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[Nov. 2016 Features] Humans of Staples: Neal Soni–Living proof of intrepid success through his many achievements

By Izzy Blansfield ’18


Neal Soni ’18 is not an average high school student as he balances his packed schedule of five AP-level courses with his love for math, science, robotics, Taekwondo and tutoring, all while going the extra mile to pursue many other passions.

For starters, he is a tech guru.  In the past year, Soni has worked on creating an app with fellow student, Dylan Diamond ’17 to control Tesla cars—Tesla motors is a top-notch energy storage company which specializes in electric cars—from an Apple watch and iPhone.

The app works to carry out various functions of the car, by summoning it to the desired locations and live-tracking the movements of the car all from the screen of an Apple watch or iPhone  and currently has over 1,000 Tesla owners using it worldwide.

Soni’s passion for technology is also evident from his interest in drones. Soni has loved flying and building drones since middle school.

During the summer of his ninth grade year, Soni worked with a professor and PhD student at the University of Cincinnati to design and build a drone that could hover efficiently at a 37.5 degree angle.

Normal drones can only control four out of six degrees of freedom, but “our design is different from most drones because it can control all six,” Soni said.

The advantage of controlling all six degrees is that it can achieve higher efficiencies during flight and the right algorithms can achieve longer flight time.

Soni furthered his involvement with the drone earlier this month when he presented his paper, “Design Fabrication and Control of a Tilt Rotor Quadcopter,” at the American Society of Mechanical Engineering conference in Minneapolis.He presented at the conference, by invitation, in front of hundreds of academia, professionals and professors.

“It was really fun but a little scary presenting to a group of technical experts,” Soni said.

But Soni wasn’t done with his engineering pursuits. He spent this past summer at the Garcia Center at Stony Brook University with around 60 other high school students from around the country working on nanotechnology research.

In simpler terms, he studied the construction and utilization of structures on the molecular scale. Specifically, he worked with his team on developing a polymer to help reduce scarring after spinal surgery and decrease the recovery time and complications of a surgery.

Soni was inspired to pursue this project after his grandfather underwent surgery. “My research was aimed to help people like my grandfather to have a much quicker recovery time after lower back surgery,” Soni said.

Soni intends to patent the process and publish a paper, “Characterization of Pluronic F127 Degradation Patterns and Drug Release Under Laminar Flow for a Preventative Measure Against Failed Back Surgery Syndrome,” which he will present with his team at the Materials Research Society conference this December.

Another interest of his is robotics. He is currently a part of  i²robotics, one of the five robotics teams at Staples.  The team usually meets every Friday, and works towards their goal of qualifying for worlds, a robotics competition including high school teams from all over the world.

Last   year   Soni attended the competition with his old robotics team, W Prime robotics. The team was nominated for the “Inspire award,” a recognition that is only awarded to four or five teams out of 4,000.

This year, he decided to switch teams, and   joined  i²robotics. “I felt [W Prime] needed more structure and guidance from mentors, which i²robotics has” Soni said.

His interests in robotics, engineering and programming stem from curiosity. “Ever since I was a kid, I really liked taking things apart,” Soni said. “I used to disassemble the printer at my house and take out the motors and just learn how everything worked. I actually built a 3D printer in middle school from scratch.”

He then took that curiosity and paired it with his talents in math.  “Throughout elementary school, I studied at Kumon, a private tutoring company, and that’s when I started getting into math,” Soni said. “But in sixth grade I really became good at math and that’s when I started skipping grades.”  Now, as a junior, he is enrolled in AP differential equations, the highest math class available at Staples.

Soni recognizes his good fortune in being able to attend Staples. “The people at Staples were all really nice and accepting,” Soni said. “Staples not only [allows] people to excel but [doesn’t] discriminate or make fun of the people that are really smart”.

Ultimately, Soni credits his positive outlook on life for motivating him to take advantage of all situations and make the best out of what he is offered. Soni said he views life “as an opportunity and honor, rather than a risk.”

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