A team of students from Stiles Middle School are the winners of the 2022 Texas Instruments Codes Contest. The team designed a prototype intended to help dogs who cannot hear receive commands from their owners through a vibrating dog halter.

“It was both surprising and an honor to win,” team member Dylan Lundy said. “We weren’t expecting to win against high school students.”

Monica Walker, PLTW/Gateway teacher at Stiles MS, came across the TI competition while looking for projects to do with her advanced coding students. Five students – Grayson Powell, Syler Vu, Dylan Lundy, Shreenidhi Anand and Anurag Tiruvidula – chose to participate when Walker presented the opportunity to her class.

“With Mrs. Walker’s support and drive to ignite the passions of her students, they were bound to do great things,” Stiles MS Principal Melody Maples said. “This is truly an incredible accomplishment that I am certain will inspire so many others. I could not be more proud and excited for this team.”  

Throughout the five stages of the competition, teams were required to come up with a solution that would automate or optimize something related to pets or animals, write a proposal to explain how the code would be written and how the device would be made, create and code their device, and then make a video to show how the device worked.

“We thought of different problems that animals or their owners have, and we brainstormed solutions to those different problems,” Anand said. “Once we had narrowed it down to two of our ideas, we thought of different criteria and constraints that would have to be considered as we moved forward.” 

The vest for hearing-impaired animals was an idea that came to the students toward the end of their brainstorming sessions, after they spent time researching devices used to help deaf and hard-of-hearing humans. Once they were down to two ideas, the team took a vote and decided that the vest was the most unique and practical.

Daniel Porter, a professional dog trainer with Precision K9 Work, helped the students test and improve their design. There were several challenges throughout the process, including limited time to build the prototype and the difficulty of figuring out how to make the solution wireless. But in the end, the challenges paid off.

“I hope this win will encourage this group of students to devise solutions to other problems,” Walker said. “For students coming into the program, I hope that they will learn the value of using a design process to come up with solutions to problems. And I hope they can use collaboration skills as well as this group did.”