ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – Rocky River High School senior Austin Wilson seems to be following in the steps of the “greats” in the tech industry.
In the last year alone, Wilson has won three Amazon developer awards. The wins brought to him cash prizes, equipment and, most importantly, respect in the world of developers, according to the Rocky River High School communications department.
Last fall, Wilson was searching how to implement artificial intelligence into his Raspberry Pi (RPi). The Raspberry Pi is a “low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV…and is a device…to learn how to program in (various computer) languages.”
A contest, challenging RPi users to make an Amazon Alexa skill to control RPi, came up in a search. Wilson said, “(I) thought why not enter the contest and learn how to use Alexa at the same time.”
Alexa is a “smart speaker” that connects to the internet through a Wi-Fi network. Alexa is awakened by voice commands, according to Amazon’s information. Once Alexa hears the voice command it is sent to the “natural voice recognition” service on the Internet, which interprets the commands and sends the words back for the appropriate response.
“I went at it as a learning opportunity,” Wilson said, noting Amazon still had not perfected Alexa. “It was really interesting to work with new technology and technology I’ve already known about.”
Austin came up with an idea to build an Alexa skill that controls a motorized model car. His idea moved the car forward and back, turning it left and right and bringing it to a stop.
He wrote the Alexa skill and RPi code in two weeks and the car won second place for Best Alexa Skills Kit with Raspberry Pi out of 100 competitors.
Next, Wilson integrated Alexa into a space-combat simulation video game–something that had not been done before. He won first place for the effort in the Most Creative API (application program interface) Mashup. Several national and international magazines wrote about his new skill, according to the school’s press information.
Last summer he also entered and won another contest, taking first place in the Alexa Skills Contest, where he had to design any creative or useful skill.
After winning his third contest, Austin was working on his college applications when he received a call from Amazon. The company flew Wilson and his father, Mike, to the Seattle headquarters for a video developer spotlight that would be featured at Amazon´s annual “Re:Invent” developer conference.
Wilson was recognized as one of six Alexa Champions.
In his spare time, Wilson is an Eagle Scout, plays tennis and is a member of the Rocky River High School marching band, robotics club and computer club. He also works as a developer at Hyland Software in Westlake.
Wilson said his future plans include majoring in computer engineering to become a video game developer or to develop software for satellites and space missions.