My Journey…

Selin Alara Ornek

My name is Selin Alara Örnek, I am 14 years old and I am currently a student in the 9th grade at Irmak High School, Istanbul. I started to learn to code when I was 9 years old and started building robots when I was 10. I speak English, Turkish and French. I am learning C++ and Python through online courses and also whilst building my projects. When I get the chance I really enjoy attending events, talking about my projects and receiving feedback from all different people. I have 5 robots; ic4u, ic4u2, BB4All, Hashmet the Android and DO. In 2018 I won first prize with my robot ic4u in the hardware category at Coolest Projects International, Dublin. The same year I was also a finalist in the European Youth Awards Open Innovation category with ic4u. In October 2019 I was awarded the “European Digital Girl of the Year, 2019” award in the (11-14year old category) by the Ada Awards in Brussels. In November 2019 I mentioned as one of the worlds “Devkid”’s in Google Developers Blog. In May 2020, I also won the Microsoft Youth Tech Star Award in the Women Leader’s in Technology Awards. I have recently been accepted as a young member of the New York Academy of Science and I am a very proud mentee in the 1000 girls 1000future program. I have also been invited to the WOW Global festival as one of 40 girl activists for the International Day of the Girl Child as a girl fighting for gender quality rights. My motivation is to be able to encourage and show other kids especially girls that technology is fun and its good to be able to use technology for human benefit.

My Robots;

ic4u – Robot Guide dog for the visually impaired/blind
When I was 8 years old I lost my dog Korsan and I was very very upset. When I was on holiday with my family in Paris I saw a real guide dog and asked my parents lots of questions about it. I was really happy that dogs could help people in such a way. Then I began to think about how upset a blind person would be if they lost their guide dog, not only would they lose their best friend but also their eyes again. I made the robots skeleton with plumbing pipes and its joints with a metalic model toy. I asked guide dog associations in the UK and the US how guide dogs behave and what, where and when they are supposed to do. According to these answers I decided on my robot dogs features and the technology that I would use. The blind person needs to be constantly communicate with the dog. I did this by making a mobile application that the blind person could easily use via their mobile phone. The application can communicate with the robot via bluetooth and can understand commands such as go, stop, right, left, faster and slower. When building my robot I used 2 servos(for rotation) and 2 dc motors that can be controlled with the motor shield that I added onto the Arduino. I also took mobile phone batteries life into consideration and so added three manuel buttons to the special harness handle that I added to the robot dog. In this project I used a li-po battery. I also learned that sometimes in dangerous situations( obstacles, fire etc) guide dogs warn the blind person and sometimes are known to be intelligently disobedient.
I added an ultrasonic sensor to my robot so that it can detect obstacles, when it does I have added the features that it either changes direction or stops. I have also added a gas sendor so that in dangerous situations such as a gas leak or fire it detects these dangers and sends a voice message to the persons mobile phone. One of the scenarios I wanted to add to ic4u the most was to integrate a navigation system so that the blind person could go from one location to another autonomously. As the first step I added a GPS/GPRS shield and by sending the data via the MQTT protocol it is possible to track the robot dog on the map. However, I did not have enough knowledge to adapt the technology to find solutions to the traffic lights and the obstacles on the road (construction, pit, maintenance and repair works). This is how I finished version 1 of the robot. Ic4u won came first in the hardware category at the Coderdojo Coolest Projest contest held in Dublin in 2018. Ic4u was also a finalist in the European Youth Awards 2018 Open innovation category.

I designated ic4u as a development platform on applying new information I learned. The first change I made was to move onto a Raspberry Pi, in order to be able to improve my knowledge of Python. In ic4u2 I used the Google assistant API by using Google AIY voicehat because I wanted the blind person to be able to communicate with the robot directly as when using a mobile application there is always restrictions such as the phones battery power. I also added the sit and down commands so that the guide dog can go into resting position thanks to the servo joints I made. I solved the interaction problem between the Servos and Raspberry Pi by establishing a serial connection between Raspberry Pi and Arduino. In ic4u2 I reconsidered the navigation issue that I could not do in Ic4u. I added image processing and face recognition to my robot using Raspberry Pi camera, TensorFlow and OpenCV instead of ultrasonic sensor. This brought my robot one step closer to my navigation goal. I am currently working on how to integrate Google Maps API into the robot and its connections with other systems. With the help of Dialogflow with an entry-level artificial intelligence features it is now possible for ic4u2 to have a short dialogue with the blind person or others. I strengthened ic4u2’s skeleton, joints and head with 3d printing.

BB4All – Best Buddy for All
I first started to design this robot for the use in hospitals, then I decided to do it as a school robot. BB4All shall greet children by their names as it will recognize their faces as they walk around the corridors thanks to Raspberry Pi, image processing and facial recognition. By using DialogFlow, BB4All will ask them questions about how they are feeling and according to the answers received BB4All shall make different suggestions to the child through artificial intelligence. BB4All also uses the Google Assistant API, so it has the ability to answer (using filters and child locks) all the questions the students ask such as who is Pythagoras? How many planets are there etc.? The robot also takes part in making general announcements in the school with its screen and ability to speak. My dream is to connect education databases like K12(it is Turkey’s database where each student’s homework and exam results are stored) to BB4All so that it can inform students about their homework and exam results and offer suggestions. However, I do not have any knowledge of communicating with databases yet, but I have added it to my list of things I would like to learn. I have also designed a smartwatch each student to wear. The smartwatch is equipped with a panic button, heart rate sensor and ibeacon. In the case were a student presses the panic button or their pulse suddenly rises, the ibeacon will be activated, the gateways shall be placed within the indoor area and the robot will locate the student and follow the colored lines and go to the student. The robot will ask the student questions and will take necessary actions according to the answers received by asking questions again. I plan to disable the line tracking method by improving my knowledge of “indoor tracking” in the future. The skeleton of BB4All is made of pvc construction pipes, the external covering is made from forex and its head is made from an old toaster. Thanks to its LCD eyes, it can show different emotions, especially when talking to children.

Hashmet the Android I have always loved the Android robot. I first saw the Android robot figure in the Google HQ in Dublin. I then saw many different Android figures while visiting the Google offices in Mountain View last year. In October 2019 I met Matt Brittin, during his visit to Turkey. One of my questions that I asked him was if anyone had made an Android robot before. He answered “It has been done once or twice … But why don’t you do it?”. So, I thought “why not”. The main reason I did it was for fun and was excited to do so. I can move my Android robot via an app on my phone. It can recognize people and c with face recognition and chat to the person by directing questions specially designed for the person it recognizes.

DO Starwars Droid – I decided to make a droid, which I love very much, again I am building this robot just for fun. I have printed the parts with the 3D printer, painted and varnished them. I have also put them altogether I am now working on the codes. I hope that it will be in working order soon.

Speaking Experience
2018 Coderdojo Dojocon İstanbul
2018 GDG Devfest Istanbul
2019 WTM IWD Eskişehir
2019 WTM IWD İstanbul
2019 WPP Bosphorus Cofuture Stream
2019 Sabancı Foundation philathropy seminar
2019 GDG Devfest Istanbul
2019 GDG Devfest Kocaeli
January 2020 Spoke about my passion to build robots on stage with Vodafone’s CEO Colman Deegman
2020 on stage talking robots and my projects with Pelin Kuzey from Google Turkey
March 2020 invited to speak on the panel “building the future” at Uludağ Economic Summit (postponed to 27th-28th November 2020 due to Covid-19)
2020 WTM IWD Antalya
2020 GDG Elazığ Google Assistant Developers
2020 WTM IWD Trabzon
2020 Global AI Hub
October 2020 GDG Devfest Norway
October 2020 GDG Devfest UK and Ireland

2019 – I was chosen as one of the girls to take part in Aydın Doğan Foundation and UNICEF’s joint project “Güçlü Kızlar, Güçlü Yarınlar” (Strong Girls Strong Future)
25 November 2019 mentioned as one of the worlds “Devkid”’s in Google Developers Blog
October 2020 Took part in Sabanci Foundation’s short video for International Day of the Girl child to bring awareness to equality and be an example to encourage other girls into doing what they put their mind to whatever the obstacle.
October 2020 – Wow Global Festival International Day of the Girl Child event
My dream for the future is to build a humanoid and also to invent a machine that can travel faster than light speed in space so that I can send one of my humanoids to the black hole for research.