Two students from New Mexico’s Albuquerque Academy who designed computer software to investigate how cancer develops took first place in the 15th Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge for middle school and high school students April 26.

Karalyn Baca and Punit Shah each earned a $1,000 U.S. savings bond for their project, “A Computer Program for Tracking Cancer Development and Movement.” Their teacher, Jim Mims, received a computer monitor for his classroom.

Second place went to a team from New Mexico’s Silver High School. Adam Cummings, Cyrus Marcum, and David Saxton each won a $750 savings bond for “Statistical Modeling of the AIDS Virus.”

The event also awarded a total of $21,000 in scholarships.

The challenge, held at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is open to any high school or middle school student in the state. The yearlong event is aimed at increasing the knowledge of science and computing; exposing students and teachers to computers and applied mathematics; and giving the students, their families, and their communities an enthusiasm for science.

The program gives students “the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to run a program on a high-performance computer at Los Alamos,” said Joe Watts of Los Alamos’ actinide and fuel cycle technologies group, who was master of ceremonies for the awards presentation.

This year, 77 teams from 33 schools researched scientific problems, learned computer science with the help of mentors from the state’s national laboratories and other organizations, developed computer programs, and got a chance to run them on powerful supercomputers.

Some 120 students from 36 teams presented their research to volunteer judges and discussed poster displays of their projects. They also toured the lab’s supercomputing centers and heard talks and demonstrations by lab researchers.

The event is sponsored by the Los Alamos lab, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Programs, and the state Legislature, along with educational partners that include New Mexico universities and the state Public Education Department.

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