Baylor Students Excel in Engineering & Robotics
Ohm Raiders Leo Xu '21, Ethan Thomas '21, and Kenny Zheng '20 operate the Baylor robot at the FIRST Tech Challenge 

It’s been a busy winter for the Baylor Research and engineering programs:

  • A pair of Baylor seniors have been chosen to present their research at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Southeast Conference;
  • The Upper School's "Ohm Raiders" robotics team won top awards at competitions in two states;
  • Middle School students are preparing to defend their championship at the annual Green Prix electric car race!
Duffy and Sparkman to Present at IEEE SoutheastCon

Seniors Connor Duffy (below, left) and Ben Sparkman (right) have been invited to present results of their research conducted in the Baylor's engineering lab to engineers and other scientists gathered at the IEEE SoutheastCon in Raleigh, N.C. March 12-15. The IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology.

Their work centers on improving the communication between wireless sensors that are all part of a larger network of sensors. “Connor and Ben are characterizing these devices in such a way that they can ‘talk’ to each other even if another device is lost or is not operating,” explains Dr. Mary Loveless, who leads the engineering wing of the Baylor Research program. “The sensors in the network adapt to their environment and circumstances.” Loveless says the hope is to have robots cooperating with one another to solve real-world problems, such as searching for survivors in a disaster area. “The contribution to the field is pertinent and the organizers of the conference recognized that.”

“Usually these kinds of conferences have student tracks and technical tracks,” Loveless says. “This is pretty exciting for high school students to present to the technical session. I’m not sure they were recognized as high school students by their paper. Even submitting to these conferences is rare for high school students, but to be asked to give an oral presentation is really something. It’s what you might see from higher-level undergrad, graduate, or even post-doctoral students.”

Loveless applauds Duffy and Sparkman for the commitment to the project. “It’s something they are interested in. I give them ideas to dive into, but the initiatives are mostly their own," she says. "These young men are incredibly motivated students. They’re here during their free periods, community time, lunch. They are both thriving in this challenging program and doing it with enthusiasm.”

Ohm Raiders Take Awards in Two State Competitions

The Baylor Robotics team competed in two different state championships, Tennessee and Alabama, during February. Both events were part of the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) season, sponsored by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). This season’s game was Skystone, an exercise in which humans and droids work together to create a structure that reaches to the skies.

Ohm Raiders with the Design Award trophy are (left to right) Leo Xu '21, Ethan Thomas '21, Dake Peng '21, Karina Quinn '21, Jade Liu '20, Sophie Covert '21, Michael Curcio '22, Kenny Zheng '20, Katelyn Evans '23, Dan Pham '22, Chloe Crooks '21, Catherine Bryant '21Sergio Sergiyenko '23, and Mimi Masson '23. Team members not pictured are Garrett Shaffer '20, Kaan Volkan '23, and Rhiannon von Klar '21.

At the Tennessee competition, the Ohm Raiders earned a first place Design Award which recognizes design elements of the robot that are both functional and aesthetic. The team also received third place in the Inspire Award category. The Inspire Award is the competition’s highest honor and goes to the team that best embodies the challenge of the FTC program. The first place Inspire Award winner advances to the World Competition.

For their performance at the Alabama competition, the Ohm Raiders received a second place Think Award, given to the team that experienced the best journey throughout the design process and the build season.

“To say that I am proud is an understatement,” said Loveless, who co-coaches the team with science instructors Jeff Edwards and Talon Stroud. “This team made Baylor history; their hard work and commitment has truly paid off.”

Middle School Students Defend Title at Green Prix

Engineering opportunities are not just for high school upperclassmen at Baylor. Every afternoon, just across the hall from the IdeaLab, you can find eighth grade students of science instructor Erin Woodrow building the latest version of an electric “soap box derby” type car that will be raced in the Chattanooga Green Prix March 13 and 14.

After receiving a box of parts and instructions, the team of students designed, built, and will race the electric power race car. Students are assigned roles ranging from project manager, parts manager, marketing and public relations, and drivers. They learn about how renewable energy can be used to charge their batteries and are encouraged to use recycled materials on the body of the car! 

It won’t be just another race for these engineering-minded students, they’ll be defending the team’s championship won at last year’s race, the first ever for a Baylor team.

This year's Green Prix team includes eighth graders Redding Batt, Blake Bogo, Jack Champion, Emma Cox, Avery Hampton, Crawford Higdon, Talia Joels, Lucy Kitzman, Lily Monen, Oliver Nimon, Mary Evelyn Pearce, Kibby Seymour, Ellie Smith, Peyton Smith, and Logan Urbanski, and sixth grader Brandon Oakes.

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