Artificial Intelligence Competition

Explainable Fuzzy AI Challenge (XFC 2022)

Register now to compete in the 2021 Explainable AI Challenge! All undergraduate and graduate university students are able to compete, including from international universities. Deadline to register is September 6, 2021 at 11:59pm EST.

The Challenge

The teams will create fully autonomous eXplainable AI (XAI) XAI algorithms, in Python, that are able to play the Python Arcade Game “Asteroid Smasher”. In the game, 2-dimensional spacecraft move to avoid collisions with numerous asteroids that appear. The asteroids have different shapes, sizes and velocities. The spacecraft also has a weapon that can shoot straight ahead. If the projectiles emitted reach any of the target asteroids, they break into smaller pieces. The smallest asteroid pieces disappear after being hit by a projectile. A control system must consider all the different features of the system and determine the movement and shooting decisions of the spacecraft. This year, for the challenge, the control system must be able to control a game with a single spacecraft or multiple spacecraft.


Competition timeline.
Date Event Description








Kick-off meeting introducing the organizers, competition challenge, timeline, etc.​




Asteroid Smasher Intro​


Introduction to Asteroid Smasher, repos, structure​




Fuzzy Seminar​


Seminar on Fuzzy Systems/Trees, terminology, python modules​




Fuzzy Seminar #2 - Explainability​


Jerry Mendel’s perspective on Explainability in Fuzzy Systems.​




Optimization Seminar​


Seminar on gradient-free optimization methods (GA, PSO, etc.) and their application to Fuzzy​




Help session​


Optional help session on Asteroid Smasher, OO programming, etc.​




Competition Introduction​


Introducing the competition (scoring, format, etc) and beginning work on solutions​




Spring Semester Kickoff


Kickoff/welcome back from break. Optional help session/Q&A​






Teams must qualify for final competition by having an effective solution for a simple Asteroid Smasher scenario (score minimum, don’t die within 10 s, etc.). Code runs without crashing​




Final AI agents/code due​


Teams must submit all code for final trained versions of their AI agents​






Competition day​

XFC 2021 Competition Results



Timothy headshot

Timothy Arnett
AI Verification Lead, Thales

Dr. Timothy Arnett is the AI Verification Lead at Thales in Cincinnati. His focus is on development of Genetic Fuzzy Tree-based AI methods along with their verification using Formal Methods. His graduate work at the University of Cincinnati was mainly devoted to work on the scalability and verifiability of Fuzzy Systems.

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Kelly Cohen
Brian H. Rowe endowed Chair and Interim Head, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Dr. Kelly Cohen is the Brian H. Rowe endowed Chair and Interim Head, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, University of Cincinnati (UC). His main expertise lies in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI), intelligent systems, UAVs and optimization. He has utilized genetic fuzzy logic-based algorithms for control and decision-making applications in the area of autonomous collaborating robotics as well as predictive modeling for personalizing medical treatment in neurological disorders. During the past seven years, he has secured grants from NSF, NIH, USAF, DHS and NASA to develop algorithms for UAV applications as well as AI for bio-medical applications. He has over 65 per reviewed archival publications, and another 270 conference papers/presentations, and invited seminars.

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Nick Ernest
Chief Architect for Thales Avionics, Inc.

Dr. Nick Ernest is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Aerospace Engineering & Engineering Mechanics.  The focus of his research is genetic fuzzy artificial intelligence and he founded Psibernetix Inc. to develop these systems for clients primarily within the defense & aerospace domain.  In 2018 Psibernetix was acquired by Thales, a Paris-headquartered global leader within this area.  Dr. Ernest now serves as Chief Architect for Thales Avionics, Inc., based out of Cincinnati.

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Brandon Kunkel
Senior AI Engineer, Thales

Brandon is a Senior AI Engineer with a focus on explainable Fuzzy AI  at Thales USA.  He graduated with his BS in Aerospace Engineering from UC in 2017.

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Javier Viana
Ph.D. Candidate, Explainable Artificial Intelligence; Aerospace Engineering

Javier is a Ph.D. candidate in Explainable Artificial Intelligence applied to Aerospace Engineering at the UC. His research is sponsored by the “la Caixa” Fellowship Award. In the past he has interned as designer of algorithms at Genexia, Aurora Flight Sciences (Boeing), Satlantis Microsatellites and the European Space Agency. 

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Lynn Pickering
Ph.D. candidate, Aerospace Engineering

Lynn is a first year PhD candidate in Aerospace Engineering, with a focus on Genetic Fuzzy Systems under Dr. Kelly Cohen at the University of Cincinnati. She has 3 publications in the field of Artificial intelligence, and is currently funded by the Rindsberg Fellowship. 

Contact Us

Please contact Javier at for general competition questions.