Pioneering work on improving the algorithms behind facial recognition technology has earned a McCallie student a spot in the finals of the nation’s top math, science and technology competition.
McCallie senior day student Allen Liu and his research partner were named one of just 12 national finalists in the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology after winning the contest’s regional competition at Georgia Tech.
Allen and his teammate Gabrielle Liu, of Nashville, shared the $6,000 team scholarship for developing a faster computational system that could lead to improvements in data processing speed for facial recognition software.
They were among 101 students selected to compete in regional competitions across the country in November out of a pool of more than 1,860 projects submitted to the competition, and they presented their research to a panel of judges at Georgia Tech, which hosted the southeastern regional finals.
“Allen’s work on this project is nothing short of incredible,” said McCallie Headmaster Lee Burns ‘87. “For a high school senior to conduct research that could change the nature of a growing technology like facial recognition is a great accomplishment, and we’re excited about his team’s chances at the finals.”
As regional winners, Allen and Gabrielle now move to the final phase of the Siemens Competition to present their work at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., next week, with $500,000 in scholarships on the line, including two top prizes of $100,000. Each of the finalists will receive at least $25,000 in scholarship money.
Allen and Gabrielle’s winning project is titled, “Neural Networks without Multiplications” where they came up with a new mathematical concept for improving the running time in convolutional neural networks—a type of artificial intelligence computing system used in new technologies like facial recognition and driverless cars. The team's mentor is mathematics teacher Peter Lowen of Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn., where Gabrielle is a student.
"It’s amazing to see the knowledge and determination students bring to the competition each year," said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. "These high school students are presenting top-notch, graduate-level research and they deserve recognition for their efforts to improve so many lives."
The Siemens Competition, launched in 1999 by the Siemens Foundation, increases access to higher education for students who are gifted in STEM and is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens. The competition, administered by Discovery Education, develops a pipeline for the nation’s most promising scientists, engineers and mathematicians.
Allen is most passionate about math and music. He is a classically trained violinist and has performed at Carnegie Hall with the National Youth Orchestra. He has also served as concertmaster of the Tennessee All-State Symphony Orchestra, and regularly organizes concerts and community projects as an intern with String Theory, a chamber music concert series based in Chattanooga that has performed across the country. Allen’s interest in science led him to placing in the Top 150 in the United States National Chemistry Olympiad. He is president of McCallie’s Young Democrats club and co-captain of the Mock Trial team.
For more information about the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology go to: www.siemens-foundation.org.