Wednesday Apr 24 2013
Auburn 11-year-old takes project to White House
By: By Gina Martinez, California News Service
President Obama uses youth’s painterly robot to make drawing
Washington, D.C. — An Auburn girl’s sixth grade project earned her a trip to the White House this week where she got to show off her unique watercolor-painting-robot to President Obama.
Sylvia Todd, 11, known to her YouTube followers as “Super Awesome Sylvia,” was one of 100 students selected from across the country to present her invention at the 2013 White House Science Fair on Monday.
The event was intended to demonstrate Obama’s vision for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
Sylvia’s project was positioned in the State Dining Room where Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis prepared the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1802.
Obama stopped by Sylvia’s exhibit and said it was “cool,” as he made his way around the exhibits.
“It’s really exciting. It’s mind blowing that I’m actually at the White House,” Sylvia said.
Others who admired her invention were Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” representatives from NASA and even New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Sylvia’s watercolor-painting-robot, the WaterColorBot, resembles a topless etch a sketch with a paintbrush attached to small pulleys and wires.
It incorporates art with technology to produce paintings drawn on iPads. She describes the WaterColorBot as a “kid-friendly art robot that moves a paintbrush to paint your digital artwork onto paper using a set of watercolor paints,” on her website.
Sylvia’s science project was originally created for the 2013 RoboGames, in San Mateo. She collaborated with Evil Mad Scientists, a business that is dedicated to the sciences and do-it-yourself projects, to win a silver medal in the “ArtBot Painting” category.
She was invited to Washington after participating in a Google chat about the Maker Movement, a White House initiative aimed at encouraging innovation. Sylvia paid for her trip by raising money on GoFundMe.com, an online fundraising website, with a matching contribution from Evil Mad Scientists.
The 11-year-old elementary school student has her own YouTube channel – “Super Awesome Maker” – with a viewership of nearly 3,000 subscribers, as well as hosting her own website.
In addition to her Internet ventures, she also participates in shows and forums to inspire kids to get out and make things.
“I really want to get involved in engineering” Sylvia told Jewel, who was sworn in as Interior Secretary earlier this month. “I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut.”
Sylvia’s WaterColorBot is scheduled to be available for sale as a kit sometime next month through Evil Mad Scientists, according to her dad, James Todd.
Todd said “it’s been a fun, crazy ride” as Sylvia’s videos and project takes off. Speaking from D.C. Tuesday, Todd said the family was grateful to friends who helped them pull together the money for the trip on a few days notice.
On Monday, he said he was allowed inside while Sylvia was presenting her project to dignitaries.
“I saw her work it,” Todd said. “She seemed to love it. She’s very good at it.”
Sylvia was one of two participants representing California.
Jessika Baral, a 13-year old from William Hopkins Junior High School in Fremont, created an innovative contraption to strengthen eye muscles. She discovered inadvertently that it also improved peripheral vision.
The product is a crescent-shaped Styrofoam board with LED lights surrounding the outside border which fits neatly against the forehead. The idea is to follow the moving lights to exercise the eyes.
The White House Science Fair was established in 2009 as part of Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign.
“We celebrate our great football players…and we celebrate outstanding musicians,” Obama said. “But we’ve got to make sure that we’re also celebrating every single day in our schools, in our classrooms, and in our country the outstanding contributions that scientists and engineers are providing to use every single day.”
The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California Washington Center. E-mail the California News Service at email@example.com. Journal staff contributed to this report.