I'm a 17 year old engineer and researcher working on Human Augmentation at the Harvard Augmentation Lab and the MIT Media Lab. For the past 2 years, I've been commuting over a dozen times per year by train from my hometown in New Jersey (over 200 miles away) and spending my summers in Cambridge to keep my initiatives going. However, as I approach my senior year of high school, it will become infeasible for me to commute this often to Cambridge as I become busier with familial obligations and college applications, on top of my already massive stack of projects.
I'm currently living in Cambridge till August 31st doing research full time, but will be unable to sustain my living expenses when I resume taking classes in the fall. This regrant will enable me to move to Cambridge from September 1st through December 18th while enrolling in a few classes at the local public high school and at Harvard to graduate early after one semester while simultaneously working on my projects. After I graduate early, I should be able to resume paid research full time for the spring semester before I begin college and sustain myself that way. Counterfactually, I would spend my fall 2023 semester in New Jersey at my current high school, forced to abandon my already-in-progress high value projects for new smaller ones with little impact due to the lack of resources I have there compared to in Cambridge.
Note: my funding is time sensitive. I would set a later date if possible, but ~3 weeks is the minimum time it would take to find fall housing. The more time I have, the better.
Below is an abbreviated list of my ongoing projects and initiatives that I would be forced to drop at the end of August if I'm unable to move to Cambridge:
Projects & Initiatives
(Harvard Aug Lab) https://www.augmentationlab.org/post/limbx-an-eye-gaze-controlled-supernumerary-limb
LimbX is a supernumerary robotic limb that attaches to a user's back and is controlled with eye motions. This fall, I plan on upgrading LimbX to utilize a brain computer interface tandem to eye tracking and a human-like end actuator. This would enable people with limited limb function (caused by diseases like ALS and Cerebral Palsy) to supplement limb function. This is the project I am most excited for and with the largest impact over the next 6 months.
(Harvard Aug Lab) https://www.augmentationlab.org/post/low-cost-ar-glasses
Current commercial Augmented Reality (AR) glasses cost upwards of hundreds to thousands of dollars and have little day-to-day utility for the average person. These DIY AR Glasses are affordable and easy to build. By taking a used Android phone for most of the main system components, builders start off their headsets with connectivity, an operating system, audio, and more. Because they are quite literally made out of the same parts as smartphones, they can provide practical daily value to many users at a low cost. Project to be finished and open sourced this semester.
[MIT Media Lab project, no link yet]
BCISwarm is a drone swarm controlled with AttentivU (linked below), an EEG+EOG brain computer interface. The swarm of 12 drones will be able to navigate and pathfind to specific locations based on brain and eye activity, measuring focus and eye movement. While this project has an MVP deadline in mid-august, I would need to spend a few months after that to make it usable outside of a laboratory.
BCI headset: https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/attentivu/overview/
MIT Reality Hack
I'm an organizer at the MIT Reality Hack, where I work on Event Design, Outreach, Communications, External Event Design, and Hacker Experience. We are the largest XR hackathon of the year, drawing over 750+ of the brightest minds in XR together to tackle challenges in the industry. As many members of the Org team are Cambridge based, I do not believe it is something I would be able to do remotely.
Electronic Hand Implant
[Independent, no link yet]
I'm designing a hand implant modeled around the Dangerous Things injectable implant, equipped with NFC, RFID, and bluetooth to enhance our connectivity with the rest of the world. Example use cases would be swapping contact info with other hand-implantees view handshake, adding an easy electronic 2fa to biometric security, and removing need for physical credit cards, badges, hotel keys, etc. I plan on using MIT makerspace resources and support to make my vision a reality.
Scaling and Telescoping shoes (SATS)
[MIT Media Lab, no link yet]
There currently exists no practical solution for realistic vertical locomotion in VR. I've designed a pair of shoes that use linear actuators at the base to extend or tilt the user's soles by up to 30cm and 45°. This allows for the simulation of terrain in VR: slopes, stairs, ramps, hills, etc. If a user were to walk up stairs, the sole of the foot they push out would extend to the height of the first stair, which the user could then step up on. Repeating with the opposite foot each time and retracting as the user gains stability, this allows for infinite vertical terrain scaling in VR. This could also potentially have applications in health & wellness or in physical therapy.
I currently have scattered notes and rough docs for projects 3 5 and 6. As I update them to be legible and understandable, I'll upload them here. If these notes are a hard requirement for you to help fund me, please let me know and I will work to expedite making them public-facing.
By the end of the Fall Semester (December 21) I will make significant progress or finish and open-source everything listed above. I expect to completely finish projects 1, 2, 3, and 6 by the end of the fall semester, while 4 and 5 will be finished by January and March respectively.
How will this funding be used?
The funding will be used to cover my living expenses in Cambridge for the fall semester as follows:
8k (4 months/1 semester of rent + utilities in Cambridge)
1.8k (food and transit)
0.2k (buffer for misc costs)
What is your (team's) track record on similar projects?
the first LimbX prototype is a particularly good example of my tenacity. 3 teammates and I began the project in August 2022, working 16+ hours per day every day, living together in the Harvard engineering building in order to give ourselves as much of a head start as possible before the semester began. By doing this, we compacted an entire semester's project into 4 weeks. I follow miniature versions of this sprint develop cycle for all my projects; working very intensely for hours to days at a time to maximize productivity and success.
How could this project be actively harmful?
There are honestly not that many possible harms for most of the aforementioned projects–most are negligible personal safety hazards that come with any engineering project. The hand implant could pose a personal risk of infection to the user, which is mitigated by entrusting a trained nurse with the injection procedure. BCISwarm could pose a possible safety issue to people in the drones' immediate surroundings, but this is unlikely due to a well-tested object avoidance software on each drone. During testing, the SATS shoes could possibly malfunction and hurt my ankles, but I'll institute failsafes to minimize this risk as much as possible.
What other funding is this person or project getting?
I am currently applying to the Emergent Ventures grant. I don't know any other currently open sources of funding that might be a good fit for me, so please let me know what else I should be looking at.