USA Driving Challenge

USA Driving Challenge Winners Announced

High School HeroesX (HSHX) recently completed our $10,000 USA Driving Safety Challenge, and are incredibly pleased to announce the winners! After a multi-month review process by our judges, it was decided that two teams met the criteria to be awarded grant money to continue developing, and hopefully scaling, their projects. The first place team was composed of students from Needham High School in Massachusetts, located about an hour west of  Boston. The team was lead by Aman Jha and Jacob Nazarenko, and took home the grand prize of $7,500. In second place was a team from Locust Valley High School in Long Island, New York. Lead by Luke San Antonio Bialecki, the team took home a grant of $2,500.

The first prize project works as a simulator that helps developers write code for self-driving cars and test them out in the simulator before trying it out on an actual car. The efficacy of the project was demonstrated with a linear regression machine learning algorithm.
As winner Aman Jha writes, “by testing their code on a simulator, algorithm writers can spare themselves the costs of buying expensive hardware, train their neural networks repeatedly, and analyze possible cases where the code could get stuck before having a single testing crash”. The project truly has potential to save lives while bringing exponential technology to the masses. As seen in the recent, tragic self-driving car accident in Arizona, improving autonomous car code will be of immense benefit to the society. One judge for the challenge, Dr. Pawel Gora, an incredibly accomplished Polish computer scientist who has worked on traffic navigation algorithms, struggled to believe the work was done by a high school student, as he had once considered a similar idea. Dr. Gora said “The idea is very creative…,the Unity-based prototype is ready…[and] there is quite a good potential to scale it up”.

The second place team is creating a mobile that will allow drivers to automate common tasks, thereby allowing them to keep their primary focus on the road. These configurable actions should be primarily activated by changes in location– time and environmental factors– rather than by user action. Team leader Luke Bialecki says useful applications of the app include “Notifying a friend of your impending arrival a few minutes prior to actual arrival, turning down the temperature at home when you leave the neighborhood, and notifying clients when you are stuck in traffic”. Bialecki hopes the app “will make traveling both safer and more efficient”. Dr. Gora found the idea “interesting and innovative”, and hopes the team will use the grant money to explore how location-based automation can work in conjunction with the coming age of voice control task assignment.

Next week, look for a Q&A with the winning teams, where they discuss how they plan on using the grant money, and their advice to high school students. In what feels the most apropos sign off to this post, Dr. Gora signed off his email to HSHX that he reviewed the submissions “with a real admiration how creative and brilliant young people can be :)”– we could not agree more Dr. Gora!

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