STEM Academy Students to Use AI to Program Self-Driving Cars

STEM Academy Students to Use AI to Program Self-Driving Cars

Students at the Pearl Technology/Richwoods Township STEM Academy will program autonomous 1/18th scale cars developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

These cars, called AWS DeepRacers, contain on-board computers and cameras that are used to enable the cars to navigate around a track. This year’s STEM program will take place on June 17-21 from 9 a.m. to noon at Goodwill Commons.

Caterpillar engineers and AWS Solutions Architects will work with the students on the AWS cloud-based DeepRacer simulator. The DeepRacer teaches itself how to navigate the track using reinforcement learning (a subset of machine learning) and reward functions. DeepRacer cars have not yet been released to the public.

“This year, students will have the chance to work with AI technology on a platform that hasn’t been seen by many people yet,” Dave Johnson, President of Pearl Technology, said. “These kids will experience something that only some engineers and developers have had an opportunity to experience.”

Watch it unfold on June 21

The students will create their autonomous models using AWS tools and then transfer the software to their DeepRacer car before testing it on a physical track. You can watch the kids race their cars on June 21 at 9 a.m. in the Peoria Heights Grade School gym.

“In the past couple of months, DeepRacer events have been held in places like Paris, Singapore, Seoul, Atlanta, and London,” Johnson said. “On June 21, it will be happening in Peoria Heights, except this time, the engineers and programmers will be local students. You are going to want to see it for yourself!”


Each year, students from area schools are selected and registered for the STEM Academy, where they learn about technology. The STEM Academy is sponsored and organized by Pearl Technology, with the assistance of the Richwoods Township, University of Illinois Extension, Caterpillar, Amazon Web Services, Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois, and Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

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