Google Science Fair 2014

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(image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with a London-based creative agency on a video for Google. The project was immensely fun in its own right, but we also had the bonus of showing a few out-of-towners around the great city of Pittsburgh — score!

To give some context as to how this project all came about, 323 Productions was contacted by the London agency in late October about this video featuring a local boy from Fox Chapel named Mihir Garimella. Mihir is an incredibly bright student who was one of the four global winners of the 2014 Google Science Fair. The agency was tasked with flying in to Pittsburgh to create a short narrative video on Mihir’s invention, the FlyBot. The FlyBot is a small flying robot inspired by fruit flies and their ability to escape imminent danger. Using a quadrotor microcontroller and infrared distance sensors, the drone-like device can detect approaching threats and fly away to safety on its own.

We served as an assistant producer on this project because it would have been difficult for the London team to effectively communicate with Mihir and all of the Pittsburgh locations we wanted to shoot in. We arranged clearances for a number of spots that were key to fleshing out Mihir’s story. Those locations included the Carnegie Science Fair, Fox Chapel High School, the Cooper-Siegel Library, and Mihir’s karate school. We’d like to thank Susan Zimecki, Erin Butkovic, Ann Andrews, and Master Klein, respectively, for their cooperation in making this project possible.

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The Carnegie Science Center was particularly relevant to Mihir’s story because of their super cool RoboWorld exhibit. We had lots of fun shooting here and got great footage of Mihir playing both air hockey and basketball against robots. (hint: the robots won)

From there, we moved on to the Cooper-Siegel Library. Mihir is especially proud of the fact that he got his first library card at age 7, so this location was important to him. Much of his knowledge comes from the long hours he spends researching here! We then filmed at his high school and later at his house. This is where the real magic happened because we got to see his invention first-hand (along with a few new ones he’s working on!) He illustrated his design for the FlyBot and then went through the process of soldering the components together to form a functional drone.

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The FlyBot is certainly an impressive piece of technology, but it’s not the only thing Mihir has created. When he was in sixth grade, he invented the “Robo-Mozart”, which is an automatic violin tuner. After the userĀ plucks a violin string, the sound sample is recorded and analyzed, and a computer program calculates exactly how out of tune the string is. This value is sent over to a microcontroller, which instructs a servo motor to tune the violin by the correct amount. Given his propensity to identify issues and design practical solutions for those issues, we’d say Mihir is going to have a noteworthy career ahead of him.

We’re looking forward to seeing this video debut in February at the same time that the 2015 winners are announced. Stay tuned! If you’re interested in reading more about the technical challenges that Mihir faced in building his FlyBot, you can head on over to the official Google Science Fair report here.

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