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The Wolfram|Alpha Team

Good Times, Great Computations: Wolfram Summer Internship Projects

September 3, 2013 —
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Each summer a group of interns arrives at Wolfram Research to work on a host of exciting projects that not only prepare them for their future careers, but also give them the opportunity to make some great contributions to Wolfram technologies. One such contribution this year was the “Fun Curves” project for Wolfram|Alpha that took drawings of famous cartoon characters and turned them into mathematical equations. Our intern working on this project, Lucy Wen, says this about her experience:

Fun Curves
“It has been quite a memorable summer here at Wolfram. I went into this internship with limited knowledge of Mathematica and am amazed at the possibilities this program offers. During my internship, I worked in the Scientific Content Development section and completed some of the most interesting tasks. My projects were known as the ‘Fun Curves’ series. The series included many famous cartoon characters specifically from Pokémon, DC Comics, and most recently Marvel. The project consisted of drawing out a specific character on Mathematica, and from there, the program computed the lines into curves that could be formulated on an xy axis graph. The result was 9+ pages of mathematical equations that encapsulated the previous character drawing. This process allowed me to convert any type of drawing into a mathematical equation that could then be converted onto an xaxis graph. It has been a great experience being a part of the Wolfram Scientific Content Development team, and I am looking forward to the upcoming projects!”

Thor curve

Tech Products Info
Technological devices were also an important part of our interns’ work this summer. Zippy Goldenfeld, who has been an intern with us for several summers, describes some of her work:

“Working at Wolfram this year, and past years, has been a great experience. As a teenager with aspirations of working in the tech industry, getting the chance to see the inside of how Wolfram Research works is amazing. This summer I’ve been curating data on devices, so I’m looking up specifications for various devices and putting them into Mathematica notebooks that Wolfram|Alpha then reads. The end result is me knowing basically every tech device that has ever been created (hooray!), as well as Wolfram|Alpha being able to show users helpful information about their products. My proudest accomplishment so far (that’s currently live) has been that if you look up ‘barbie’ on Wolfram|Alpha, it’s me who found out her middle name is Millicent!”


Connected Devices
Devices were also the focus of our intern Philip Ngo, who worked on connecting a variety of them to Mathematica. He summarizes his projects, which focused on Bluetooth low energy, ANT+, and Sphero:

“Whether you want to measure cycling power, ambient humidity, blood glucose levels, or, these days, just about anything with units, there’s a device out there that can do it. Maybe you already have one! But wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to get your data into Mathematica? This summer, I built mechanisms for connecting directly to a broad array of wireless consumer devices from within Mathematica, bringing powerful data analysis and polished visualizations to the fingertips of anyone with a device in the following categories.

Bluetooth Low Energy
A recent update to the well-known wireless standard, Bluetooth low energy (BLE), also branded as Bluetooth Smart, is the standard of choice for many manufacturers who want their small, data-collecting devices to work for months or years without a battery change. Mac OS X Mountain Lion and Windows 8 both come with native APIs for connecting BLE devices. I wanted to make it easy to connect these devices to Mathematica, so I wrote a package that discovers all BLE devices in the vicinity and lets you connect to the one you’re interested in. If the device you have uses an officially adopted attribute profile, the package also automatically begins collecting, parsing, and labeling the data for you. Download the notebook to try it out.

As described on their website, ‘ANT+ is the wireless technology that allows your monitoring devices to talk to each other. Leading brands design ANT+ into top products to ensure that you get the data you want—when and where you want it.’ Armed with a USB ANT-m stick, this notebook, and a compatible device, you can connect to an ANT+ device of your choice. This connection is not as automatic as the BLE connection, so if you want to dive in and give it a try, you may find these device profiles helpful.

If you are interested in robotics, check out Sphero—a little spherical robot that you can drive on land or in water from your iPhone, Android, tablet, and, yes, also from Mathematica. This notebook I wrote showcases a connection from Mathematica to Sphero using Mac OS X’s native support for Bluetooth Classic and a serial connection. The connection makes heavy use of the Mathematica add-on, SerialIO, which may also prove helpful for Arduino or other maker projects. Drive Sphero around, change its color, collect its gyrometer or accelerometer data, and write macros; do all this from within Mathematica! Try using Sphero as a dynamic controller for a 3D plot or a Manipulate.


It’s been a fun, educational, and productive summer as an intern at Wolfram. I hope you enjoy using these new device connections.”

As you can see, it’s been a really fun—and educational—summer for our interns. Maybe we’ll see you here next summer!