Preparing Boys for Life

Sixth Former Elijah Lee is Main Line Student of the Week

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Elijah Lee, a senior at The Haverford School, recently completed a three-year project of 3D printing a full-scale carbon cello, and his interest in this field led him to found Forte3D. Lee is the co-president of the School’s a cappella group The Notables and serves as the president of the Haverford Orchestra. He serves as one of only five Tour Guide Captains, meaning that he is a main figure that prospective families see when they visit Haverford. He is a member of the Haverford Materials Group (soft robotics) and has placed first in the Soft Robotics Toolkit Design Competition. Lee was published in the Soft Robotics journal and Journal of Chemical Education. His interest in soft robotics has also led him to several conference presentations, including one at NASA. Lee is also a member of Haverford’s VEX Robotics team that captured the state championship in 2020. At Haverford, he’s been awarded the Music Technology Prize, the Rudolph Hamma Blythe Jr ’59 Computer Award, and the Williams College Book Award. Off-campus, Lee interned at MIT in the Therapeutic Technology Design and Development Lab, during which he developed tools for bench-top left atrial appendage flow simulation. He also has interned at Penn Medicine in the Laboratory for Structural Physiologic and Functional Imaging to generate training data for automated spinal CT segmentation.

Main Line Media News: What sparked your interest in the three-year project of 3D printing a full-scale carbon cello? What was the biggest challenge in completing this project, and how did you meet that challenge?

Elijah Lee: In March of my freshman year, the orchestra director at Haverford first approached me with the idea: would it be possible to create a low-cost, 3D-printed cello out of carbon-fiber? As a cellist who is also heavily interested in engineering disciplines, being able to unite the two intrigued me. We want to create classical string instruments of the highest possible quality for a fraction of cost of conventionally-made fine instruments, using modern techniques (3D-printing, new carbon-fiber materials, and modern software tools). The biggest ongoing challenge has been really dialing in and tweaking the instruments. Because they are such a dynamic acoustic system, even the smallest changes can make big differences in the final timbre and sound quality of any given instrument.

Main Line Media News: Tell us a little about your entry in the Soft Robotics Toolkit Design Competition, and some of the more interesting activities of the Haverford Material Group.

Elijah Lee: For the last several years, I’ve been leading a small team to engineer novel strategies for manufacturing and controlling soft robotic devices. Soft robotics is a field of engineering specifically focused on soft, compliant devices. Our entry to the competition was research on a new type of soft robotic device, designed for ease of use by students and scientists alike. Using soluble inserts and a continuous-pour mold allowed us to produce actuators with less expense and more readily-available materials.
The team has also worked on developing new control hardware and software for soft robots. More recently, we’ve begun to explore some other applications of the technology; for example, soft robotic devices being used as haptics for virtual reality. The field has so much potential, and we are excited to be exploring it!

Main Line Media News: What has been your most memorable experience as a tour guide – can you share it with us?

Elijah Lee: One of my favorite parts of being a tour guide is being able to show potential students how the school can support their interests, whatever they might be. One particular experience I remember was a tour I was giving to a family who were all interested in robotics. Since I spent a lot of my time in the robotics shop, it was awesome to share my work with them.

Main Line Media News: What is your favorite performance song with The Notables and why?

Elijah Lee: My favorite song to perform with the Notables is Homeward Bound by Marta Keen. It has a striking yet simple melody, and our arrangement has deep layers of harmony.

Main Line Media News: What is your favorite course at Haverford School and why?

Elijah Lee: My favorite course (so far!) has been Honors Biology. Biology can be derived from biochemistry, and principles of chemistry can be derived from physics. So in a sense, biology forms the basis for ultimate applications of science today.

Main Line Media News: What is your favorite book, and why? Who is your favorite author and why?

Elijah Lee: While I’ve always been partial to the flat, information-dense prose of the likes of Andy Weir, one of my favorite novels is Dune by Frank Herbert, widely considered as one of the foundational works of science-fiction. Despite this classification, Herbert builds a complex, deep, and intertwined story without a traditional emphasis on technology, all while exploring elements of culture, psychology and ecology.

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