Friday, May 2, 1997

Highland, Española Valley High win top honors in seventh Los Alamos Supercomputing Challenge

Two sisters from Highland High School in Albuquerque designed a computer program that reveals strain on automobile wheels to capture first place in the Laboratory's New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge.

Second place in the year-long contest went to a trio from Española Valley High who made an environmental computer model of the Mediterranean Sea to learn whether global warming could be reduced by dissolving the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the sea.

And Samuel Morales of Silver High School was named the competition's outstanding individual programmer and received the four-year Amy Beth Boulanger Scholarship, good for $2,500 a year at any four-year New Mexico college or university.

First-place winners were Nguyen Van Anh and Nguyen Anh Thu from Highland High. The sisters, who were advised by Donald Downs and Gale Borkenhagen, finished second last year with a computer program that demonstrated how such mechanisms as light absorption and temperature changes during morphogenesis determine the colors of flower petals.

This year, the pair used a method known as Delaunay triangulation to enclose the wheel, add boundary points and continually form new triangles that create a mesh of points that completely describe the wheel. This two-dimensional mesh then is the basis for calculating which regions of the wheel show the greatest strain. Both sisters received $1,000 savings bonds.

Three Española Valley High scholars, Monica Salazar, J. Ruben Pacheco and Danielle Sanchez, reasoned that the greenhouse effect could be reduced if European industrial cities pumped carbon dioxide emissions from factories and other sources into the Mediterranean Sea, which could transport them into the Altantic Ocean where the gases would be stored and eventually dissolved.

The three-dimensional model developed by the EVHS team, which was counseled by teacher Peter Conrad and advisers Philip Jones, Mathew Maltrud and Nely Padial, showed seven points for inserting the gas into the sea at two different depths. The model simulated pumping a quantity of gas roughly equal to that emitted by industry in four major industrial cities and ran long enough to show accurate results. All three EVHS students received $500 savings bonds.

The winning teams earned Gateway 2000 MMX computers loaded with software for their schools, plus a Liebert universal power source donated by Klein Enterprises.

Nearly 500 students from 50 schools throughout New Mexico participated in the 1997 Supercomputing Challenge, the seventh sponsored by the Laboratory. They spent the last year researching scientific problems and writing programs to analyze them on supercomputers at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

The goal of the year-long event is to increase knowledge of science and computing, expose students and teachers to computers and applied mathematics, and instill enthusiasm for science in high school students, their families and communities. Any New Mexico high school student in grades 9-12 is eligible to enter the Challenge.

Besides Highland, Española Valley and Morales, winners at the 1997 Challenge included the following students and high school teams:

Unlike other computing competitions, the New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge is unique because it offers supercomputer access to students at every level of expertise and stresses student activity over work by teachers and coaches. Nearly 4,000 students have taken part in the Supercomputing Challenge.

The Supercomputing Challenge was conceived in 1990 by Los Alamos Director Sig Hecker and Tom Thornhill, president of New Mexico Technet Inc., a non-profit company that in 1985 set up a computer network to link the state's national laboratories, universities, state government and some private companies. U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and John Rollwagen, then chairman and chief executive officer of Cray Research Inc., then added their support.

Challenge coordinators are David Kratzer and Gina Weber of Los Alamos' Computing, Information and Communications Division.

In addition to Los Alamos and Technet, businesses and organizations sponsoring this year's Supercomputing Challenge are Phillips Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Eastern New Mexico University, the Albuquerque Tribune, Silicon Graphics Inc., Council of Higher Education Computing Services Inc., Intel Corp., CISCO Systems Inc. and Gateway 2000.

Contributing businesses and agencies include Anixter Inc., Aquila Technologies, Belew's Office Supply Inc., Digital Equipment Corporation, Four Corners Technology, General Office Supply, HA-LO Enterprises, Kenneth Ingham Consulting, Klein Enterprises, KRQE-TV, New Mexico State General Services, Human Services and Education Departments, Roadrunner Computer Systems, Very Long Baseline Array and White Sands Missile Range.

Contributing schools include New Mexico Academic and Research Libraries, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico Junior College, New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, New Mexico State University at Grants, San Juan College, Santa Fe Community College, University of New Mexico-Gallup and University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

--Jim Danneskiold

Española Valley High School students Ruben Pacheco, left, Monica Salazar and Danielle Sanchez, used photos to explain their computer program on global warming to John Jenkins, executive director of the Supercomputing Challenge and a challenge judge Thursday at the Study Center.

The students' project was named second place in the year-long contest. The students reasoned that the greenhouse effect could be reduced if European industrial cities pumped carbon dioxide emissions from factories and other sources into the Mediterranean Sea, which could transport them into the Atlantic Ocean, where the gases would be stored and eventually dissolved. Photo by Fred Rick