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May 07, 2010
Melrose High School team wins Supercomputing Challenge with Wildfire Project; Los Alamos High School teams take second, third place
May 7 -- A trio of students from Melrose High School captured the top prize in the 20th New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge hosted by the Los Alamos National Laboratory . "Control and Spread of Wildfires II" by brothers Richard and Randall Rush and Kyle Jacobs garnered each student a check for $1,000. The team also received the Crowd Favorite Award -- and $100 each -- as selected by student participants, teachers and mentors.
Two Los Alamos High School teams captured second and third place. "The Holy Grail of Adam's Ale" received second place, and "To Kill a Flocking Bird" captured the third-place prize.
70 teams compete
The Supercomputing Challenge is open to any New Mexico high-school or middle-school student. More than 250 students representing 70 teams from schools around the state spent the school year researching scientific problems, developing sophisticated computer programs, and learning about computer science with mentors from the state's national laboratories and other organizations. The goal of the yearlong event is to teach teams of middle- and high-school students how to use powerful computers to analyze, model, and solve real-world problems. Participating students improve their understanding of technology by developing skills in scientific inquiry, modeling, computing, communications, and teamwork.
Melrose's wildfire project receives top prize
Melrose's winning project built upon previous research by Jacobs and Richard Rush, both juniors in high school, and Randall Rush, a freshman. This year, the team added a new variable, topography, to the computer model as a factor contributing to the behavior of wildfire. Randall said about winning the challenge, "I didn't expect it at all." Richard added: "We didn't expect to win. We thought it would be a team from a bigger school that would win." Jacobs explained that their research was, in part, motivated by the wildfire that occurred in Floyd, N.M., a town about 25 miles southwest of where the young men live. They were helped in their work by Jacobs' dad, who is chief of the Melrose Fire Department. The team talked to firefighters, shared their research findings with Chief Jacobs and other members of the fire department, and used that input to make adjustments to their report this year. All said they'd like to return to the challenge.
LAHS wins second place for aquifer research
The LAHS team of Gabriel Montoya, Rachel Robey, Orli Shlachter, and Orion Staples each received $500 for the second-place research project, which used geostatistics, a branch of applied statistics, to find aquifers and other groundwater sources. "It's very rewarding to work so hard all year and win second place," Robey said. Shlachter added, "Gabe came up with the idea of aquifers; water's scarce where he lives." Montoya explained, "I live in Pojoaque and we have a single well on our property. It's really important to know about aquifers and how deep you can dig." Danny Katzman of ADEP Engineering & Technology, David Broxton of Computational Earth Science, and Ned Clayton, who works with Lab subcontractor Schlumberger, helped the team. "We met at Starbucks and Danny and David rolled out this giant thing of graphs," Staples said. Robey and Montoya took third place in last year's challenge for their project on energy efficiency through smart wall design.
The team also received the Best Technical Poster Award. Their poster will be used on the front cover for the 2009-10 final reports book, which will be published this fall during the kickoff for the 2010-11 Supercomputing Challenge. The team also received the Visualization Award from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The award comes with $150.
Flocking behavior garners LAHS third place
The third-place team consisted of students Peter Ahrens, Stephanie Djidjev, Vickie Wang, and Mei Lui. Their project explored techniques used to optimize the parameters of flocking, a phenomenon frequently exhibited by birds during migration, animals such as elephants who flock to protect smaller, weaker members, and in humans. They each receive $250. "We're very excited," Ahrens said. "We really didn't expect it." "I'm so happy, so glad," Lui added. Wang said: "It's been a great experience that really brought us closer together. I'm so honored; my thanks go to my team." Djidvev noted that the team had been working hard on the project since last fall.
The quartet of LAHS students also received the Best Internet Research Prize -- and a $500 cash award -- from the Council for Higher Education Computing/Communication Services. They also garnered the New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering award for best project with a majority of women team members and shared the Visualization Award with the second-place team from LAHS. The award comes with $150.
Students presented their research to a team of volunteer judges on Monday (April 26) at the Lab's J.Robert Oppenheimer Study Center and discussed poster displays of their computing projects. They also toured the Laboratory's supercomputing centers and heard talks and saw demonstrations by Laboratory researchers.
A total of $62,700 in individual scholarships -- $50,000 from the Lab's Computer, Computational, and Statistical Sciences Division -- also were awarded on Tuesday (April 27).
Read all the student reports here.
Sponsors and partners
The Supercomputing Challenge is sponsored by Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories and the state of New Mexico.
Educational partners include The Center for Connected Learning, CHECS, Eastern New Mexico University, High Plains Regional Cooperative, MIT StarLogo, New Mexico Computing Applications Center, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Northern New Mexico College, New Mexico Public Education Department, New Mexico State University, San Juan College, Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe Institute, and the University of New Mexico.
Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, The Math Works, Synergy Group, Vandyke Software Inc., and Wolfram Research, Inc. are "Gold" commercial partners. "Silver" commercial partners are Abba Technologies, Google RISE, Gulfstream Group and bigbyte.cc, Intel Corporation, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, One Connect IP, Technology Integration Group, and ZiaNet.
Bronze partners are Apogentech, Albuquerque Journal, BX Internet, Cray Inc., Lobo Internet Services, New Mexico Business Weekly, New Mexico Technology and Council, Redfish Group, Jim Stewart, and Strategic Analytics, are Sun Microsystems "Bronze" commercial partners.
Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory
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