NEW BERLIN, Wis.  — Henry Martin describes himself as a “self taught programming nerd.” He’s been coding for years.

“Pretty much my entire life,” Martin said. “I got a book on coding and scratch from the library. I checked it out, I started following some of the tutorials, got started with stuff, and it’s just kind of gone uphill from there.”

Martin just finished sixth grade at Golda Meir in the Milwaukee Public School District. He said the last two years with virtual learning and the pandemic weren’t easy. He was excited to get back into the classroom.

“It really wasn’t easy. I don’t think it was easy for anybody,” Martin said. “It really inspired me once I got back in school, in person, and had to do a science fair project.”

That science project is one he’s won both state and national competitions for.

It’s called Mood Melodies. His software uses a webcam and reads the expression on your face and then plays a song based on that emotion.

“I have happy, sad, neutral, angry, surprised, fear and disgust,” Martin said.

This program made Martin the Wisconsin winner for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Students in fifth through eighth grade in schools across the county were able to compete by identifying a community issue — in Martin’s case, pandemic induced stress — and finding a solution. 

He’s won several science competitions, including the Milwaukee Public Schools science fair, and has a presence at local makers fairs, where he showcases his own, homemade Halloween costumes, like when he went as an old Mac computer, a Nintendo Switch, and even Iron Man, complete with working hand gauntlets and an Arc Reactor.

While it’s a lot of fun, he said, the research and planning doesn’t stop. Right now, he’s working on some ideas for a project he might submit to some science fair competitions this upcoming school year, using the Xbox Kinect camera. 

“I’ve had some ideas for a future science fair project for next year that could be used to help you improve your posture,” Martin said.

He’s got some time to work out the kinks in that project before any competitions, but he said he just loves working on these types of things.

“I don’t know, I have a passion for this,” Martin said.

If you’d like to try out Martin’s Mood Melodies, click here.