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High school students work with HPCC Systems to solve real-world challenges

February 15, 2022

By Stephen Amazia Dradenya

HPCC challenge winners

Internship program inspires students to use data and robotics to solve security challenges

Carina Wang (right) with the autonomous security robot she worked on as an intern with HPCC Systems and her mentor, Taiowa Donovan (left). Her image-identification model allows students to engage with a robot that helps identify students and non-students on campus.

At a time when our world needs the expertise of STEM professionals more than ever, studies showopens in new tab/window that students under 18 may be losing interest in STEM.

So how can educators inspire students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math in high school and beyond?

Teachers at the American Heritage Schoolopens in new tab/window in Florida developed a challenge that has inspired students to use data and robotics to solve real-world problems, such as personnel identification and campus security.

An inspiring robotics mentor

Taiowa Donovanopens in new tab/window, Director of Robotics at the American Heritage School, has encouraged students to develop an interest in STEM through an autonomous robotics program focused on independent design and programming.

HPCC Systems for Academiaopens in new tab/window has sponsored the school’s program since 2017. HPCC (High Performance Computing Cluster) Systemsopens in new tab/window is an open-source platform used to generate insights into big data. Developed by Elsevier’s sister company LexisNexis Risk Solutionsopens in new tab/window, its uses include the Elsevier Fingerprint Engine, a software system that mines the text of scientific documents to reveal connections between people, publications, funding opportunities and ideas.

“I believe there are many factors that go into making the relationship between our school, HPCC Systems and LexisNexis Risk Solutions so successful, and I am thrilled to be able to play a part,” Taiowa said:

Since we joined forces many years back, our students have been able to apply their passion in real-world situations reaching far beyond our campus. From the humble beginnings to the state-of-the-art work these kids are exposed to, this would not have had the same impact without all the opportunities HPCC Systems has provided.

Taiowa Donovan, Director of Robotics at the American Heritage School

Taiowa Donovan, Director of Robotics at the American Heritage School

In 2021, Donovan nominated one of his students, 16-year-old Carina Wang, to join Elsevier’s HPCC Systems Summer Intern Programopens in new tab/window. There, she spent 12 weeks extending her work with David de Hilsteropens in new tab/window, Consulting Software Engineer for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, as her mentor.

The internship program, which included 12 students from high school to master’s level, provided the opportunity for Taiowa and Carina to present their work at the HPCC Systems Virtual Community Day Summit 2021opens in new tab/window.

A real-world STEM experience for students

Carina’s blogopens in new tab/window shows the sophisticated challenges and problem-solving required by the project. Her goal was to improve campus security by building an “autonomous security robot” that could process student images and be able to identify non-students on campus.

Along the way, she received advice and support from her mentor, the HPCC Systems team and her fellow interns. “Following Lili and Roger’s advice,” she wrote in August. “I changed the code from UNSIGNED1 (which is 1 byte) to UNSIGNED4 (4 bytes). Previously, the maximum was 255 images before the model wouldn’t run anymore. Today, I tested 256 images and it successfully worked.”

An award-winning project with concrete applications

For her internship project, Carina developed an image-identification model that allows students to engage with a robot that helps identify students and visitors on campus. It serves as an access point for viewing various locations and gives students permission to navigate through the school and locate people during an emergency. Carina Wang explains the project she created for her internship with HPCC Systems in this videoopens in new tab/window.

“It was a huge honor for this project to be selected by a panel of experienced professionals as judges,” she said:

Through the HPCC Systems Internship Program, Elsevier built the foundation for my internship project by providing the opportunity to address a real-world problem by extending skills and knowledge while simultaneously pursuing an interest in robotics and software development.

I previously had no experience in a high-tech company, and I hadn’t work on a highly sophisticated project such as this one. However, throughout the internship, industry professionals and software engineers mentored me through the project, assisting from a technical and logistical perspective to maximize program efficiency on-board the security robot. 

Carina went on to win the 2021 Best Poster – Data Analytics awardopens in new tab/window. And for his student support and contribution to open-source projects, Taiowa received the 2021 HPCC Systems Mentor awardopens in new tab/window.

Carina Wang's poster for 2021 Data Analytics award

Carina Wang's poster

Trish McCallopens in new tab/window, Director of Program Management for HPCC Systems and the ADAM Program Co-founder at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, states HPCC Systems has benefited from the relationship as well. Many of our academic partners were early adopters of the platform, providing the team with new innovative functionality as it evolves. McCall explained:

We continue to thrive on building a community of users and adopters with a common goal of contributing back to the platform to make it better. In doing so, we have established a great relationship with academia making students aware of the platform and career growth opportunities.

Trish McCall, Director of Program Management for HPCC Systems and the ADAM Program Co-founder at LexisNexis Risk Solutions

Trish McCall

Lorraine Chapmanopens in new tab/window, Manager, Business Analyst at LexisNexis Risk Solutions manages, the HPCC Systems Intern Program. She hopes Carina and other students who have access to similar programs at their school choose to pursue STEM careers in the future:

Our long-standing collaboration with (the American Heritage School) shows how great things can happen when talented young scientists are able to access the latest developments in technology and data analytics. We believe this supports and encourages any interest they may have in future related studies and careers.

Carina’s intern project was very ambitious with a lot to be achieved in a relatively short timeframe. Her determination, self-motivation and focused mind ensured that she successfully achieved her aims and more. Winning the award at our 2021 Poster Contest in the Data Analytics category was well-deserved. I have no doubt she has a very bright future ahead of her.

Lorraine Chapman, Manager, Business Analyst at LexisNexis Risk Solutions

Lorraine Chapman


Portrait photo of Stephen Amazia Dradenya


Stephen Amazia Dradenya