For his latest invention, 13-year-old Spencer Green has combined his interest in gymnastics and science to earn national attention.
The eighth grader at the Pegasus School in Huntington Beach engineered a device that translates movement into an electronic sound that resembles something you’d hear on an old-school Atari game.
The register of the sound depends on the intensity of the movement. Faster movement equates to a lower-sounding pitch and vice versa.
For a 13-year-old, it’s advanced stuff with some potential real-life applications, especially for training athletes who can wear the device and a earphone to listen to the sound and track their movements accordingly.
Later this month, Spencer, who lives in Huntington Beach, is traveling to Washington, D.C., as a top 30 finalist in the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars) competition.
Judges found Spencer’s work distinguished among the nearly 2,500 applicants nationwide. In the nation’s capital, he will be vying for more than $100,000 in awards, including a $25,000 top prize.
In a recent interview at the Pegasus campus, Spencer explained the origins of his device, which is still unnamed. He titled his presentation for the judges the “Sonification of Accelerometers for Training of Elite Gymnasts.”
He noted that the “human ear can hear better than the eyes can see.” Taking that into account, he wanted to find a way to perfect his gymnast moves.
So after some major tinkering and trial and error, he perfected his sound-making device and was able to associate a specific gymnastic move with a specific pitch. He figured if he could make his moves match the right pitch it would mean he was doing it right.
This method could also be used to improve a baseball bat or golf swing, Spencer added.
Pegasus science teacher Julie Warren taught Spencer last school year, when he was in seventh grade. He started the project then.
“Most kids would stop at the prototype,” Warren said. “He never gave up. He kept going and going. He is a gem. Anything he puts his mind to, he succeeds at.”
At Pegasus, Spencer has been involved in debate, robotics and coding. He also plays cello.
Spencer credits some of his inspiration to the genius of Thomas Edison and to his father, Scott, who has done work for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
For Spencer, Dad represents “the pinnacle of engineering.”