Cornell Theory Center
Ithaca, NY 14853-3801 USA
v: (607) 254-8641
f: (607) 254-8888
Education, K12; Education, continuing or distance; Research, academic
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Technology transfer
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
The SuperQuest program was created in 1987 by ETA, a subsidiary of Control Data Corporation, to encourage computational scientific endeavors at the high school level. In 1988, four finalist teams were selected, and the overall winning school was awarded a supercomputer of its own. In the fall of 1988, ETA announced the second year of SuperQuest and began receiving applications, but when the organization dissolved in April 1989, participating high schools were notified that the program was cancelled. However, the Cornell Theory Center, with considerable experience in education and training programs, acted promptly in designing and implementing a program that met goals of the original SuperQuest program. With funding from NSF and IBM Corporation, the Center conducted a modified program for the original 1989 participants. The program has continued annually since then.
Bringing Supercomputers to High School Classrooms
To most high school students, problem solving is usually limited to mathematics class and not necessarily to science courses.. However, to high school students who have won the computational science contest called SuperQuest, problem solving and scientific investigations involve algorithms, parallel processing, and visualization techniques using supercomputers. No, these aren’t students at high- tech high schools. They’re students at public and private schools nationwide who won network access to remote supercomputers for their schools.
The winners entered the competition by submitting original research proposals detailing a project toward which they would like to apply computational techniques. High schools represented by these winners received a permanent donation of high-performance workstations and Internet access to supercomputers for one year.
Using the Internet, winning team members interact with key scientific researchers and use supercomputing resources and computational methods such as matrix techniques, differential equations, vectorization, parallel processing to work on their projects. The same resources available to today’s top scientists are available to the winners’ high schools. At the Cornell Theory Center, one of the supercomputer centers to which the high schools are connected, those resources include, but are not limited to: the IBM POWERparallel 9076 SP1 parallel computer, a single IBM ES/9000-900 supercomputer, the new KSR1 parallel computer, the POWER Visualization System (PVS), and a cluster of scalable RS/6000s.
The usefulness of high-performance computing to solve science problems is incomprehensible to many people, let alone the thought that the research could be carried out with the scientist at one location and the computer more than 1,000 miles away. Yet, these high `school students develop creative applications for supercomputers to address interesting questions, and use the network to access the supercomputing resources they need. One of the winning students has remarked that “This was the first time I’ve had access to a real supercomputer which enables me to solve problems. It’s a great learning opportunity.”
A team from Albuquerque, NM, uses the supercomputers to test the aerodynamics of a bicycle using a computer program that simulates a wind tunnel in order to approximate the drag force of a bicycle frame. The team from Waco, TX, has designed a program to graph a marching band’s movements to music by using different variables for each member. Students from Charlotte, NC, use an equation of continuity and a wind profile equation to calculate M1’s’ pressures and stresses on high rise buildings given varying wind conditions. A team from the Bronx, NY, attempts to solve partial differential equations using probability methods and apply the results to heat transfer problems, such as how the temperature of a pipe affects the temperature of water flowing through it.
“Our economic future will be influenced to a profound degree by the twin technologies of high-performance computing and high-bandwidth communications,” said Malvin H. Kalos, Director of the Cornell Theory Center. “It is essential that today’s students absorb deeply the possibilities of these technologies.” It is the Internet that is bringing these possibilities to students and teachers. It is the Internet that serves as catalyst for high school students’ creative problem solving and for innovative curriculum development.