Ohio High School Students "Push the Envelope" as Computational Scientists at SI2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Jul 23, 2004) — 

Fifteen of Ohio’s brightest computational scientists just happen to be high school freshmen and sophomores. They worked with high performance computing applications such as parallel processing, networking, and computer engineering during the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s (OSC) Summer Institute (SI). This two-week program, held on July 12-23 and entitled “SI2004: Pushing the Envelope of Supercomputing,” offered talented high school students the rare opportunity to conduct research on supercomputers.

OSC’s Summer Institute began in 1988 for students interested in high performance computing and networking. “This was the best group of students to come through the program in its 16 years,” said Dave Ennis, SI2004 Program Director.

The challenging program gives students the unique opportunity to apply and develop their programming skills and to interact with others with the same passion for computing. Elaine Landwehr, SI Program Coordinator, added that students in the program also gain access to incredible supercomputers that few their age really get a chance to use.

The five SI2004 student groups presented their final projects at the SI closing ceremonies on July 23 in OSC’s BALE theater. With the assistance of SI team teachers, they developed computer simulations of epidemic viruses, star clusters, and electron scatter demonstrations.

Chester Chen, Kevin Lin ( Sycamore High School) and Norman Wang (William Mason High School) composed Team Epidemic, the first to present its project. Team Epidemic simulated the spread of an epidemic disease through a population. The team generated the effects of a “perfect virus” through parallel processing, the simultaneous use of multiple processors. Team Epidemic was the first of two teams this year to use parallel processing.

The work of Ernest Rutherford, an early physicist, inspired Steven Dee ( Garfield High School), Sean Lee ( Thomas Worthington High School), and James Wang ( Hoover High School). As Team Electron Scatter, its goal was to prove that nuclei exist in an atom. To do this, the team bombarded gold foil with alpha particles and observed how the particles scattered. The team used physics, quantum-based mechanics, and probability to create its simulations of electron movement through matter.

Team Fortran included Chris Breneman (Cincinnati Country Day), Dylan Petonke (W. Carrollton High School), and Kyle Wilson ( Dublin Coffman High School). Named for the programming language it used, Team Fortran simulated wave motion. To create its simulations, Team Fortran calculated wave amplitudes and studied the effects of obstacles, regardless of size, on a wave.

Chris Chang ( Centerville High School), Erich Kreutzer ( Upper Arlington High School), Daniel Litt ( Orange High School), and Amy Liu ( Hoover High School) composed Team Star Cluster, the second parallel processing group. Team Star Cluster simulated the evolution of an open star cluster, a group of stars of the same age and composition that remain in close proximity to one another. The group’s final project used complex algorithms to determine the mass, location, and velocity of each star.

The Electron Scatter Nucleus Team included Boyan Alexandrov ( Centennial High School), Zach Sjostrom ( Thomas Worthington High School), and Richard Testani ( Dublin Coffman High School). The Electron Scatter Nucleus Team created simulations of electron bombardment into various metallic foils, ultimately proving the existence of a nucleus in an atom. The Electron Scatter Nucleus Team observed and simulated electron scatter in cobalt, silver, and iridium.

Along with their presentations, students remarked on their SI experience. “The ability to work on such advanced supercomputers was absolutely amazing,” said Wang, a member of the Electron Scatter Team and a North Canton, Ohio resident.

Parents as well as students observed SI’s great opportunities.

“SI students have a lot of freedom to do whatever they want to do, to take their projects as far as they can,” said Maria Litt, mother of two-time SI participant Daniel Litt of Pepper Pike, Ohio.

Students also leave SI with more than successful projects and improved skills. Just as important, they leave with a sense of equality and a tight-knit community of friends.

“You can forget facts, but you won’t forget people,” Ennis said. Teachers, parents, and OSC staff would all agree with Ennis in saying that “they truly amazed all of us.”

About OSC
OSC is Ohio's high performance computing and networking center. The Center provides scientific computing, networking, educational outreach, and information technology resources to state and national high performance computing and networking groups. OSC empowers its academic, industrial, and government partners to make Ohio the education and technology state of the future. More information on OSC can be found at www.osc.edu.