NEOSTEM Ecosystem Statement of the Times Message | School in Fall 2020

George Bilokonsky explains the motivation behind creation of the world’s first-ever autonomous Soap Box Derby car.

Q: So, the first question is really one word, “Why.”  Why are you trying to create an autonomous Soap Box Derby car?

A:  We are essentially trying to get as many kids as possible engaged with technology training of some sort. And what we know is that you have to make it exciting. So, if you can come up with some sort of competition and teach the kids math and make it exciting, it’s a big success.

Q: Are there any other motivating factors?

A:  We want to look at the world around us and think about how our students will fit. Without technology training, I’m not sure how students will be prepared for the jobs of the future. We don’t ever want to forget opportunities ahead of them.

Q: How have you, in your lifetime, been affected by technological changes?

A:  So I studied the American Revolution. Quite honestly,  the whole wave of computer technology that we’re seeing now is evidence that we’re living through another Revolution.
And automated cars, automated semi trucks and pop dispensers and you know everything is automated and so this is another Revolution.

Q: What are the next steps?

A:  Well, the idea is to try to put together a Soap Box Derby car that’s autonomous and actually goes down the track in the straight line. Once we accomplish that, then we build curriculum around it that is tied into the existing curriculum for the Soap Box Derby program and then get it out to the schools and get these kids engaged.


Q: What are some similarities between the autonomous car that the big auto manufacturers are producing and the Soap Box Derby autonomous car?

A:  Driving in traffic at various speeds is really complex, but the idea of actually using a sensor to read or see something in your environment and then have a machine react to it those are the similarities.  That is the same type of thinking. The idea is that you’re going to have some sort of sensor that reads the environment and gives the computer that’s operating whatever machine or whatever the product is some information and that computer has to make some sort of assessment and then react to what that sensor read. So, it’s the same. It’s the fun way of doing it for kids to prepare to jumpstart to that sort of thinking. The hope is that universities and schools will participate in expanding this program so as many kids as possible get exposed to this innovative and engaging project.