Alexander Amini, winner of 2011 Young Scientist Competition
Sixteen year old Alexander Amini is an aspiring young scientist from Dublin, Ireland. Last year, he won the first prize for his project, "Tennis Sensor Data Analysis"
Alexander began playing tennis at the age of 5, when he lived in Yorktown Heights, New York. While in New York, he went to Yorktown High School where he first took computer programming classes and learned Java and MS Visual Basic. He learned other languages such as Python & C++ in his spare time. He later moved to Dublin with his family.
"How did you come up your idea to use Tennis for your project?"
"I have been fascinated in sensors, especially wearable sensors for some time. After moving to Ireland two years ago, I learned of the Young Scientist Competition, and began searching for a topic that could help improve health, quality of living, or something similar. It struck me that sensors would be an incredible way to improve tennis technique.
"Tennis takes years of practice and expensive coaching."
"I knew this first-hand because my coach was my father, and his teaching style was focused largely on proper technique. From the instant I thought of the idea, I could hardly think of anything else."
Did you get to work with anyone else on the project, like classmates or someone in your family?
The competition requires the work be entirely the student’s, with only mentoring from a science teacher, so I wasn’t able to work with others per se. My biology teacher, Mr. Kieran Gallagher, was my mentor and was a huge help.
The elite Sánchez-Casal Tennis Academy, which is famous for producing top tennis athletes such as Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, allowed me to capture a very extensive dataset from their athletes.
"Who is your role model?"
"I tend to find inspiration in many different people, as opposed to a single role model. For example, Roger Federer has incredible tennis form, technical execution and accuracy.
"I consider Thomas Edison as possibly the most amazing scientist-inventor because his inventions were the basis for so much of modern technology..."
...and because his inventions were so pragmatic – the lives of nearly everyone in the world are improved because of his inventions."
"What did you have the most fun with on your project?"
"The most fun was working with the sensors and in creating the real-time feedback system.
It was very difficult at first to understand the data generated by the accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, and how to write programs to interpret this data.
But once I had these basic programs, I started creating programs that would allow me to visualize the data in real-time, as it was being generated.
This allowed me to watch what happened to the data as I made subtle movements and think about whether my algorithms were doing the right things. It helped me to understand how sudden and forceful movements impacted the measurements and how my program needed to handle incorrect when the measurements were noisy (incorrect). When people saw my real-time demo, they would get excited, and that made me even more excited."
"What has been the best outcome of your project?"
"The best outcome was how many new things I learned. I already knew how to program, but had not previously been exposed to data mining or machine learning. These are techniques that enable software to identify patterns in the data, and to create a model so that pattern can be recognized in new data."
"I’ve also learned so much by talking to other students, teachers, and scientists."
"Because of the competitions, I was able to talk to many top academic and industrial researchers. Each time, new and exciting ideas would come up. I feel much more comfortable exploring these ideas through conversations, reading papers, and even conducting small experiments."
"What do you want to do in the future?"
"For the near term, I am looking forward to graduating in June. Because of my transition from Ireland back to the US, I am trying to get an internship this fall in an academic research lab, and then enter a university program the following year.
Longer term, I hope to become a scientist-inventor-entrepreneur."
If you want to get more information about Alexander,
you can visit his site at http://www.tennistek.webs.com/