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Cody Dowd, 12, prepares for his run in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter simulator Tuesday at Mannheim’s Coleman Barracks. He received a $3,000 savings bond to develop a heart rate monitor for pilots.
Cody Dowd, 12, prepares for his run in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter simulator Tuesday at Mannheim’s Coleman Barracks. He received a $3,000 savings bond to develop a heart rate monitor for pilots. (Rick Scavetta / S&S)

MANNHEIM, Germany — Cody Dowd’s heart rate raced as he piloted a Chinook helicopter through a simulated combat zone.

Behind Dowd, 11-year-old Bryce Edwards watched as a computer monitored the jumpy lines showing his 12-year-old comrade’s pulse.

“Did you see your heart jump when you saw that tank?” Edwards asked.

The two Heidelberg Middle School pupils are half of a team of sixth-graders who developed a project to monitor a pilot’s heart rate in hopes of decreasing the chance a plane crashes because of technical problems or a terrorist act.

The team, which also includes 12-year-old Vernon Miles and 11-year-old Blake Billmaier, was selected as regional first-place finalists in the eCYBERMISSION competition, a Web-based science, math and technology contest. Each received a $3,000 savings bond.

Four girls from the class were awarded $2,000 savings bonds for their efforts to promote helmet safety in Europe.

The teams were among 20 from Department of Defense Dependents Schools to enter the competition. They were judged against 71 entries in the United States’ southeast region.

In all, more than 1,600 teams competed.

“We didn’t think we’d make it out of the classroom,” Miles said. “We were up against everyone in the world.”

The boys’ project began last September with Miles’ idea to link a heart rate monitor through a global positioning system to a ground control, he said.

They saw how terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and thought tracking a pilot’s condition could help save lives.

In school, they had used a special bracelet to monitor heart rates, but that was merely a data collection exercise. They used that technology as the basis for their project, which would also include an onboard camera that switches on during irregular heart rhythms. In theory, the ground station would have the ability to remotely guide the plane to a safe landing.

They tested their system at the Army’s CH-47 Chinook simulator at Coleman Barracks, where Miles’ father is an operations officer with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Aviation Regiment.

The team, which goes by the moniker “Soon To Be Rich,” also received a paid trip to Washington, D.C., in June, to compete in the national finals.

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