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The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate, in conjunction with the Griffiss Institute (GI), sponsored the 14th Annual Challenge Competition as one of the joint STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiatives during spring break. The 2022 Annual Challenge Competition took place at the Innovare Advancement Center in the business park.


This competition serves as a way for students to utilize their math and science skills for real world problems that AFRL personnel are researching. The RFA Student team of Kenneth Davis and Colyn Seelay, presented their topic challenge, “Machine learning: photo classifications” April 15th and came in second place! Their teacher is Albert Bangs, Technology Teacher at RFA.

“The Air Force Research Labs Challenge, the "Labs People" give us a challenge problem to solve during the week. The key skill we must bring to the table is analyzing and approaching problems. Technology know-how is a plus but isn't required. They also train us on specific things we need to know/do,” said Albert Bangs, Technology Teacher at RFA.


This year the challenge is machine learning: photo classifications. A simulated drone is being sent into a disaster area. They need information to effect rescues. The area is predominantly inhabited by people, cats and horses. The challenge is to teach "the computer" to only select pictures of people and categorize then disregard pictures of cats and horses. Basically, teach the machine to teach itself what people are, what horses are and what cats are and then sort pictures accordingly. To humans, it’s easy to discern a cat vs a human. To a machine that sees digital/binary information (ones and zeros), it’s not so easy.  The students said the practice of speaking in front of people is one good outcomes of the weeklong challenge.


Prizes were 1st place team $3,000 scholarship; 2nd: $2,000; 3rd: $1,000 and 4th: $500.