Students solve real-world challenges at Ohio Supercomputer Center's Summer Institute

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Jun 12, 2012) — 

Sixteen high school students from around Ohio will be attending the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s Summer Institute on June 17-29, 2012, at The Ohio State University. These students, selected from 69 applicants, will research and solve real-world challenges through exploring topics from investigating cyber-crime to designing autonomous robots.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) hosts the annual residential summer experience in an effort to support Ohio’s youth by providing opportunities to learn and excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Participants also gain a competitive advantage in their future academic and professional pursuits. 

Alan Chalker, a participant in the second Summer Institute (SI) in 1990 and now the Center’s director of client engineering, credits the program with opening his eyes to future opportunities.

This year’s Summer Institute projects include:

  • Obstacle Avoidance Roomba: Students will program an autonomous robot to be capable of avoiding randomly placed obstacles. 
  • Network Forensics: Students participating in this project will investigate simulated real-world cyber-attack incidents.
  • Image Processing: This team will find comets in sun observation images from the SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) spacecraft. 
  • Biomechanical Regulation of Cellular Signaling and Organization: This group will examine how cells signal to one another and form multi-cellular structures, specifically looking at the role of collagen.

“Summer Institute exposes some of Ohio’s best and brightest students to science fields and the whole concept of modeling and simulation using computational technology,” said Chalker, who also serves as director of the program.

Although the program is geared toward students with an interest in STEM fields, he stresses that SI is relevant for everyone, and is not just about computer programming. “Today everyone uses computers in their fields whether you’re a biologist, a linguist or an engineer,” Chalker said.

Group projects drive the SI student experience. Students investigate real-world issues under the direction of OSC staff, who conceive and design the projects. (See the sidebar for details.)

Students will present their findings at a final ceremony in front of an audience of scientists, OSC staff, key stakeholders and parents. In addition to their projects, students will tour research facilities, experience a taste of college life by staying in the dorms and work with a team to develop time-management and interpersonal skills.

Chalker cites the summer program as one of the ways OSC fulfills its mission to support economic development in the state. “Summer Institute exposes students to a variety of fields and, quite often, their future careers,” Chalker said. “Ohio needs a pipeline of researchers and professionals skilled in modeling and simulation; SI often provides the first stop in filling that workforce pipeline.”

The Center provides additional education programs for STEM careers through OSC’s Ralph Regula School of Computational Science. This year more than 50 K-12 students will participate in programs that include SI, Young Women’s Summer Institute for middle-school girls, and internships for Columbus Metro High School students.

The program receives support from the National Science Foundation Cyber Physical Systems Program grant to Ohio State on Autonomous Driving in Mixed-Traffic Urban Environments, and the NSF Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Program grant to the Department of Biomedical Engineering at OSU.

Since the program’s inception in 1989, hundreds of Ohio students have participated in SI’s unique learning opportunity. For more information on this year’s program, including video and project details, visit the SI website at or follow updates on Facebook at the “Summer Institute” page or search for #OhioSI2012 on Twitter.

Students selected for Summer Institute 2012 are:

Brennan Barrington, Reynoldsburg
May Chen, Dublin
Aidan Globus, Dublin
Tess Greene, Xenia
Daniel Hong, Dublin
Victor Liu, Dublin
Isaac Luther, Marysville
Divya Madhavan, Broadview Heights
Jared McCollum, Hilliard
Kanaad Parvate, Dublin
Ryan Rowe, Westlake
Pranav Shankar, Dublin
Arjun Venkataraman, Powell
Kevin Wu, New Albany
Kristina Zhang, Powell
Nick Zhao, Mason


The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), a member of the Ohio Technology Consortium of the Ohio Board of Regents, addresses the rising computational demands of academic and industrial research communities by providing a robust shared infrastructure and proven expertise in advanced modeling, simulation and analysis. OSC empowers scientists with the vital resources essential to make extraordinary discoveries and innovations, partners with businesses and industry to leverage computational science as a competitive force in the global knowledge economy, and leads efforts to equip the workforce with the key technology skills required to secure 21st century jobs. For more, visit