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KeyW Meets Maryland’s Next Generation of Scientists

KeyW’s Tim McKernan has met some talented people in his KeyW career, although perhaps none more so than the students competing in this year’s Anne Arundel County Public Schools Regional Science and Engineering Expo. The event, which promotes science education and recognizes and rewards student achievement in science, welcomed more than 400 projects in 20 categories from students across the county in grades six through 12.

McKernan was one of several judges, evaluating software, engineering/robotics and mathematics projects. “Students were uniformly well-prepared and well-rehearsed—not to mention they had lots of enthusiasm. More than anything, though, they distinguished themselves by driving their projects to a successful completion,” he said.

“Today’s top students in computer science, math and robotics are graduating with advanced knowledge in their fields, and they’re excited to learn more,” McKernan added. “The best example was Ellie Fahey, who has been coding since her elementary school days. As a tenth grader, she combined simple statistical modeling and an interesting delayed network idea to demonstrate how easy it could be to improve health care in areas lacking basic services, like remote villages.”

Andrew Karam, a senior at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, took home the top award for his project, “Body Anomaly Detection through 3D Body Scanning and Machine Learning.” He also won the KeyW Award for Achievement in Independent Thought.

He’d taken apart his Xbox for its camera and hand cut a metal turntable. The turntable slowly spins an individual while the 3D camera slides up and down to scan the body.

Tim McKernan

Andrew’s device scans an individual, and over the course of multiple scans, can detect skin abnormalities, with the intention of finding serious medical conditions—like melanoma—sooner. According to McKernan, the hardware alone in Andrew’s project was impressive. “He’d taken apart his Xbox for its camera and hand cut a metal turntable. The turntable slowly spins an individual while the 3D camera slides up and down to scan the body,” he explained. “Andrew also used different software languages to control the arduinos (simple open-source platforms to build electronics projects) and other hardware, and then compared multiple scans to search for abnormalities. He’d obviously done all of the work himself and was a great choice as winner,” said McKernan.

In fact, Andrew was one of the winners of this same science competition in 2018 and went on to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, with his project on detecting concealed weapons. He heads to the 2019 ISEF in May—but not before joining a small group of students in presenting their projects at KeyW and touring our Hanover, Maryland office.

Tabitha Seiler, a KeyW cyber intelligence analyst, who represented KeyW at the awards ceremony, commended Andrew’s drive and determination. “He’s passionate about creating a solution to detect skin anomalies sooner and envisions incorporating this body scan into annual health checkups,” she said.

It was exciting to see that students are identifying a gamut of problems and feeling empowered to develop their own solutions.

Tabitha Seiler

“Overall, these projects facilitate learning experiences far beyond science like research, writing, creativity, communications and public speaking—all of which are invaluable competencies,” Seiler added. “It was exciting to see that students are identifying a gamut of problems and feeling empowered to develop their own solutions. I’m proud that KeyW sees the value in nurturing innovation this way!”