MORRISTOWN, NJ - One measure of a students’ success, these days, is whether they are preparing themselves for jobs of the future – jobs that don’t exist yet or even have names.

So how about “Interactive Picture Frame Programmer?” That’s what two students at The Peck School are preparing to be as they revealed their design for an innovative product that uses artificial intelligence, digital footprints, and cloud-based data storage to bring pictures to life in a high tech frame.

Their invention, dubbed the “Personal Interactive Picture Frame,” secured them first place in the regional Exploravision competition co-sponsored by The National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba. This is the largest science competition in the world, and the duo from Peck is now one of five teams competing to be national champion. Even more impressive is the fact that these two young innovators are both in The Peck School’s third grade.

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Sophie Cheng from Bridgewater and Scarlette Liftin from Lebanon have been painstakingly researching and engineering their product since the fall of 2015. They are among 14 students from Peck who accepted the Exploravision challenge at the beginning of this school year. Under the mentorship of Lower School Technology Coordinator Jennifer Garvey, the budding engineers deployed Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) to bring their idea to life. They worked as a team outside of normal school hours to bring their initial concept from the drawing board to full-scale model.

“We love the Harry Potter series,” Scarlette explains. “The Personal Interactive Picture Frame (IPF) was inspired by the ‘Fat Lady’ and other talking portraits that hang in the hallway of Gryffindor Tower.” 

Her teammate Sophie goes on to explain the technology behind the concept, “The Personal IPF will work with a programmable Artificial Intelligence computer chip. The ‘AI’ chip will be programmed to track and model a person’s facial expressions, body movements, gestures, mouth movements, vocal sounds, voice rhythms, favorite phrases, etc.”

“People will find a photo and upload it to the Personal IPF website,” adds Scarlette. “The website has all the information about this person based on the AI computer chip and from past digital habits recorded from social media sites and Personal IPF programmable sources.”

“The computer chip will work by recording and adapting to the users facial expressions and overall habits, behavior, and movement. The image will change and interact appropriately by detecting the user’s emotion and body language,” concludes Sophie.

Throughout the course of the regional competition, the students were required to research current technologies, create a timeline showing the history of photography, picture frames, computers and chips. They drafted a paper describing the inner-workings of their product and explaining technological breakthroughs that would need to take place to enable their design.

For the national competition the students have submitted a full website advertising their design, including a two minute video about the product. The website had to demonstrate their vision for the IPF to the national judges. In addition, the team used the 3D modeling program called Tinkercad to sculpt a stand for the IPF, which they printed on one of Peck’s new 3D printers. They also crafted a prototype frame out of foam board, jewels, and stickers.

As regional winners,  Liftin and Cheng each received framed award certificates and Toshiba tablets. The Peck School received a widescreen Toshiba laptop. They will find out in late April if they have placed in the national competition where first place winners receive a $10,000 US Savings Bond and an all-expenses paid trip to the Finals expo in Washington, DC.