ASD Students Wrap Up Summer at MIT Engineering Program

Academy for Science and Design Students Wrap Up Summer at MIT Engineering Program
ASD Seniors Michael, AJ, Stephan and Maryam

Academy for Science and Design Students Wrap Up Summer at MIT Engineering Program

After spending the summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designing (autonomous race cars/autonomous drones/cognitive assistants), high school seniors Maryam Ahmad, Anthony Cavallaro, Stephan Lensky and Michael Lai from the Academy for Science and Design concluded their four weeks at the 2017 MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI). Ahmad, Cavallaro, Lensky, and Lai were among 98 students selected from schools around the nation to participate in the program.

The BWSI is a summer engineering program for talented rising high-school seniors. From July 10 to August 6, students worked on hands-on projects, took online courses, and attended lectures presented by leading researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The program is hosted by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works Center, a research center in Cambridge jointly chartered by MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT School of Engineering.

Students were placed into one of three courses: Autonomous Racecar Grand Prix, Autonomous Air Vehicle Racing, or Cog*Works: Build your own Cognitive Assistant. Grand Prix students programmed miniature race cars to autonomously navigate complex racetracks. For the air vehicle task, students programmed quadrotor drones to independently fly through a racecourse, while those working with artificial intelligence used a program called Cog*Works to create virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

“BWSI was probably one of the most amazing experiences I've had in my life. The opportunity to work with such cutting edge technology and knowledgeable people during high school is rare, and I count myself extremely lucky to have had the chance to attend,” remarked ASD senior Stephan Lensky. “The program was quite rigorous, but no one went through it alone. Every step of the way, we had the help of our instructors and teaching assistants. Not only that, but we also all helped each other. The challenges of the program brought us all closer together, I think. It's pretty remarkable how everyone there went from not knowing each other even slightly to the best of friends in only four weeks. I'm certainly not going to forget the friendships I made there,” Lensky continued.

On August 6, BWSI held their final competition and closing ceremony at MIT. Teams raced their autonomous vehicles through a 75-square-inch serpentine pathway modeled after a Grand Prix racetrack. In an adjacent area, drones faced the challenge of flying through elevated hoops and following tracks marked on the floor. Students in the virtual assistant course gave demonstrations of their software. Lensky and Ahmad were on the team that won first place in both the individual time trial portion of the race and the full 12 car Grand Prix. “Besides learning new technical skills, I was able to build relationships with peers and faculty, network, and learn to work in a collaborative and supportive community,”  said ASD senior  Maryam Ahmad.

“This year, we had a fantastic group of students: talented, very intelligent, and all with a passion for learning,” said John Vivilecchia, the program manager of BWSI. “We were very excited to see what they had accomplished over the course of the BWSI online and summer program at our final competition event. It was an exciting day of races and technology demonstrations, culminating in an awards ceremony. These students received a transformational experience that they will be sure to remember for many years to come.”

ASD senior Anthony Cavallaro explained “The most important component of the program, was the environment. That classroom, with those instructors and students, was like something out of a Disney movie. We had fun, we joked around, and we got more work done in a month than I usually do in a year. The friends I made, and the things I learned, will be with me for the rest of my life. Thank you, to everybody at Lincoln Labs and MIT who helped create this wonderful program."

The Academy for Science and Design, the state of New Hampshire’s top-performing public school and largest STEM-specialty school, is aimed at expanding students’ interest and ability in STEM locally and statewide. ASD was recognized by Newsweek in 2015 and 2016 as a Top 50 Best American High School.

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