it became clear after the girls had already spent time on their projects, that the 2023 ProjectCSGirls competition will not take place and we decided to hold a local competition for our eight girls and named it ProjectORCSGirls 😎

A big thank you to Prof. Katharine Page and the Institute for Advanced Materials & Manufacturing at the University of Tennessee Knoxville for hosting or celebration gala on August 13. Four finalists joined us in person and four participated virtually.

Below are the blog posts about each project the girls submitted as part of their entries ✨

Noise Recorder using the Pi Zero ( NRP0 )

Ada Pezzuti Dyer - 1st Place

The oily sizzle of an egg in a hot frying pan, the melodic birdsong coming from the tree beside our house, the obnoxious rev of a pickup truck as it speeds down our street, and the gasoline-powered roar of our neighbor's weedwhacker and leaf blower. My family and I hear these sounds every day, and aside from being annoying, the last two sounds mentioned can have harsh repercussions, causing slower mental development in children, higher stress levels, and even hearing damage or loss. This isn't uncommon, either! The CDC reports that hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes or cancer, and that 14.9% of children are subject to it.

So how can a concerned citizen help? With the help of my device, the Noise Recorder using the Pi Zero (or NRP0 for short), they can be empowered to make a lasting impact on their community.

The NRP0 is made using a Pi Zero, an AIY Voice Bonnet, a speaker, a 4" microphone, and a color-changing button. When the sound-recording Python program, the button turns yellow, and the device checks the noise level - measured in RMS - every 0.3 seconds. If the RMS exceeds 0.5, then the device makes a recording with a duration of 5 seconds which hopefully captures the source of the noise.

Another part of the project was another Python program, this one used to split up long audio clips recorded on other devices into smaller 5-second ones. The final part was a supervised machine learning model. It was trained with 206 audio clips classified into the 10 categories "Dog", "Cars", "Power Tool", "Crashing", and others. This model yielded an accuracy of 89%, but had the most trouble identifying birds and cars. Of course, this was just a prototype, and not very easy to use for someone with no technology experience. A very useful addition would be an app that connects to the device through Bluetooth and lists recordings and predictions for what the source might be, to make the entire process more seamless and user-friendly.

Keyboard to Communicate

Leah Thelen - 2nd Place

Did you know 1 or 2 out of every 1000 children has apraxia? There is a group of non-speaking autistics with apraxia who have overcome boundaries of motor and verbal challenges to find a means of communication with friends, family, and the world through spelling! One of my first exposures to the world of autistic non-speaking individuals was through the Peyton Project

1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder causing unwanted, repetitive movements. Autism can also be responsible for sensory issues. Out of that group of autistic individuals, between 25% and 35% are nonverbal. Apraxia is a disconnect between the brain and the body, not a cognitive disorder. It causes fine motor movements such as speaking and writing to become a challenge.

Through S2C (Spelling to Communicate), children and adults around the world with motor disabilities are communicating effectively to their friends and families and to the world through blogs and socials. In S2C therapy, spellers start with a stencil or sensory board, move to a laminated paper, and eventually spell out their thoughts on a keyboard. The journey from stencil to keyboard is far but easy, but individuals with apraxia are motivated to break down motor boundaries to accomplish it.

My project, Keyboard to Communicate, is a transitional board that helps spellers get used to the added motor difficulty of typing while still using a keyboard in ABC order. My topic is bridging inequalities, because the goal for this project was to smooth the change from a laminated board to a traditional computer keyboard. For the prototype, I created a 4x4 button matrix and wired it up to a Raspberry  Pico. The Raspberry Pico is a microcontroller that I ran Python on for the purpose of my project. As well as the keyboard prototype, the last step of the project was creating a software with text-to-speech and autofill features programmed myself in JavaScript.

This project has much room to grow in the future, and my hope is that this prototype can go on to help  he millions of non-speakers still without a voice.

SEVA - “Saving the lives of tomorrow.”

Tvisha Jani - 2nd Place

In 2022, 38 students were killed in school firings in the United States, from a total of 51 firings which resulted in injuries and/or casualties. So far, more than 200 mass school shootings have occurred this year, an 8% increase from 2020 when firearm deaths were off the charts and a common sight on local news broadcasts. A couple of months ago, in my own school, a student brought a weapon into the building and managed to keep the object undetected. Luckily, another student noticed the threat and quickly got in contact with an adult who, several hours later, contacted the authorities. To this day, it  frightens me to think about what would have happened if my fellow peer had not spoken up and if the issue remained unaddressed.

To combat this issue, I decided to create a surveillance device for schools which efficiently recognizes  guns and quickly sends an SMS message to 911 if a threat is detected. I named this device Seva, which is  Sanskrit for help which falls under the “Safer World” category. The device consists of Huskylens and  Micro:Bit powered by a Micro:Bit breakout board. The hardware works with an app when connected  via Bluetooth by the Micro:Bit. After being connected, the device can be monitored and the user can  receive notifications about what the Huskylens is seeing on school premises. The Huskylens object  tracking feature is trained with database of various sizes, models, and shapes of guns from all kinds of angles and distances so that it can accurately classify a gun when it sees one. The Micro:Bit works as a messenger for the Huskylens by sending an alert to the app when the Husylens identifies a gun so that the time of the incident is printed for later investigations.

One of the major issues during a school shooting is that 911 is not contacted in time for the shooter to be stopped, so I made sure my device was relatively quick in alerting authorities by setting the approximate time until contact to ten seconds after receiving an alert. This way, if the alert is false, the user can stop the SMS from being sent. 

AI Recycling Assistant

Kristen Moor - 3rd Place

Did you know that if one item in a recycling container is not truly recyclable, the whole load must be thrown out? Over four million tons of trash are thrown away every day. However, a good deal of it could be recycled. Much of this waste is discarded because people don’t know what else to do with it. Around 40% of families in Knoxville, Tennessee recycle, which means about 60% do not. This is largely due to a lack of knowledge on the subject of reducing, reusing, and recycling.

I am very passionate about this topic, so I created the AI Recycling Assistant, a two-part program designed to explain reducing, reusing, and recycling to users. The first part of my project, called Go Green Assistant, was built on Voiceflow using artificial intelligence (AI) to ask users a series of questions and lead them to simple descriptions of and ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The second part, named Recycle Bold, was designed on Teachable Machine, a machine learning website, to allow users to better understand which items can and cannot be recycled.

My topic is Intelligent Technology. Intelligent technology is very popular at present. AI, smart robots, electric cars, advanced rockets, and many more high-tech items are drawing more and more of our attention. Professionals around the world are constantly using these tools to solve problems. I took a similar approach with my project by using AI and machine learning to help people understand how to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Before creating my programs, I researched reducing, reusing, and recycling in order to put together the best definitions of each. I also researched ways to reduce and reuse and found out the specifics of which items are recyclable. My first step to create Go Green Assistant was to lay out my ideas in a flowchart. After doing this, I put my information into the Voiceflow program. To do this, I created multiple text boxes, user inputs, and end paths. I connected each text box to another, creating thirty-two unique paths the user can take. In order to build Recycle Bold, I used a chart I created outlining which items are recyclable. I gathered items from my house and trained them in Teachable Machine by holding an object up to the camera and rotating it to capture all angles. I trained 28 total items, including cardboard, plastic, cans, and glass. After I created each of the two programs that make up the AI Recycling Assistant, I tested each individually for accuracy and conciseness. To test Go Green Assistant, I ran each of the thirty-two dialogue paths. I confirmed that the chatbot provided clear and correct responses to each user input. For Recycle Bold, I tested 30 non-trained objects to ensure the accuracy of the image classifier. 19 of these items were correctly identified as recyclable, 7 were correctly identified as not recyclable, and 4 had unstable identification. I found that items I trained were generally more accurate than those not trained.

In conclusion, The AI Recycling Assistant is a conjunction of two programs built using artificial intelligence and machine learning to encourage people to correctly reduce, reuse, and recycle. One website describes recycling as “...turn[ing] something old and useless... into something new and useful...” Through the AI Recycling Assistant, I hope to help people understand both the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling, and how they can implement simple ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in their daily lives.

You can try Go Green Assistant and Recycle Bold yourself!


Katie Bates - Honorable Mention

Everyone struggles sometimes with life; it’s not an easy thing. However, people who suffer from mental illnesses have to work harder than the rest of us to get through the day. Their disorders make it difficult for them to think properly, complete otherwise simple tasks, and communicate with others in “normal” ways. People of all ages experience mental illnesses and disorders, but teenagers specifically suffer greatly from the challenges these conditions pose on them. Even if they do have access to professional therapy, medication, or other types of treatment, it can be hard to open up and work towards a better life. Mental health on a global scale can have drastic effects, but it can also impact individuals and their lives. I know a lot of people who have been struggling with mental illnesses for a very long time, and I always felt like there was nothing I could do to help. To solve this, I created Teem: a supplementary mental health app for teens to use at home. Because I’m a teenager myself, I have unique experiences that I used to help me develop the perfect app for teens in need. Teem’s users can track their moods, journal, play games, and even use super cute animal avatars for added personalization. The point of Teem is to provide a safe, secure place for teens impacted by mental illnesses to relax and process.

I made Teem on Thunkable, an app-making website that combines drag-and-drop designing with JavaScript block coding. Teem has all sorts of features, such as a sign up and sign in system I designed from scratch, a 3-button interface with specialized paths based on the user’s needs, and a well-stocked resources section so people can learn more about what they or others are experiencing.
I did lots of research on mental health while making my project. I found the majority of my information from the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses’ (NAMI) pages on mental disorders such as depression,
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder). I also found quality research from the Autism Science Foundation and the Tourette’s Association of America. In addition, I discovered tons of youth and young adult books that discuss hard topics within mental health. All of this research went into Teem’s resources section, where teens can access the information with the right guidance.

Teem was created to help teens feel safe and secure, so they can use coping skills to help themselves gain control over their illnesses or disorders. It can be really difficult to want to keep going when everything is telling you that you can’t, but hopefully Teem can offer that bit of extra support for any and all teens who need a friend who understands them. Teem was made by a teen, for teens, and when it becomes a public app one day, I will make sure it’s always there to help those who need it.


Hazel Zoleta - Honorable Mention

Whoever reads this, is or was a kid at some point. Eventually, every kid becomes an adult and everybody can be a future leader, a lifesaver, and more, and people must know how to take care of themselves. They must be able to tackle health issues, severe and simple. My project is designed to make handling simple issues easier. Everyone needs to maintain adequate food consumption, exercise, and sleep amounts. Everyone should know how to handle these basic components of life, as it is then one less thing to be concerned about.

My app, Happy, is designed to help the user develop good habits. My research showed that many people under the age of 18 do not get enough sleep, exercise, or healthy food. Happy provides information easily and clearly to help people develop these habits.

I have made Happy with Thunkable and Firebase. Thunkable is a no-code app platform and Firebase is an app development platform from Google. I have used many components including text, images, web
viewers, buttons, and more to make Happy more effective. To test that Happy was effective, I had it tested by two people over six days. The first three days were day-to-day life, and the second three days were day-to-day life with Happy. The results showed an overall increase, leading me to believe that Happy is effective.

Three main components of Happy make it effective. They are Sleep, Food, and Exercise. All of these contain information that promotes knowledge of that area. In Sleep, there are four sub-screens. The different screens cover how much sleep is needed, calming methods to achieve better sleep, reasons to sleep, and a bedtime calculator. In Food, there are screens for the five main food groups. All of the screens have a fact about the food group, information for different age groups, and a button linking to the website on the food group. Finally, in Exercise, there is how much is needed, examples of good exercise, and reasons to exercise. This information allows people to gain and use it best in their lives.

Happy may be simple, but it has the potential to go far. Everybody can use it at some point in their life, and it can make a huge difference. The simple, day-to-day health of people may not seem important, but that makes it easier to be overlooked and cause long-term issues. Everyone can benefit from Happy because everyone is a kid in their life. Happy can one day make the world healthier, one person at a time.


Thuviksa Mathialakan

This app helps people unfamiliar with the process of goal setting to set SMART goals. Why goal setting? Well, goals ensure progress in daily life and boost your mental wellness as you strive towards
something that boosts your body’s dopamine! According to Reliable Plant, people often have a hard
time creating goals, because they don’t have enough understanding of the process creating goals, Odyssey helps you create SMART goals which are goals that are:
  • Specific enough that anyone can understand
  • Measurable enough so you know how much to do
  • Achievable based on realities faced
  • Relevant to your purpose
  • Time-bound; has a specific timeframe it needs to be completed in


Nicole Flores

My site is about making friends or having someone to relate to hence the title. It's in the topic of a Safer World because, people feel safer if they have someone like someone who they can hang out and tell things to. Someone who isn't their relatives, because sometimes it's about them. I think having someone to rely on is really beneficial to you. It's quite important to have someone who you can trust, count on and know they will be by your side no matter what. Gaining trustworthy friends and having support is good for you. I’ve seen people with a lot of friends but they still feel so alone. I’ve asked what's wrong and I get similar answers. I don't feel understood or I feel lost all the time. I can't help them since I’ve tried to understand but I’m not the right person. Supportive people could relieve stress and make you happier in general.

Congratulations to everyone ✨


Popular posts from this blog

The Birth of ORCSGirls Jr.

  It's 1 PM on a Monday afternoon. 13 elementary school girls are waiting patiently for the camp to start. The excitement and anticipation can be felt through the Zoom screen as I start to talk... "Hi, my name's Katie! Welcome to the first ever ORCSGirls Jr. Virtual Reality Camp! Let's get started."      Last summer (2022), I had the idea to run a coding camp for young girls through ORCSGirls. Regular ORCSGirls classes are only open to girls in 5th through 10th grade, and as a middle schooler, I wanted 2nd-4th grade girls to have a chance to explore computer science too. The goal of ORCSGirls is to inspire young girls to pursue careers in technology, and giving them that spark as early as 2nd grade is an awesome opportunity.      A lot of planning went into making this camp possible. I started with an interest survey, which is how I chose virtual reality as the topic for the camp. Then I spent months gathering a team of counselors, making forms, and getti

ProjectCSGirls 2022

Back in 2015 my daughter Klara and her friend Jamie participated in the national online ProjectCSGirls competition creating a VR MRI Simulator and winning 2nd place ✨ Being at the awards gala and seeing the awesome project presentation from middle school girls around the US in many ways inspired me to found Oak Ridge Computer Science Girls.  ProjectCSGirls runs a national competition designed to challenge middle school girls to actively use computer science and technology to develop a solution to an imminent social problem. The challenge is simple. Build something using computer science and technology that can help solve an imminent social problem under one of four themes - global health, a safer world, intelligent technology, and bridging inequalities.  Since 2018 some of 'our' girls have entered and competition and in 2022 we set a new record with six projects and seven girls participating. Suchita , Leah and Kristen & Katie , Nishka , Nicole and Tvisha were all selected