Conway native Ian Spatz was one of two University of Arkansas students who qualified to compete in his year’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Region 5 Student Paper Competition in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The competition is a regional event that highlights a student’s research in front of judges from academia, government agencies and businesses, UA Department of Electrical Engineering Communications Specialist Wendy N. Echeverria said in a news release.

“This competition is a big opportunity for Ian,” Echeverria said, noting that Noah Nelson was the other UA student selected.

Nelson and Spatz took second and third, respectively, in an area competition to qualify for regionals.   

“Each year, IEEE invites students to submit papers covering subjects like science engineering and technology, to their IEEE Region 5 Area Student Competition,” she said, adding that Spatz’s project focuses on the “Precision Agriculture and Counterfeit Detection Applications of Multispectral Imaging.”

Students who place in that competition are invited to the regional competition.

Spatz said that during he plans to present “some applications of using a special camera that will take multi-spectral images by capturing different light reflectance across the electromagnetic spectrum,” according to the release.  

“Currently, I'm trying to see if the camera can classify different elemental solutions of different concentrations, counterfeit clothing material and whether or not it can determine which printer a document came from if the same image is printed with the same printer settings,” he said.

Nelson’s project focuses on “retrofitting a fleet of small radio-controlled motorboats to autonomously navigate from place to place while avoiding obstacles and keeping a formation,” the release stated.

“While I am working on this project with the assistance of three other seniors, I am focusing on developing the portion of the boat control software that allows the boats to autonomously navigate and plans the routes that it should travel,” Nelson said. “This is the aspect of my senior design project that is covered in my paper.”

IEEE East Area Chair Matt Francis said being selected for the competition shows that the student can break down complex engineering topics.

“We judge the papers on their technical quality, writing proficiency and clarity,” he said.

Spatz and Nelson entered the competition as an honors requirement for their senior design class and said they were excited to be selected to compete regionally.

"Frankly, I'm pretty amazed that I've made it all the way to the region competition," Nelson said. "I'm pretty excited to travel to Lafayette and attend a conference of this magnitude; it represents an amazing opportunity to connect with students, electrical engineers and businesses from all over the region, including my fellow Ozark Section members who are traveling to the conference as well."

The conference will be April 3-7. The two will present their papers on April 6. Spatz and Nelson will travel with two faculty members, Silke Spiesshoefer and Robert Saunders, and 13 other electrical engineering students, according to the release.

For more information about the IEEE Region 5 Student Paper Competition, visit