National Nuclear Security Administration

Supercomputers and New Mexico students collide in NNSA-sponsored challenge

May 11, 2016

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World-class science, technology, and engineering enables NNSA’s missions. It’s no surprise, then, that our labs and sites support STEM education initiatives ranging from preschool programs to graduate fellowships. Most recently, shining stars of New Mexico schools joined the more than 10,000 students who have gone head-to-head in the long-term problem-solving competition at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge.

“The goal of this yearlong event is to teach student teams how to use powerful computers to analyze, model, and solve real-world problems,” said David Kratzer, executive director of the Supercomputing Challenge. Kratzer works in LANL’s High Performance Computer Environments group.

This year’s first-place-winning project was “Solving the Rubik’s Cube 2.0,” created by a group of students from the local Aspen Elementary and Los Alamos Middle schools. They simulated a Rubik’s Cube in three dimensions, and implemented a cube-solving algorithm. Other projects featured artificial intelligence, game play, climate change, biology, and genetic studies.

The New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge was started at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and takes advantage of the unique technologic capabilities enabled by the laboratory’s role in the nuclear security enterprise. The program promotes critical thinking and learning through projects in science and engineering. Its aim is to better prepare the next generation of high school graduates for today’s information-based economy. This year the program handed out more than $13,000 in scholarships, along with other prizes and awards, to Challenge participants. 

Learn more about NNSA’s STEM initiatives, and see all this year’s student projects on the Challenge website, along with a map of participating New Mexico schools.