Friday, May 1, 1998

A team from Las Cruces High School took first prize Thursday in the eighth annual New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge at the Laboratory. The winning project was a complex simulation of how nerve cells interact. Team members, from left to right, Dustin Byford, Sarah Gladden, Terry Shock and Jenny Shock chat with Ed Kinley from Eastern New Mexico University, one of the SuperComputing Challenge judges. The Las Cruces team each took home a $1,000 savings bond and their school received a loaded Gateway computer. Byford also took top individual. Photo by Fred Rick

Las Cruces High School nerve cell simulation takes top prize at Laboratory's Supercomputing Challenge

A complex simulation of how nerve cells interact gave a team of computer aces from Las Cruces High School first prize today in the eighth annual New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge at the Laboratory.

The Las Cruces team of Terry Shock, Jenny Shock, Dustin Byford and Sarah Gladden each took home a $1,000 savings bond and their school received a loaded Gateway computer. The Las Cruces team members, who took three other prizes this year, also will receive from Microsoft one copy each of Office97, Bookshelf98, Encarta Reference Suite 98 and FrontPage98. Their teacher, Terry Delzer, also sponsored the winning team in the 1992-93 Supercomputing Challenge.

Byford of the Las Cruces team also took top individual honors in the event, which drew more than 400 students from 46 New Mexico schools. New Mexico Technet Inc. awarded Byford the renewable Amy Boulanger Memorial scholarship, good for $2,500 a year for four years at any four-year New Mexico college or university. New Mexico Technet, which helped Los Alamos start the event in 1990, is a non-profit company that in 1985 set up a computer network to link the state's national laboratories, universities, state government and private companies.

The second place team members, each of whom won a $500 savings bond, were Justin Brickell, Jared Thormahlen, Kevin Grimes and Matthew Marple from Albuquerque Academy. The Academy team devised a program that broke down into prime factors the complex numbers known as Gaussian integers. The Academy also received a computer for the efforts by the team members and teacher James Mims and project advisor Toby Meek.

Other scholarship winners in addition to Byford were Eric Johnson of Del Norte High School, who received the $2,500 Intel scholarship; Jared Thormahlen of Albuquerque Academy, who won a a one-year scholarship to the University of New Mexico; and Isaac Montoya of Cuba High School, who received a one-year full-tuition scholarship to New Mexico State University.

Brad Lounsburg, left, of Emergency Management and Response (S-8) talks with students visiting the Laboratory Thursday for the Supercomputing Challenge. He showed students some of the equipment used by the Lab's hazardous devices team. Photo by Fred Rick

Four other teams received honorable mention awards and high-speed modems for their schools. Those winners were a second Albuquerque Academy team, made up of Alex Feuchter, Michael Teague, Kevin Oishi and Thomas Widland, for their study of how artificial intelligence evolves in the computer game Tron; the Aztec High School team of Aaron Hare, Allen Elmore and Tiffany Carpenter, for their mathematical approach to encryption of texts; Del Norte High School students Juan Bagnell and Bahram Razani, for their simulation of how cosmic ray intensity affects electronics; and Liangfei Wang from Portales High School, who simulated planetary dynamics.

The Judges' Special Award was given to Jaidev Contractor of Highland High School for "his perseverance seeing his project though many obstacles," the judges wrote. Contractor created a model of contaminant transport through the Albuquerque aquifer.

All the winners used the Lab's new Silicon Graphics Inc./Cray Research Origin 2000 supercomputer, nicknamed Blue Mountain. When installation is completed, the supercomputer will provide computing power of more than 3 trillion operations per second.

The teams received their awards during an afternoon ceremony at Los Alamos High School, after touring the Los Alamos supercomputing facilities that they used during the year-long Challenge. Warren F. "Pete" Miller, the Laboratory's acting deputy director for science and technology programs, welcomed the students and teachers. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., provided a video message of congratulations.

The Challenge seeks 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 through 12 is eligible. More than 4,000 New Mexico students have taken part in the Challenge since it began and the event has influenced many students' career decisions and life directions. Several former Challenge participants now work at the Lab, said Charlie Slocomb, director of the Computing, Information and Communications (CIC) Division.

Other winners recognized at Thursday's ceremony included:

Los Alamos National Laboratory Environmental Modeling Award: For the fifth time in the last six years, a team from Española Valley High School took home this award. The winners were Monica Salazar, Carolina Salazar and Marquita Romero. Their project examined molecular lattice compounds known as clathrates found beneath ocean sediment.

Albuquerque Tribune Lighthouse Award, for the best overall presentation before the judges: Earl Camp, Elizabeth Hoodless, Shawn Camp, Camille Velarde and Janine Morales from Cuba High School were honored for their study on "The Tragedy of the Cuba Water System."

Multi-Media Award from KRQE-Channel 13, best graphics for television use: The winning Las Cruces team of Shock, Shock, Byford and Gladden also won this award.

SGI/Cray High Performance Computing Award: This award is given to the team that shows the best use of high performance computers. It was awarded to the same Las Cruces team.

HTML Award: The Las Cruces team also won this for putting together the best Hypertext Markup Language version of a final report. The report is available on the World Wide Web as team 070 at

Cisco Systems Connectivity Award: This award of a network router to enhance a school's connectivity to the Internet went to the Aztec High School team of Hare, Elmore and Carpenter.

Regional Hot Shots: Teams from Clovis High, Las Cruces High, Calvary Christian in Los Alamos, Los Alamos High, Del Norte High, Gallup High and Ruidoso High were honored.

Search and Browse Award: Cuba High School students Celeste Toledo, Alveta Trujillo, Thomas Severinghaus, Alex Ortega and Travis Chavez won this award for having to dig the most to obtain information about their project on the effects of different learning styles on people.

Best Written Report: The Society of Technical Communicators chose the Del Norte High School team of Juan Bagnell and Bahram Razani for the best written report.

Sandia National Laboratories Creativity and Innovation Award: The team of Justin Brickell, Jared Thormahlen, Kevin Grimes and Matthew Marple from Albuquerque Academy were judged to have the most creative project and innovative solution.

Microsoft PowerPoint Award: Pecos High School's team of Eliza Archuleta and Susan Yara captured the award for the best use of Microsoft Corp.'s PowerPoint software for their study of how collisions of elastic particles affect the dispersion of pollutants in water.

Five-Year Teacher Recognition: Though some teachers have participated all eight years, Peter Conrad from Kirtland Central High School, Brenda Smith from Springer High School and Janelle Zamie from Clovis High School were honored for their participation over the past five years.

Technet Teamwork Award: Sandia Preparatory School students Kim Robinson, Trent Toulouse, Dylan Spaulding, Joey Alexanian and Brandon Cohen received this award for working well together for two years.

Posters: Students chose the graphical poster drawn by the team from Kirtland Central High School for the sixth straight year to serve as the logo for the 1998-99 Challenge. Students also chose the best technical poster, by Sandia Prep's team of Robinson, Toulouse, Spaulding, Alexanian and Cohen, as the cover of the finalist papers for distribution to all New Mexico high school libraries.

In addition, the Supercomputing Challenge sponsors awarded plaques as a special recognition to the 29 judges from all over New Mexico who participated during the year. Microsoft provided each judge with a copy of FrontPage98.

The New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge is unique among similar competitions because it offers supercomputer access to students at every level of expertise and stresses student activity over work by teachers and coaches.

The Supercomputing Challenge was conceived in 1990 by former Laboratory Director Sig Hecker and Tom Thornhill, president of New Mexico Technet Inc., a nonprofit 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., added their support.

The Supercomputing Challenge is sponsored by 14 businesses, educational institutions and national laboratories. Twenty-four other businesses and educational institutions participate as contributors.

In addition to the Laboratory, sponsors are: New Mexico Technet Inc.; Phillips Laboratory; Sandia National Laboratories; University of New Mexico; New Mexico State University; New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; Albuquerque Tribune; Silicon Graphics Inc.; CHECS Inc.; Intel Corp.; GATEWAY 2000; Microsoft Corp.; and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Contributors are: Anixter Inc.; Aquila Technologies; Avnet; Belew's Office Supply Inc.; CISCO Systems Inc.; Eastern New Mexico University; Four Corners Technology; General Office Supply; HA-LO Enterprises; Kenneth Ingham Consulting; Klein Enterprises; KRQE-TV, Channel 13; Network New Mexico; New Mexico Academic & Research Libraries; New Mexico Highlands University; New Mexico Junior College; New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped; New Mexico State Department of Education; San Juan College; Santa Fe Community College; Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC); University of New Mexico -- Gallup; and University of New Mexico, Los Alamos.

--Jim Danneskiold

Left to right, Carolina Salazar, Marquita Romero and Monica Salazar of Española Valley High School take a break during Supercomputing Challenge activities to talk with Mike Topliff of New Mexico Technet. The team, whose project examined molecular lattice compounds known as clathrates found beneath ocean sediment, won the competition's Los Alamos National Laboratory Environmental Modeling Award. This is the fifth straight year a team from Española Valley High School has received this honor. Photo by Fred Rick

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