Luca Tomescu won 2016 National Merit Award for Innovation at The Real World Design Challenge

Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 12:30pm

Luca Tomescu, Texas ECE student, and his high school team won the 2016 National Merit Award for Innovation at The Real World Design Challenge. After winning the Texas State Governor’s Challenge, Tomescu and his teammates were flown to Washington, D.C. to attend the annual national level competition. The purpose of the RWDC is to provide high school students the opportunity to work within a team on real-world engineering challenges, with a current focus on the aerospace industry.  The RWDC operates with the goal of increasing the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce sustainably. During the competition each year, student teams work to solve a technical challenge currently facing the nation's leading industries by utilizing engineering software to develop their solutions and create presentations that show the value of those solutions.

Tomescu and his team focused their efforts on the field of agriculture, seeking to replace ineffective and outdated crop-management methods that lead to poor crop yields, overuse of pesticides, and wasteful water usage in order to maximize food production. Working with professional engineering software, they developed an unmanned aerial drone that would monitor crops and analyze moisture levels of cropland to facilitate optimal yield. Utilizing a Normalized Vegetation Index (NDVI) detection system based on the infrared light reflected by plants, the craft would be capable of surveying 1,000 acres of farmland in under 10 minutes. The versatile drone could also be adapted for use in industrial utility inspection, wildlife conservation and population analysis, and point-source pollution detection.

Tomescu attended Stephen F. Austin High School and is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. His team members include Michael Liu (UT Austin), Kieran Smith (UT Austin), Marwan Madi (UT Austin), Alex Wong (UT Austin), Jason Tran (UT Dallas), Yosias Kassaye (UT Dallas), Andrew Nguyen (UT Dallas), Jon Genty (University of Houston), Marina Zafiris (University of Houston), and Jack Sheng (Texas A&M).