Kennett senior earns robotics fame and fortune

Kennett senior earns robotics fame and fortune
Posted on 06/03/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Kennett senior earns robotics fame and fortuneCONWAY — Although the Kennett High Coders were unable to attend the 2020 Vex World Robotics Championships in April in Louisville, Ky., due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one member of the team, senior Kate Keefe, 18, has been garnering worldwide attention.

Keefe not only won the VEX Make It Real CAD Challenge, engineering and 3-D printing a part for a VEX robot, she also is the recipient of a $40,000 Amazon Future Engineers Scholarship. Not only that, she reportedly posted the highest score ever documented on the Hunting Dearborn engineering test, earning another $20,000.

The daughter of Jennifer Keefe of Center Conway, she plans to attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall to study computer science.

For winning the Make it Real Challenge, held in March, Keefe was recognized during a 90-minute ceremony on YouTube.

The challenge was for teams to design “a part that does not currently exist in the available parts and design a 3-D CAD model to be 3-D printed,” said Dan Richardi, computer teacher at Kennett’s Mt. Washington Valley Career and Technical Center and the Coders’ coach. “Kate of (Team) 5106C designed a nameplate holder which took top honors out of 125 entries after being narrowed down to 20 finalists earlier this year,” he said.

Richardi said Keefe also received an Amazon Future Engineers scholarship worth $40,000. Only 100 high school seniors nationwide receive this scholarship “to study computer science at a four-year college or university and a guaranteed paid internship offer at Amazon after the completion of their first year,” Amazon says.

The scholarships are awarded based on such things as academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, future goals and financial need.

In the Make it Real Challenge, students were asked to “use the same Autodesk 3D design software used by professionals to conceptualize and model a new part for a robot that improves its functionality.

Keefe had to submit a two-page report about her creation.

“If you’re on a competitive VRC team, you’ve probably forgotten your license plates at least once,” she wrote. “You get to a match, only to realize that your team is on the red alliance, not the blue one. Then you have to run to the pits to pick up the red plates you left sitting on your team’s table, sometimes finding that by the time you get back, your match is already setting up on the field without your team.

“Through several seasons of competitions, my team has made this silly mistake many times, but we intend to solve this problem with a neat license plate holder that can be 3D printed for any team to use,” Keefe continued.

“The VEX Nameplate Holder holds one doubled-up license plate. This solves the issue of forgetting plates because the robot will always have both sets on hand. This holder also blocks the back license plate, preventing violations of VRC Robot Rule R28a, so referees will have no doubts as to which alliance your robot is on. These holders are also easy to use, as there are no screws securing the license plate itself, so flipping the plates takes mere seconds.”

For winning, Keefe was awarded a Desktop 3-D printer and $400 gift certificate and automatic team qualification for the 2020 VEX Robotics World Championship.

“This is so fantastic,” said Virginia Schrader, director of the Career and Tech Center. “She continues to amaze me.”

Joe Riddensdale, CADD (Computer-Aided Design & Drafting) and engineering teacher at the MWVCTC who also coaches the Coders, called Keefe “a once-in-a-lifetime student.”

“I believe she’s going to be the first college student to walk out of college with money in the bank, and deservedly so,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier for her. The money will be well spent. UNH is incredibly lucky to have her.”

Schrader shared more good news with the school board two weeks later.

“Yet another accolade for Kate,” she said. “I have an inside source who is pretty sure she scored the highest score ever on the Hunting Dearborn Engineering Test. She only got one wrong. So that will be another $20,000 (in scholarship money).”

The Make It Real Challenge win automatically qualified Team 5106C (Keefe and fellow senior Chani Mores) for the World Championships. The pair would have made their third straight appearance at the championships.
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