DENVILLE, NJ – Mike Scornavacca (17) of Denville was one of 60 rising high school seniors selected to attend the New Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology program held at Rutgers School of Engineering in Piscataway over the summer and will present his team’s research paper at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oct. 11-13.

The New Jersey Governor's is an intensive, residential summer program that brings together some of the state’s most academically gifted high schoolers. In addition to offering four STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses over a four-week period, the program affords students the opportunity to collaborate on a novel research project, which is showcased in a conference-style final paper and presented at a research symposium.

“I enjoyed every single one of my courses, including Robotics, Computer Simulation of Electronic Circuits, Modern Physics, and ‘Stellarscapes,’” said Scornavacca, a student at Morris Knolls High School.

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“We discussed recent space missions and the future of space exploration. I learned a lot in each and every one of those classes, but the research experience was the one aspect of the program that was invaluable to me. It taught me how to quickly learn and understand brand new concepts and be able to apply those new topics in our own projects. Doing unique research was something I never thought I would be doing before I finished high school. It was an honor. I was so happy to be accepted and am sure every other student felt the same way.”

At the end of the program, Scornavacca took the initiative to submit his group’s paper to the 2019 IEEE MIT Undergraduate Research Technology Conference. The paper was accepted for presentation and will be published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

“We first had to learn the fundamentals of neural networks, which was honestly, quite the task to undertake,” said Scornavacca.

“I had to learn the basics of multivariable calculus and even a little bit of linear algebra to understand the theories behind the various algorithms. By doing all of this studying and learning beforehand, the actual project went relatively smoothly. The paper ended up being around 10 pages long when it was finished and is now published on the Rutgers website. I took our full paper and cut it down to four pages in order to have it submitted to the IEEE conference.”

“I would have never guessed that I would be able to spend the summer before my senior year writing a research paper. So, honestly, it’s still a shock to me,” said Scornavacca, who plans to study computer science in college.

Perhaps the best part of the program for Scornavacca was the new friendships he forged.

“It was amazing to find students that I fully connected with, and I hope I can find a similar group of people when I go off to college.”

Scornavacca’s friends and relatives could not be happier for him and his achievements.

“We are very proud of Mike and his accomplishments,” said Karen Scornavacca, Mike’s mother.

“At a young age Mike had shown such a strong love for computing that only continued to get stronger every year. He was given a wonderful opportunity to attend the New Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology this summer and really embraced it.”


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