Tech Students get to Finals at Samsung Solve 2016
Visualization of FFT Source:

This March, four Tech students were commemorated for their work using the Fast Fourier transform—and cellphones—to prevent car crashes. Congratulations to Allison Collard de Beaufort, Ben Spiegel, Hanin Dari, and Ricardo Monico for their amazing work on the app and raising awareness.

The inspiration for the project came as three students from M.S. 51 died in tragic car accidents. Allison and her team, mostly consisting of alumni from the school, sought to raise awareness about the issue, and eventually moved towards creating an innovative solution that they submitted to Samsung Solve.

Samsung Solve is, by its own definition, “To excite students about the possibilities of STEM education, giving schools across the country an opportunity to raise interest.”

The contest gives $120,000 in technology to the schools of any of the top five finalists, as well as $40,000 to the top 15 and $20,000 to the top 50. Selection is based on how effectively STEM can be applied to solve a problem in your community.

The contest occurs in six stages. First, teams from across the country submit their ideas, then five per state are selected to forward their plan. Finally, a single team from each state competes until there are fifteen finalists, then five winners.

The way the team planned to implement this change was by utilizing cellphones, and physics. The principal idea is that a cellphone app could be used to detect, through a phone’s (or smartwatch’s) microphone, the sound of a speeding car and alert the user to step back or avoid an accident.

According to Ben Spiegel, “The app uses a physics algorithm called the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) and a custom heuristic designed to search out engine sounds from an audio input, like one you could access from a live microphone.”

He describes FFT as, “an algorithm commonly used to break complex sound waves into their simple components so that each component can be analyzed separately and information can be gathered about the complex wave as a whole.” He mentioned that work had already been done with FFT to decipher engine sounds from background noise, and some had even shown success.

Perhaps just as important as providing a solution is bringing awareness to the issue. According to the New York State Department of Transit, there were approximately 300, 000 car crashes in 2014 alone, and 1,100 of which were fatal.

Ricardo Monico commented, “…and if the app can actually get produced and can help people it would be amazing. But mainly I think the most important part is to bring awareness, and this project definitely did that.”

Regardless of whether or not the app is able to be produced, the team has done a service by raising awareness and promoting safety and responsibility. Hopefully we will be see more innovative projects like this going forwards.



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