Stokes sits for a brief interview outside on a break from hanging with his friends. He describes his favorite moments from the summer, the things he's learning, and the road trip to visit colleges he's looking forward to on the way home.
Would you begin with your name, pronouns, Concentration, and if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I'm Stokes, my pronouns are he/him, and I'm in Engineering. There are so many superpowers that I want...that's a difficult question. I guess if want to be a Speedster. That has a lot of powers that come along with it. You can phase through things, time travel, and generally just be super fast.
What do you like about your Concentration?
We built rockets on the first day, and my team's rocket got first place for distance. Today, we finished our wind turbines. My team beat the camp record for power generated by two and a half times. The original was 2.0 volts, and now it's 4.59 volts. We made ours strictly out of paper. It was super lightweight.
We were also in a tight competition with another group. The first one we tried got a 1.8 reading, which was impressive. And then the group next to us got 2.3. And then we got 2.8. Then they bumped it up to 3.5 volts and then we ended up getting to 4.59. We just kept going back and forth. It was tight.
Do you enjoy that kind of competition?
Yes, but it was friendly. We got along with the competition. We were bouncing ideas off each other, building on each other's ideas. So it wasn't just the competition. We were building off of each other to improve together.
What are you enjoying outside of your Concentration?
I enjoy spending time with my friends a lot. Meeting new people is awesome; I don't get to do that a lot at home, since I do online school. So getting out there and being so social has been cool. And I enjoy the campus a lot — it's pretty here. The food is better than any other college food I've had. The weather's great here. And today, after class, I was able to talk to our guest speaker for 30 minutes, just talking about ideas for the laser cutter. I didn't really understand it, but he is a world-renowned Makerspace guy. He was pretty cool.
What did you talk about?
I asked him how a computer understood what a line is, rather than just a collection of points. He explained that computers don't know what it is, you define it as a line. We talked about the physical limitations of what the machines can cut. The computer can do it, but there's a gap between that and what the laser cutters can do at this moment in time.
You mentioned before that you came a long way. Where are you returning home to after this?
We flew here from Louisiana. It's in the northwest corner of the state, about five hours from New Orleans, about two and a half hours from Dallas, Texas.
After the session ends, my dad is going to be driving up from Louisiana. When he gets here, we're going to take my grandparents' RV. They're going to pick us up, and we're going to drive down to Boston and back to Louisiana, looking at colleges along the way.
What colleges are you going to try to see?
We're definitely going to hit MIT and Georgia Tech. Those are amazing engineering schools. But there's a lot of space between MIT and Georgia, so we'll see.
Is there a specific type of engineering you want to pursue?
I really like anything with STEM. I've enjoyed math a lot. I'm taking physics next year in school, which I'm excited about too.
Do you share any interests with your friends or living group (besides engineering)?
Last night we hung out with our S.A. It was great just staying up and talking for another hour, about how camp was going and our lives and everything. We just have great energy together. Our floor is an amazing group of people. They're all in Engineering, too, so we can kind of talk about our work. And we're all pretty smart — not to sound pretentious, but we are.
Were you hoping to accomplish anything specific with your time here at EXPLO?
I honestly have no idea. I just came here expecting to learn. In Louisiana, we don't have much of a chance to succeed in engineering. There isn't very much there for that. So, I just wanted to hear from other people, experience new things, and talk to other [future] engineers who are like-minded.
I think there's always a lot more that I can accomplish. I'd like to learn a lot more about engineering, because that's what I'm interested in. I've become close friends with some people. So I think I've accomplished a lot.
Are there any life lessons or memories you'd like to carry with you beyond this summer?
I'm definitely a changed person. This was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life so far. So a lesson would be, "Don't be afraid to go out there and find others that are like you." Having this connection with people who are like me has helped formulate, not just ideas in our group, but ideas for the future that might not have developed without those other minds working on it.