Tulare Union named STEM national finalists

Ben Irwin

Students’ artificial intelligence project yields $80,000 in funding from Samsung’s ‘Solve for Tomorrow’ Contest

TULARE – Seven Tulare Union High School students have qualified as national finalists for Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest, pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in automobiles for their STEM-based project.

Six of the seven students are in Tulare Union High School science teacher Eric York’s STEM class, where he covers the principles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and explores aspects like AI, 3d printing, machine design and engineering design process. York said distance learning didn’t stop the team from collaborating, who used zoom to build a physical prototype of their AI device for automobiles capable of learning from pictures to enhance driver safety.

“The way that artificial intelligence works is basically you train it with a series of images, and then it can recognize those images with a certain confidence level,” York said. “Based on that confidence level, in our case, it alerts the driver. So when the car is driving and this device sees a stop sign, it will emit a tone indicating there’s a stop sign.”

York said he used Donors Choose—a public charity that let’s donors fund specific classroom projects—to find additional funds for equipment and certification courses for the students, where Frank’s Automotive of Tulare funded about $500 for AI and programming kits.

“I gave [our team lead] the resources and put the resources for training in their hands, and he put hours into researching and learning how to do this,” York said. “Almost the entire process was done remotely. When we got to the point where we returned to hybrid [learning,] a couple of the students worked together to do the filming.”

The team was awarded $15,000 in funding for qualifying as one of 75 semi-finalists after submitting a video showcasing their project and its potential to advance through future phases of the contest. Qualifying as a national finalist tacked on another $65,000 in technology and classroom materials, and an invitation from Samsung to participate in a virtual pitch event where they will present their project to a panel of judges. Three national winner schools will each receive the grand prize of $130,000 in classroom technology and supplies for their achievement. Public voting will also grant two community choice winners $15,000 in Samsung technology. The Tulare Union team’s video can be viewed at the Solve for Tomorrow web site, where viewers can cast their vote.

“We felt like this application has the potential to expand what we already have in current technology,” York said. “One of our goals is to look at how we can actually improve upon this to go above and beyond what current technology can do.”

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