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Three Local High School Teams Awarded Prizes at 10th Annual AFRL Challenge Competition at Griffiss Institute

ROME, NY — The Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (AFRL/RI), in partnership with the Griffiss Institute (GI), are proud to have hosted the 10th , as one of their joint STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiatives. The weeklong program was once again “Powered by AT&T.”

The 2018 Challenge Competition began Monday, April 23, 2018, and ended on Friday, April 27, at Griffiss Institute, in Rome, New York.

Eight area high schools participated in the 2018 Challenge:

Central Valley Academy

Students: Dakota Turk and Dale Windecker

Teacher: Wes Laurion

Frankfort-Schuyler Central School

Students: Roman Shikula and John Tofani

Teacher: Christopher Snell

New York Mills Union Free School

Students: Angela Chen and Abbey Copperwheat

Teacher: Michael Eramo

Rome Free Academy

Students: Chris Incorvaia and Cameron Kilpatrick

Teacher: Albert Bangs

Sauquoit Valley High School

Students: Danielle Mangini and Chris Mazza

Teacher: Michael Eisinger

Thomas R. Proctor High School

Students: Luis Terron and Gu Ku

Teacher: Saing Ung

Westmoreland Central School

Students: Karsten Bratge and Stephen Foley

Teacher: Nick Darrah

Whitesboro Central School

Students: Reid Burkdorf and Maheen Qureshi

Teacher: Stephen Costanza

 While all eight teams were recognized for their hard work and efforts, three teams stood out and were awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd place titles.

 The winners of the 10th Annual 2018 AFRL Challenge Competition were:

1st Place: Reid Burkdorf and Maheen Qureshi, Whitesboro Central School

2nd Place: Angela Chen and Abbey Copperwheat, New York Mills Union Free School

3rd Place: Danielle Mangini and Chris Mazza, Sauquoit Valley High School

Reid and Maheen will be interning at AFRL/RI over the summer of 2018, while Angela and Abbey will intern at the GI. All three of the winning teams received Microsoft Surface Pro’s, and the remaining five teams all took home $100 Amazon gift cards.

The Challenge Competition is an annual competitive STEM initiative for local high school students. It was held during a week when students are on a school break and its intent is to provide a more realistic view into the types of high tech problems the nation is facing today, and how engineers and researchers go about dissecting and solving these problems. The best explanation to describe the competition is “mental marathon”.

This year’s challenge was developed by the Cyber, and Connectivity & Dissemination Operations Divisions of ARFL/RI.

The teams received the challenge problem upon arrival Monday morning, and had four days to solve it. AFRL/RI engineers and scientists were on hand to answer questions regarding the challenge problem throughout the week.

The students, who participated in the competition, worked for an entire week to solve the challenge problem. Many found that it was the first time they had ever had a problem to solve that encompasses what they learn in every academic area in school, from politics, to English, to math and science.

Also for many of the participants, being able to spend a week bouncing ideas off local engineers was an incredible benefit and opportunity.

It gave many of the participants a new perspective on the field of engineering and they got to learn a more about the work that takes place at the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, and the Griffiss Institute.

On Friday, April 27, 2018, 8:00 am, competition judging began, followed by a poster session, luncheon at noon, and awards ceremony at 12:45 pm, where local dignitary, Senator Joseph Griffo, parents and friends, and staff from local tech companies, were on hand to support, congratulate, and recognize these technology leaders of tomorrow.

The judges for this year’s competition were:

  • James Cusack, Principal Engineer, Griffiss Institute
  • Don Hanson, Former Director, Information Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Kevin Hanna, Director of External Affairs, AT&T


This event was made possible by the generosity of the following sponsors: AT&T, NYSTEC, Mohawk Valley EDGE, CUBRC, and The Savoy.



Team 1: (l-r) (first place team) Whitesboro Central School: Maheen Qureshi; Reid Burkdorf; and teacher Stephen Costanza

Team 2: (l-r) (second place team) New York Mills Union Free School: Abbey Copperwheat; Angela Chen; and teacher Michael Eramo

Team 3: (l-r) (third place team) Sauquoit Valley High School Mills: Teacher Michael Eisinger; Danielle Mangini; and Chris Mazza

About Griffiss Institute
The Griffiss Institute (GI) was established in 2002 as an independent 501(c)(3) entity governed by a Board of Directors.  The primary role of the GI is to advocate and facilitate the co-operation of private industry, academia and government in developing solutions to critical cyber security problems.  Another prime role is to build upon technologies under development at the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Information Directorate to further strengthen the security of our nation’s cyber infrastructure. Learn more at www.griffissinstitute.org.


About AFRL STEM Outreach Program
The goal of the AFRL STEM Outreach Program is to foster a new generation of scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technologists who will one day discover and problem solve in the nation’s defense laboratories and other supporting U.S. companies. In order to achieve this goal there must be a concerted effort to connect business, government foundations, institutions of higher education, professional organizations, schools, teachers and students. For additional information please visit the STEM initiatives page at www.griffissinstitute.org/AirForceSTEM



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