Award-Winning Scientist and Proud Allderdice Dragon, Thomas Aldous ’26

“The whole experience of the competition, not just winning the prize, was an amazing award.”


(Lisa Fryklund)

Thomas Aldous ‘26.

“The whole experience of the competition, not just winning the prize, was an amazing award,” Allderdice freshman Thomas Aldous says of competing and ultimately, winning first place in the Samueli Foundation Prize at the 2022 Broadcom MASTERS competition through the Society of Science. Aldous won $25,000 for his project designing a robotic hand. 

As he explains, the hand is controlled by the motion of the human operator. The operator wears a glove (also designed by Aldous) that reads the position of the operator’s fingers. Next, the glove sends the data to the hand wirelessly, which moves to copy the operator. Essentially, “if you are wearing the glove and make a fist, the robot will too, or if you hold up your index finger the robot will too, and so on.”

Aldous explains that he came up with the idea for this project over time. He designed a three dimensional printed hand two years ago and wanted to improve it by adding motors so it could move on its own. He wanted to design a robot “that could be operated in a way as if the human were actually in a location, when it is in reality just the robot. The human would be in a virtual-reality-like environment, controlling a robot that could be very far away, but it is as if the human is actually there.” 

With the available time and resources, he could not build an entire robot and control system. Instead, he decided to combine these two ideas to make one part of a larger robot (the hand) to potentially be applied to a larger robotic system in the future.

He completed the design and construction by himself, but is grateful to his parents for funding the parts and science teachers and engineers for reading his research paper and providing feedback. He hopes this project can be especially helpful during search and rescue operations, to “send a robot instead of a human into dangerous situations, but it is as if a human were really there.” 

Aldous learned he won first place at the awards ceremony held at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The competition lasted three days, with the award ceremony on the final night. “Winning the competition was very exciting and it is still something that I am very proud of,” he exclaims. “When I did the science fair in Pittsburgh last year, I had no idea that this competition existed, much less that I could qualify for it if I won locally.”


So, what’s next for Aldous? 

He is entering the science fair again this year and looks forward to the many Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) opportunities available at Allderdice. “I am excited about the teachers and clubs here who are all very enthusiastic about science and STEM in general,” he says.

He also is “really enjoying Allderdice outside of just the STEM opportunities it provides.” He ran for the Allderdice Cross Country team in the fall. “Everyone in cross country was so inviting and they are all really great people,” he exclaims. He also is a member of the Allderdice Speech & Debate club. The experience is “entirely new” but very rewarding. 

In the coming years, Aldous hopes to continue to engage with the STEM field, improve at Cross Country and Speech & Debate, and explore other clubs at Allderdice. “There are so many great opportunities at Dice and I want to do as much as I can in my time here.”