AFRL high school challenge competition goes virtual

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The annual Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Challenge Competition for high school students, canceled a year ago due to COVID-19 concerns, is back this year and will be held virtually in a Zoom format from April 5-9.

Event details were announced by the Griffiss Institute. The AFRL Information Directorate, also known as Rome Lab, will virtually host the challenge in partnership with the institute and the Innovare Advancement Center as one of their joint STEM initiatives. The event, held when students are on a school break, aims to “provide a more realistic view into the types of high-tech problems the nation is facing today, and how engineers and researchers go about dissecting and solving these problems,” the announcement said. Teams including two students apiece will receive the “challenge problem” on April 5, and have the next three days to solve it. Rome Lab engineers and scientists will be available to answer questions regarding the “challenge problem” throughout the week. On April 9, virtual judging will take place, followed by a virtual awards ceremony.

Students are competing for college scholarships. Both first-place students will receive a $3,000 scholarship, both second-place students will receive a $2,000 scholarship, and both third-place students will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Each remaining student will receive a $500 scholarship.

Participants include:

• Holland Patent — Students Glen Gaige and James Gillett; teacher Richard Zacek

• Oneida — Students Trajen Masner and Webster Potter; teacher Pete Gillander

• Oriskany — Students Eric Noga and Jason Reid; teacher Teresa Mann

• Rome Free Academy — Students Dominick Cangialosi and Stone Mercurio; teacher Albert Bangs

• Thomas R. Proctor High School — Students Louis Robinson and Jonathan Rush; teacher Samantha Dewan

• Westmoreland —Students Sean Firsching and Brandon Massett; teacher Nick Darrah

• Whitesboro — Students Alexandria Celia and Leah Tracy; teacher Stephen Costanza

“This challenge combines elements of game theory, robotics, and reinforcement learning,” said Jeff DeMatteis, Rome Lab STEM Outreach Coordinator. “We are hopeful that the students get the best out of this exciting challenge despite the fact that it is being held virtually this year. We plan on having the competition in-person again next year.”

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