Supercomputers? Not a problem
Published: Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003
Just the thought of navigating around a computer can send shivers up the spine of some adults. But a group of junior high and high school students from Clovis and Melrose are on their way to becoming high-performance supercomputer masters. The students, members of supercomputing clubs in their respective schools, have been developing the skills necessary to create and solve complicated scientific problems using the most powerful computers in the world. On Nov. 2, teams of local students will participate in the Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge at the Glorieta Conference Center in Glorieta. The AiS Challenge, organized and administered by New Mexico Technet, Los Alamos National Lab and the U.S. Department of Energy, was created to aid students in their understanding and use of technology in scientific research and problem solving. Patricia Thomas, sponsor and instructor of the Marshall Junior High School club, said the students, in teams of five members, will be required to perform a number of tasks during the competition. “The students will have to write an abstract identifying a problem, develop a mathematical model of the problem, design a computer program to deal with the problem and submit a Power Point presentation and program logo online for judging,” she said. “The competition is fierce. It’s amazing what the students can do.” Thomas, who has been working with gifted students at Marshall, said she helps the kids with their research skills, report writing, logo design and Power Point presentations. “I’m basically a former English and history teacher, so I have a mathematical mentor come in to help with the technical side of the challenge. I became involved with the supercomputing challenge because of some of my students. I literally had to be dragged — kicking and screaming — into the computer age by my sister, who is an expert,” she said. At the Glorieta conference, instructors from the sponsoring national laboratories, private industry and universities will provide training regarding ideas on approaching their projects, details of challenge participation, network access and supercomputer use and tips. Dianne Kemp, club sponsor for Yucca Junior High School, said one of her two teams is planning a game simulating wars being fought by the United States on three fronts. “My students tried to find a real-world situation and solve it through mathematical computation,” she said. “Sponsoring a class like this is not for everyone. It’s quite a challenge for me and I have a good deal of science background, but you should see the kids blossom. It’s worth it.” Kemp, who teaches English and communications skills at Yucca, has been sponsoring the supercomputer club for the last two years. Although the competition officially started in August, when participants begin to outline and plan their projects, final judging won’t take place until April, when finalist teams will go to Los Alamos to describe their projects to the judges, give a 30-minute presentation and answer any questions. Financial awards, college-specific scholarships, trophies and plaques are presented to challenge winners.
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