CEHC Students Partner with Ten80 Education on Virtual Racing Challenge

Ten80 has hosted hundreds of regional and national RC racing events for teams of K-12 students.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 17, 2020) – Tech-minded students across the globe will soon be able to race remote control (RC) cars from their homes, thanks to two classes at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC).

The classes teamed up this semester with Ten80 Education, a group of STEM, education and business professionals, to help them shift their renowned in-person racing competition to a virtual event.

Ten80 has hosted hundreds of regional and national racing events over the last decade that challenge teams of middle and high schoolers to own a fictional motorsports business. The students spend months designing and building RC cars. Points are awarded not only on race performance, but also R&D, marketing/design strategy and work toward becoming community leaders.

Although the competitions have been highly successful, Ten80 leaders were growing increasingly concerned about accessibility. Add COVID-19 to the mix, and it was clear a new format was needed.

“We were finding that students often had challenges with competition travel expenses,” said Terri Stripling, Ten80 CEO and president. “So, we reached out to UAlbany last spring to see if there was a way to incorporate eSports, or some of the technologies around eSports, while still retaining the excitement around our events.” 

“The pandemic has elevated our need for a virtual option,” she added.

Remote STEM Innovation

CEHC student Valerie Fullarton holds up car sensors that will be used in Ten80's virtual competitions.

CEHC student Valerie Fullarton is testing RC car sensors and webcams from her home in New York City this semester that can be used for Ten80's virtual race competitions.

Ten80 first called Michael Leczinsky, CEHC professor of practice and UAlbany eSports program director/head coach, to get his insight.  

Leczinsky had bigger ideas. After sharing with CEHC Vice Dean Jennifer Goodall, the two realized they were both teaching classes with a focus on emerging technologies this semester, a perfect match to help Ten80.

Their students, a mix of freshmen, transfers and seniors, have spent the last three months coming up with innovative and cost-effective solutions to shift Ten80’s competitions online. Their ideas are focused on virtual reality racing simulators and using digital communities such as Discord or Slack to connect with competitors and judges.

Students have presented to Ten80 regularly throughout the semester – much like a real client relationship would operate. Both class curriculums are focused on experiential learning. Student grades are based on their presentations and ideas.

“Growing up I did not really consider STEM as something I could do,” said Monique Wade, a senior Informatics major in Leczinsky’s capstone course. “Being part of this project is an important example of the career opportunities available to us after graduation. We’re translating our school work into the real world.”

“Our class has presented twice to [Ten80] already. We have a third one lined up,” said Valerie Fullarton, an Informatics transfer student in Goodall’s first-year seminar course. “The whole point seems to be about the experience and less about grading and tests. We’re all coming at this from different angles and learning how to work together at finding the best solution.”

Class to Career

Ten80 is using CEHC student feedback to start virtual race competitions this month, with more enhancements coming in January 2021. After the semester concludes, a few students will continue working with Ten80 as interns through support from COVID Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

“This partnership has been fantastic,” said Cindy Wian, Ten80 COO. “We went in with a notion that we might at least get the expertise of Michael [Leczinsky] and colleagues. I don’t think we had a vision of exactly how much the students could accomplish. Their ideas and suggestions have been invaluable.”

You can learn more about Ten80’s mission and STEM-based learning by visiting its website.

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