Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Nathaniel Hunt

Nathaniel Hunt ’13, who spent his summer on campus working on a sensory robot, tells us about his combined interest in computer science and music.

Rhythms & robots: I entered school with really no idea what major I wanted. My First Year Seminar class was a computer science class, so early on I got some experience in the department. I drifted from computer science to music and eventually decided to pursue both. The two majors are definitely connected. For example, there are many music programs for the computer that use knowledge from both areas. I could go into that field and use my knowledge of computer science and music to help create and/or develop these programs.

New terrain: This summer I worked on programming Wheaton’s Performance PeopleBot mobile robot, with the help of Professor Tom Armstrong and my peers Anthony Castellani ’13 and Christopher DeMolles ’13. We programmed the robot to explore the science center and to determine whether it had been in a similar environment before, using sensory data from sonar, bumpers, and infrared sensors. Anthony, Chris, and I all worked together to figure out and create the code in order to program the robot to do what we wanted. From there, we would all test and record data from our program and the robot to see if it was working correctly.

Creating codes: I learned so much from working this summer. Most of what I learned was from a process called data mining, where we collect data and process it from the robot. I also learned some other programming languages that expanded my knowledge of computer science. The most exciting part was definitely when the code that we wrote worked perfectly–after hours of testing– and did what we wanted it to. Programming, to me, is about truly understanding how computers work and being able to see behind the scenes of all the programs that most of us take for granted. It’s a great feeling to know that the robot is following orders, in the form of code that you yourself have created for it.

Musical roots: I have participated in school bands since fifth grade and continue to play in two groups at Wheaton. I play percussion for the Southeastern Massachussetts Wind Symphony here. And, this will also be my first year playing with The Phat Police, a small Wheaton band. We play more modern jazz, funk, rumba and other kinds of music.

-Interview by Betsy Meyer ’14