Alyanna Villapando

engineering student and maker


Through MIT’s ProjX program, where I was given $250 to pursue an independent project, I had both the time and resources this summer to begin working on a fun idea I’d had for a while. With all the RC planes and quadcopters available in the market, I always wondered why I didn’t see any aircraft that looked more like birds. Wouldn’t it be fun to fly something that looked more life-like? Some quick googling showed me that there are a few products you can find online, but I thought I’d try my hand at making a flapping-wing aircraft, or ornithopter, myself. I didn’t want to just replicate exactly what was out there, so I did some brainstorming to try to come up with a brand new flapping mechanism for my model. I spent almost 2 months thinking up and then 3D printing 4 different mechanisms, some of them using springs, strings, pulleys and all manners of moving parts, and through it learned the value of keeping things simple. I’m certainly not settling on this design due to several weaknesses like too much friction, but it’s a huge improvement from where I started:

Flapping gif

Motor isn’t driving this mechanism yet, hence the stop-motion

Continue reading “Ornithopter”

Arduino Workshop

I’ve spent a decent chunk of January taking a class on Arduino, and this LED table is what my team ended up creating. I was lucky to be part of a group of such knowledgeable and creative students, and I learned quite a lot about electronics (color-changing LEDs in particular) and hardware programming from them. Here’s a link to a video about the project:

Robotics Team

Although this all took place during high school, I thought it would be useful to share my experiences in the robotics club which I founded my junior year. It was truly a challenge first organizing the team, learning all the tools and tricks needed to compete, and finally competing. Here are a couple pictures of our robot in different stages of completion:

Continue reading “Robotics Team”


Here’s a fun little project I’ve worked on. It’s a NXT robot that plays rock-paper-scissors intelligently, exploiting patterns in the opponent’s throws to its advantage. The effect is more noticeable after 50 throws from personal experience. See it in action on Youtube:

The source code is on Pastebin for whoever is interested:

Final Project: AI and Robotics

Paper Abstract

The purpose of this project is to create a robotic arm/hand using the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotics set.  The robot would be able to interact with humans in an intelligent manner through a game of rock-paper-scissors, using various tricks in order to try and beat the human player.

Continue reading “Final Project: AI and Robotics”


These 3 weeks have been eye-opening for me. I met awesome people doing awesome things from around the world, and I learned more about computer science in these 3 weeks than I’ve managed to gather my whole life. Now I have a goal to accomplish more than all the experts I’ve heard from and seen in this field. Thanks Stanford, Sherol Chen, and all you guys at EPGY!


Learned how to make stuff happen in Prolog:

First program is pictured above

Continue reading “Prolog”

Open or closed source?

 Bill Gates refuted the credibility of open source projects in his letter to the GNU software movement, citing those who use software created by others without giving them monetary payment as theft. I personally support open source projects if it involves many people, and not just 1 or 10 programmers who spend 3 years and never receive compensation. My opinion depends on the level of personal input into the project.

Thermometers Vs. Thermostats

Thermostats control temperature. Thermometers act based on temperature. As of now, computers and thermometers demonstrates agency, while thermostats and humans demonstrates autonomy. It’s all a matter of taking control over yourself, but when AI goes into this definition, things get muddled.


marvin th e paranoid android

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