Augmented reality and educational apps: what the young women of Noosphere Engineering School are working on

12 Feb 2024

About a hundred years ago, being a woman working in science meant being a revolutionary who was challenging the  social order. But today, there are many women in science working to move humanity forward. Ukrainian science is developed by the female students and mentors of Noosphere Engineering School. In honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we would like to tell you about some of them.

Olha Ivanyuk is a third-year student at Polissia National University in Zhytomyr, majoring in Computer Science.

Olha’s path to the Noosphere Engineering School

I  dreamed of becoming an astronaut when I was a child. However, time went by so quickly, and as I grew older, I started becoming more interested in technology and how it changes our lives. Thus, I decided to switch my focus from space to something more accessible to the average person. Since I had not decided at that moment which specific branch of computer science I wanted to master, I decided to go with general study.

When I entered university, I had an idea that I really wanted to do. However, I did not yet know enough about how exactly to do it. The head of our department, Olha Nykoliuk, helped me a lot. Thanks to her, I started my work at Noosphere Engineering School. Currently, I’m working on two projects: Star Grove (as a team leader) and Off Fake (as a UI/UX designer).

The Star Grove Project

I am the type of person who stops to look at the stars on my way home in the evening. Even as an adult, it is difficult for me to comprehend how small we are in this world and how far away the stars are from us. I have always dreamed of getting even a little closer to this magical starry canvas, especially when I saw how people tried to create their own starry sky at home with plastic stars covered with fluorescent paint. I was also inspired by the launch of the James Webb Telescope, which allows us to observe the most distant objects humanity has ever seen, like the star Earendel.

The dream of having a piece of the sky not only at night, but also during the day, led me to an idea to put LEDs inside a flat black box with holes. A starburst animation that I saw on a game’s loading screen gave me another great idea. I thought, “wow, it would be great if there were stars flashing on a surface where you swiped your hand.”

Since joining Noosphere Engineering School, I started working on my idea with another person, making us into a small team. Their idea was to make this project not a cool decoration, but a learning tool.

It is very important to adapt educational approaches to the needs of the new generation. Since it is easier for children to learn by playing, it is much better to offer interactive activities rather than the usual 2D pictures of space. That is how we came up with the idea of putting part of the starry sky on an interactive surface, through which it would be interesting to study the stars and constellations, interacting with them directly by touch.

Currently, our plans include the creation of a mobile application to study the constellations and stars on an interactive map using a remote control, as well as designing device body and programming the lighting of all the constellations.

The Star Grove team consists of three people. I am the team leader, hardware developer and designer. Taisia Martynova is software and hardware developer, and Valentyn Ukrainets is the project mentor.

Professional dream

Although drawing was what I enjoyed most of anything in the world, it never occurred to me that I could be an artist or graphic designer. I mostly liked character concepts. I liked coming up with their appearance,  story, and  personality. My field of study inspired me to turn one of the stories I wrote into a game concept. So I would like to try my hand at game development in the future.

How women can succeed in science and technology

In my opinion, humanity’s two biggest mistakes are inventing gender roles and destroying the environment.

The main thing is to get rid of prejudices about the fact that women can do just as well as men in science and technology. We are all human, we all think differently, but this does not mean that one gender is worse than the other. Without these prejudices, it would be much easier to get where you want to go in your chosen field. The most important thing is to have the strength and desire to do so.

It is very important now to support women in science, because for too many years, their work has been devalued or appropriated by men. Today’s society is not fully ready yet to accept the fact that women are just as capable as men and that there is no basis to the gender roles women are held to.

Therefore, it is extremely important now to show that science is open to everyone, that anyone who has the desire and strength can work in technology. That is why it is necessary to support women who want to participate in science, and not push them away from it.

Olha’s colleague Taisa Martynova is a third-year student at Polissia National University, majoring in Information Systems and Technologies.

Olha’s path to the Noosphere Engineering School

I wanted to get into science and researching the latest technologies, so I took part in various events like volunteering, hackathons, and educational initiatives. Now, I am not only a student, but the leader of my group. I am also a mentor for new university students, an active member of the Star Grove team, and the leader of the Off Fake technology project, which is supported by Noosphere.

I learned about Noosphere thanks to the curator of my group, Olha Nykoliuk. She gave me the opportunity to turn my own ideas into reality, receive support from specialists, and to get access to the necessary equipment and financing. After visiting the Noosphere laboratory and getting to know other project participants, I was convinced that this was the place where I could really implement my ideas and become part of a great team.

The Off Fake project

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, one of the main drivers of the spread of fake information has been the problem of verifying information for authenticity. This issue has become especially acute during the active phase of the information war. Our team began working to find possible solutions to the problem. The result was the Off Fake project.

The idea came about from participating in the #StandWithUkraine Stop Disinformation educational initiative. We were able to further develop our idea thanks to the invaluable experience we gained participating  in the EU-EaP Civic Tech Acceleration Hackathon, where our team made it to the final stage.

Off Fake is an online tool that allows users to investigate the sources of information on the Internet and analyze what they find. We already have a prototype chatbot.

At the first stage of the project’s development, the main goal was to develop a tool that helps counter disinformation campaigns by collecting and processing available data on social networks and news sites. The main target audience was ordinary citizens.

For example, users can send questionable information to the Telegram chatbot and receive information on the likely origin of the source with a description of trust criteria, dates, and a comparison of the news story in question with other news sources. This will help people get access to full information about the origin of the news and make informed decisions.

The project is currently aimed primarily at people who work with information and need new solutions and approaches to processing data. This includes people like journalists, bloggers, risk management experts, marketers, and SEO specialists.

The main task of the project is the automation of routine journalistic processes by searching for all available relevant sources of information, determining the connections of its distribution, analyzing data according to reliability criteria, and determining the mood of the audience. All these functions are aimed at making it more convenient to work with large amounts of data in order to be able to respond more quickly to changes in the information space.

Our team is also developing functions aimed at helping Ukrainian business. We are working to provide Ukrainian companies with risk management and the ability to develop  optimal marketing strategies by monitoring the online activities of competitors and finding the origin of news sources that have negative reputational impacts.

Now our team is working on the MVP project. We want to develop a web service for the B2B segment based on AI.

The team consists of four developers and a designer. We are all students of Polissia National University. I am the leader and developer, Nazarii Danylchuk is the main coder and python programmer, Olha Ivanyuk is the project designer responsible for branding and design development of the project’s web services, and Vlad Ruban and Yuliya Lyman are AI developers currently working on a recursive network model.

Future plans

The future is always uncertain, but for now my professional goal is to successfully complete my studies. It will give me knowledge and skills I need to achieve my goals. Alongside my studies, I am working to gain as much practical experience as possible in order to become a good team leader, entrepreneur, and highly qualified programmer. Also I dream of bringing my current projects to the international market.

How women can succeed in science and technology

It is important to always be the first to take a step towards science, to be proactive, and to not be afraid of new opportunities. It is worth remembering that we all go through a thorny path to achieve our own goals. This path is extremely difficult, but it is worth it.

Iryna Mertsalova is a third-year student at the National University of Water and Environmental Engineering in Rivne, majoring in Software Engineering.

Iryna’s path to the Noosphere Engineering School

I learned about  Noosphere in January 2022 thanks to a trip organized by a senior student. I was very interested in the projects that they have already carried out. It was then that I realized I really wanted  to work with these smart people.

Professional dreams

I would like to improve my programming knowledge and learn new techniques to develop my skills and become more effective in my profession. Every new step I take professionally expands my opportunities, enriches my experience, and opens new possibilities. My dream as a frontend developer is to create innovative services that impress users with their aesthetics, functionality, and modernity.

How women can succeed in science and technology

I believe that women first and foremost need to believe in their own strength, to not be afraid to defy stereotypes, and to persistently pursue their dreams. It is very important to look for opportunities for self-improvement, learning, and professional growth. I believe that every young woman has great potential in the field of science and technology. It is important to understand that neither age nor gender is an obstacle to achieving success. Each of us can become part of this exciting world and influence it with our discoveries and ideas.

Maria Vakulenko is a student of Polissia National University and Noosphere Engineering School majoring in Computer Science.

The AR School project

I was invited to Noosphere Engineering School by one of my university instructors because I was interested in developing mobile applications.

AR School is an application created for studying chemistry using augmented reality technology. AR School allows students to learn chemistry safely using only a smartphone app and beacon cards to recreate chemical reactions. The app also makes it possible to study remotely (during  war, epidemics, and pandemics), when there is no physical access to school laboratories.

There are three women working on the project: I am the team leader, while Iryna Mynenko and Olga Mynenko are 3D designers.

How women can succeed in science and technology

It is worth finding a field that interests you. This will help you develop faster and achieve success. Right now, I want to develop further in software development.

Lyubov Shostak joined the Noosphere Engineering School as a student, and is now a laboratory mentor in Rivne.

Combing studies and  working on NES projects

I started working on NES projects in my third year. The director of the laboratory in Rivne, Olha Stepanchenko, who taught at my university, invited me to join interesting projects in the laboratory.

I worked on projects including ExhaustedSoils, Tesla Hamster 3.0, Out of the Box, mARket, and GuidAR. I am proud of each of them, because all of them are aimed at accomplishing useful tasks, from using natural resources more smartly to creating an augmented reality tour around the iconic places of Rivne.

Combining traditional studies at the university with project work was not difficult. In the laboratory, I was always able to get help on anything related to my projects, and the mentors were always receptive to our needs. This allowed me to devote enough time to both priorities, helping me to be efficient and productive both with my university work and my NES projects.

Mentor role

Project mentoring is an exciting yet serious role that allows me to help students develop and achieve their goals. I want NES students to work on projects that spark their interest. This contributes to more active and effective learning. My main goal is for students to not only gain practical experience working on real projects, but also develop as specialists by gaining new skills and knowledge.

During my mentoring, I focus on ensuring that each student has the opportunity to realize their potential and achieve high results.

Projects by students in Rivne

Two young women,  Iryna Mertsalova and Maria Artyushok, are currently working on projects in the Rivne laboratory:.

Iryna is working on the Lametsy project and the NooPlanetAR application.

Lametsy is a comprehensive platform which helps users to work quickly and efficiently with meteorological data without having to waste time processing it.

NooPlanetAR is an application for the Planetarium Noosphere in Dnipro that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the world of augmented reality and explore the planetarium’s exhibits from a new perspective.

Maria is also working on the Lametsy project and the NooPlanetAR application, as well as GuidAR.

GuidAR is a virtual tour around the iconic landmarks of Rivne and its region using augmented reality. The goal of the project is to popularize the cultural and touristic treasures of cities and regions by making them interactive and digitized within a special application using geolocation and augmented reality.

How women can succeed in science and technology

First of all, it is important for young women who want to develop professionally in science and technology to determine which specific field they are most interested in. After that, they need to focus on gaining the knowledge and skills that their field demands. It is also important to be prepared for changes in their preferences and development strategies. Experimenting, opening up new possibilities, and not being afraid of challenges will help young women achieve their goals in this important area.

We hope the young scientists of the Noosphere Engineering School will not stop at what they have already achieved, but instead move forward to new heights and discoveries. We hope to one day see familiar names among the most prestigious ranks of global scientific and technological achievement.