Two Brown County High School sophomores placed third at an international science fair last week.
Abe Oliver and Jadan Ercoli placed in Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair May 8 to 13 in Phoenix, Arizona.
The award comes with a $1,000 prize.
Oliver and Ercoli and BCHS senior Corina Greiner were the first local students to attend the fair, where they competed with about 1,700 high-schoolers from around the world.
Ercoli and Oliver created a video game called “Permaximize.” One player uses a strategy that the duo defined, while the other uses a strategy that evolves over time.
“It learns from its mistakes to get a better strategy,” Oliver said.
A person can play the game on their own or they can play against the computer.
The game is similar in concept to the board game Connect Four and looks similar to checkers and chess.
“The goal of the game is really to move two pieces, yours and your opponent’s, or yours and your own, to get a better position, ultimately making the longest chain of your color,” Ercoli said.
The two hypothesized that after 1,000 games, their artificial intelligence would win 75 percent of the games.
“However, it started out winning 75 percent of the time. It never went below 75 percent of the time,” Oliver said.
They created it in the basement of Oliver’s home using his laptop and mostly free online software.
The two put in about 500 hours since the fall semester and wrote 60 pages of code.
Besides exploring the concept of artificial intelligence and machine learning, Ercoli and Oliver hope their project inspires more computer science education curriculum in the schools and community.
“We feel like this is sort of a catalyst to showing kids what can be done with this scale to hopefully get some more interest in our school going,” Oliver said.
Both plan to study computer science after high school. Ercoli is considering Indiana University while Oliver has his sights set on Stanford.