NEOSTEM Ecosystem Statement of the Times Message | School in Fall 2020

In the Driver’s Seat: Bilokonsky leading effort for world’s first-ever autonomous Soap Box Derby car

George Bilokonsky isn’t afraid of big challenges.

In 2016, his students from the Youth Technology Academy at Cuyahoga Community College competed against students from around the world in the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

And they won!

With over 30,000 roaring spectators watching the robots compete, Bilokonsky remained calm.

He knew his students had it.

He’s approaching his work with building the world’s first-ever autonomous Soap Box Derby car with that same calm confidence.

And as soon as the weather breaks in Ohio, he and his team will have the autonomous Soap Box Derby car back out on the raceways, testing it.

For nearly a year, Bilokonsky has been teaming up with colleagues from the Soap Box Derby to build this autonomous car.

Rolling Together, the working title of the autonomous Soap Box Derby car project, is an initiative of the NeoStem Ecosystem, a collaboration of more than 50 different organizations from throughout Northeast Ohio.

The idea for Rolling Together surfaced at a NeoStem Ecosystem meeting in 2017 when Ecosystem members were asked to think about ways of taking what they already do and pairing it with next century technologies.

“What if students could build a driverless car the same way that engineers are at the big automakers?” This was the question that brought Bilokonsky out of his chair at the meeting and sent him to work designing and tinkering.

The project was about three-fourths of the way done in Spring 2018. When Bilokonsky and the team tested it in the Fall of 2017, the car didn’t travel straight enough. The team will continue working with the sensors and anticipate being able to have it road worthy after a few more test sessions.

And then, it will be taken to schools in Akron and Cleveland where eighth graders will get to actually do the coding, the building, the measuring and then, of course, the racing!

But that’s not all.

There are big plans for Rolling Together and how it can drive STEM education.

Keep your seat belts fastened. It promises to be an exciting ride.