Siemens Competition Winner Develops New Robot Movement Process

Winners in the annual Siemens Competition studied robotics, enzymes that may play a role in cancer.

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The winner of the Siemens Competition, which pits high school science, math, and technology students against each other, has designed a robot maneuvering system that is up to four times faster than current systems.

Kensen Shi's algorithm, called Lazy Toggle PRM, can compute routes through a room or outdoor area four times faster than other algorithms, which could be useful for robots used in search and rescue operations. Shi is a high school senior from A&M Consolidated High School in Texas. Shi beat out five other finalists to win a $100,000 college scholarship.

"Virtually all robots have to move around without colliding with other objects," Shi says. "Part of my future work will focus on getting robots working in dynamic environments, where they can avoid moving objects."

In the team competition, Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil, and Allen Shin, of George W. Hewlett High School in New York, had to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while they were gearing up to go to the regional competition.

"We faced a lot of obstacles, we lost power for 10 days, my house flooded," Appelbaum says. "It really hindered us in terms of studying and preparing."

That didn't seem to matter to the judges: The team spent three years studying COP1, an enzyme that regulates plant growth in dark settings and in humans and other animals and which may have a role in cancer development. Judges said that the team's research could one day be used to further understand how cancer develops.