Bound by June: Autonomous robots, unfair jail time, and violent cafes| Feb 21, 2018
This week the Street is featuring the beginning of a new column “Bound by June” by Carson Clay ’19 that will highlight senior theses projects in the spring, and other projects of students and professors in the fall. Inspired by deeper probing into some of her senior friends’ projects in an attempt to learn a bit more than the one-sentence byline that is often given by seniors, Carson will share a glimpse into some of the amazing senior theses that are being written this spring! Feel free to reach out to her at if you know of seniors working diligently on projects that the Princeton community should know about!
Seniors Jan Bernhard, Trevor Henningson, and Viveque Ramji are combining their expertise and interests within the mechanical and aerospace engineering department to create an autonomous quadruped robot with a tilting head. The robot will be able to navigate different environments independently without human supervision — a feature that will allow robots to be more helpful in daily life. Without human control, the dog-like robot can walk around any environment and use machine learning to avoid obstacles and label objects for future understanding. For example, interacting with a door once will allow the quadruped to identify the next door it finds and know the door will open to another room or hallway. Although this project can be applied in many important ways, one immediate advancement is in the field of search and rescue missions. Bernhard is excited to see where Princeton robotics is headed in the future, especially with its new robotics lab at the Forrestal Center. Maybe in the future, autonomous robots can write the seniors’ theses for them, too!
Mary Claire Bartlett, a senior in the Woodrow Wilson School, is analyzing a progressive 2017 bail reform law in New Jersey that has the potential to completely reinvent the concept of bail in America. Incredibly, two-thirds of people sitting in jail right now are not yet convicted, and are simply unable to pay their bail. In fact, they could remain unconvicted in jail for years, while others who committed the same crime walk free. As it stands, this system is disproportionately unfair for those with lower incomes, especially since not making bail is associated with higher rates of both conviction and longer sentence time. The New Jersey reform uses an algorithm with nine non-socio-economic criteria (instead of the current system of full judge discretion) to determine whether or not a defendant is a flight risk. It recommends varying levels of pre-trial monitoring instead of full detainment. Bartlett was inspired by her internship last summer, where she witnessed a defendant serve five years of prison time before his trial, only to be found not guilty. The New Jersey law, she believes, has the potential to prevent similar situations and reduce injustice in our criminal justice system if applied across the country.
Sara Krolewski ’18 is taking a unique angle on an English thesis. Instead of analyzing themes or literary theory, she is looking at how setting itself impacts literature. Even more interestingly, her setting of choice is the Parisian café and its effect on modernist literature in the ‘20s. Beyond Hemingway-esque carefree partying, she calls attention to the fact that the café was a place for racial and gender conflicts of the time. By day, writers and artists grappled with issues such as women’s clothing standards and sexual norms, and by night, they partied and engaged in violence and promiscuity. Asked what Princeton’s modern café equivalent would be, Krolewski describes the way Prospect Avenue hosts studying and discussion over lunch during the day, but transforms into a completely different and scandalous venue at night. Who knew that eating clubs were the new French cafés? In fact, Hemingway might have some wisdom for the seniors who continue to work on their theses: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”