Saturday, August 7, 2010

BDPA Hampton Roads: Taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Math To New Heights

Our Student Information Technology Education & Scholarship (SITES) program includes any youth education program that promotes science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) for young people in the Kindergarten thru 12th grade. One subset of the SITES program is our High School Computer Competition (HSCC) which is holding its 25th annual national championships in Philadelphia later this month.

BDPA Hampton Roads made a decision this year to take the SITES program to the next level with their Zenith Challenge Project. The Zenith Challenge provides students with a chance to create and compete with unmanned aircraft. BDPA Hampton Roads chapter, co-founded by Joe McMahon and Wayne Cross, worked with 15 high school students ... known as the Zenith Challengers.

The fifteen high school students came from seven area schools – (Menchville HS, First Colonial HS, Aviation Academy DHS, Smithfield HS, Kempsville HS, Heritage HS, and Landstown HS). The team was led by student co-captains: Deonte White (Mission Commander - Graduating Senior, Menchville HS, Newport News, VA) and Zak Johns (Pilot in Command - Junior, First Colonial HS, Virginia Beach, VA)

The Student Unmanned Autonomous Systems (UAS) Competition is aimed at stimulating and fostering interest in unmanned systems, technologies and careers. The focus is on engaging students in systems engineering a total solution to a challenging mission, requiring the design, fabrication and demonstration of a system capable of completing a specific autonomous aerial operation. Opportunities for interaction with top UAS designers, engineers, scientists and leadership will be provided. The principal thrusts of the competition are the safe application and execution of Systems Engineering to develop autonomous operation in successful mission accomplishment.

In their first six-months together, the Zenith Challenge Project's high school team completed all phases of the 2010 Student UAS Competition. Thirty (30) teams registered to compete in the competition held June 16-20, 2010 at Webster Field, St Inigoes, Maryland. BDPA member, Justin McMahon, a rising high school Junior is on the autonomous programming team. Justin is in the picture on the right with the team's demonstration aircraft. The Zenith Challengers ranked in the top 20, amongst some of the world's top engineering universities.

The team received special recognition from the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughhead, and Congressmen Bobby Scott (VA-3) and Rob Wittman (VA-1). For more info, visit

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