A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 8 February 2018

Next month Naa Adei, a Year 13 student at Heartlands, will have her essay presented at a student conference held by the Royal Society, the world’s oldest independent scientific academy.

Naa Adei’s fascinating essay is based on a project she got involved in through a research placement at Aston University last summer. We caught up with the budding computer scientist to find out more.

Naa Adei, tell us how your work has ended up in line for presentation at the Royal Society.

Last year, I did a Nuffield Research placement in the summer holidays because I was encouraged to do enrichment activities by the academy. As part of my placement, I had to do a project with Aston University and write an essay about it. My essay ended up being picked out of 1,000 as one to be presented at the Royal Society Conference.

How did you feel when you found out that it was going to be presented at the conference?

I honestly thought it was spam! I read, and I re-read, and then I saw everyone else copied into the email and thought oh, this must be real! I really couldn’t believe it.

Congratulations! So what was the project on?

It was a study into mapping the brain and the progression of mental health. Participants complete a mental health questionnaire, which builds up an idea of where their mental state is at the moment. We connected the survey to a music notation software: you answer each question on a scale of one to ten, and this answer corresponds to a note. Your completed questionnaire then goes through the software and plays back to you a piece of music which reflects your current mental state based on the answers you’ve just inputted.

How did you come up with the idea?

The original project was the idea of Dr Christopher Buckingham at Aston University. He’s one of the lead computer science professors. I was assigned to work with him, so the idea was for me to shadow him. We were chatting away one day and he asked me to tell him a bit more about myself: what my hobbies were, what I was interested in. I told him that I play saxophone and he told me about this idea he had for a project to monitor mental health. So we just bounced ideas back and forth and then sat down and tried to create something!

Which part of the project interested you most – the computer science or mental health aspect?

All of the above. I study computer science at A-level so it was great to get the opportunity to get to grips with formatting code. On the mental health side, it just gave me a new perspective on life to be honest!

What projects are you working on at the moment?

As part of my A-level in computer science I have to do another project and write an essay about it, so I’ve chosen to build a robotic arm controlled by a glove.

Has the experience at Aston University inspired you?

My experience with Dr Buckingham was really inspiring. I think he was pretty keen for me to study computer science as my degree. But I think I’d actually like to study robotics…the bragging rights are better!