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Local High Schools Teams Awarded Scholarships at 12th Annual AFRL Challenge Competition

2021 AFRL Virtual Challenge CompetitionROME, NY — The Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (AFRL/RI) STEM Outreach Program, powered by Griffiss Institute (GI) and the Innovare Advancement Center, is proud to announce the three local high school teams that won the virtually hosted 12th Annual AFRL Challenge Competition that took place April 5-9, 2021.

While all seven teams were recognized for their hard work and efforts, three teams stood out and were awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd place titles.

The winners of the 12th Annual AFRL Challenge Competition are:

1st Place: Sean Firsching and Brandon Massett, Westmoreland High School (Advisor: Nick Darrah)

2nd Place: Glen Gaige and James Gillett, Holland Patent High School (Advisor: Richard Zacek)

3rd Place: Dominick Cangialosi and Stone Mercurio, Rome Free Academy (Advisor: Albert Bangs)

This year, the students competed for college scholarships. Both first place students received a $3,000 scholarship, both second place students received a $2,000 scholarship, and both third place students received a $1,000 scholarship.

Each remaining student received a $500 scholarship. The other four schools that participated were:

 

Oneida High School

Students: Trajen Masner and Webster Potter

Advisor: Pete Gillander

 

Oriskany High School

Students: Eric Noga and Jason Reid

Advisor: Teresa Mann

 

Thomas R. Proctor High School

Students: Louis Robinson and Jonathan Rush

Advisor: Samantha Dewan

 

Whitesboro High School

Students: Alexandria Celia and Leah Tracy

Advisor: Stephen Costanza

 

The Challenge Competition is an annual competitive STEM initiative for local high school students. It is held during a week when students are on a school break and its intent is 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 best explanation to describe the competition is “mental marathon”.

“These students showed up for an unknown, complex challenge, in an unfamiliar field, persevering over the course of five intense and often frustrating days. They rapidly acquired and applied knowledge, developed an optimized machine learning algorithm and delivered their findings to judges via a virtual presentation. They did outstanding work. It was our pleasure to support these students,” said Shelby Barrett, AFRL/RI STEM Outreach Coordinator.

This year’s challenge problem was developed by the Information Intelligence Systems and Analysis Division of ARFL/RI and the challenge this year was for the students to find an optimal solution to a turn and grid-based game. The goal was for an Airman to escape enemy territory and collect intel, if possible, after surviving a compromised flyby mission. The challenge combined ideas from wargaming, game theory, decision theory, robotics, and reinforcement learning.

The teams received the challenge problem upon arrival Monday morning, and had the next three days to solve it. AFRL/RI engineers and scientists were on hand virtually to answer questions regarding the challenge problem throughout the week. On Friday, virtual judging took place in the morning, followed by a virtual awards ceremony where local dignitaries; Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo, Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, were on hand to support, congratulate, and recognize these technology leaders of tomorrow.

The AFRL Challenge Competition gives many of the participants a new perspective on the field of engineering and they get to learn more about the work that takes place at both, the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, the Griffiss Institute and the Innovare Advancement Center.

 

Sean Firsching and Brandon Massett, Westmoreland High School - First Place

First Place: Sean Firsching and Brandon Massett, Westmoreland High School. Photo courtesy of Westmoreland High School.

 

Glen Gaige and James Gillett, Holland Patent High School - Second Place

Second Place: Glen Gaige and James Gillett, Holland Patent High. Photo courtesy of Holland Patent High.

 

Dominick Cangialosi and Stone Mercurio, Rome Free Academy - Third Place

Third Place: Dominick Cangialosi and Stone Mercurio, Rome Free Academy. Photo courtesy of Rome Free Academy.

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