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Loudoun students’ ideas adopted by U.S. intel agency

The championship team from Loudoun County’s Academy of Science. Courtesy Photo
A team from Loudoun County's Academy of Science is turning its ideas into real-world solutions after impressing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the U.S. Army Geospatial Research Lab (GRL).

The students were state champions in the first-ever Virginia Student-Led Ideation Challenge (SLIC) in April. After winning the competition, they were invited to meet with stakeholders at the NGA.

After impressing the NGA, the students are now tasked with prototyping a Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM)-based module over the summer as they work as interns supporting a real-world project that is underway with the NGA and the GRL.

Marc Dipaolo, director of the Enterprise Innovation Office at NGA, said the students met with scientists from NGA, U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army.

“All of us were impressed with their creativity and all of us agreed that we should tap into that energy by asking for their help on important problems we are wrestling with,” Dipaolo said. “The prototype they are building for us will create brand new capability within the Department of Defense.”

Innovative Solutions Consortium is the organization behind the Virginia Student-Led Challenge. The consortium was set up in Loudoun County six years ago by founder Ken Spedden. Since then its reach has grown across Virginia and beyond.

Spedden described the collaboration between professional scientists and the students as “a remarkable outcome.”

“I am personally not aware of an open innovation state-wide middle school/high school ideation challenge that resulted in a winning team supporting a U.S. Combat Support Agency project,” Spedden said. “If not a first, I would have to imagine that it is an extremely rare occurrence.”

In a prepared statement, Bobby Keener, chief technology innovations officer for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), described the Student-Led Ideation Challenge as providing “innovative approaches to solving some of the nation's most pressing issues.”

The students will perform the work as interns for Loudoun County's Innovative Solutions Consortium's (ISC) nonprofit, the organization that led the SLIC program in coordination with VDOE.

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