Supercomputer camp a great experience for trio


Three high school students were selected recently to participate in the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s Summer Institute program.

Shivatej Dubbaka, Elizabeth Halter and Divyadita Shrivastava were selected, along with 17 other students from around Ohio, to participate in the June 14-26 camp at the Ohio Supercomputer Center at 1224 Kinnear Road in Columbus.

“I was really interested in applying,” Dubbaka said. “I knew it was a really competitive camp to get into, so I was actually really excited because this is something that I feel like I’m interested in.”

Halter learned about the program from her older sister, Sophie, who participated in the program twice.

“She told me that I absolutely had to come,” Halter said. “I was really, really excited (to get accepted). I was probably more excited than I should have been because I did not think I was going in when I applied. I got the email during school and I started squealing during class and people started looking at me and I was like: ‘It’s fine, it’s fine. I got into this camp. I didn’t think I was going to get in, but I got in.’”

The program gives students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to do research on real-world issues using supercomputers.

The Summer Institute also provides a glimpse of college life. Students stay together in dorms under adult supervision and get a taste of what it’s like to be a college student.

“We (brought) in 20 kids this year for two weeks and they get a chance to experience a little bit about college – they’re staying in dorms,” said Brian Guilfoos, Summer Institute director and manager of high-performance computing client services for the Ohio Supercomputer Center. “So, they get exposed a little bit to dorm life and they get exposed to some of the facilities on campus in the evenings.”

“In the evenings, we get to hang out and I get to know the other campers,” Halter said. “We go eat on campus and we kind of explore and get a feel for what it’s like to be at OSU.”

Students also get to tour some of the research labs on the Ohio State campus. For example, some of the students sat in on a discussion between grad students and professors in the astronomy department at Ohio State on Tuesday.

“During the day, we have tours of some of the research labs on campus,” Guilfoos continued. “(On Tuesday), some of the students went over to the astronomy department to see the planetarium there, attend what is called astro-coffee, which is a (time) when all of the grad students and professors sit down to discuss research developments. The kids got to sit in and join that conversation.”

The 20 students were divided into five project groups, which focused on lab-on-a-chip nanofluidics, image processing, cancer cell migration, network design and engineering, and the physics of addicting video games.

“They break into teams of four to work on a specific research project,” Guilfoos said. “Usually led by faculty and graduate students at OSU to kind of explore the science and give them exposure to the sciences being done in computational sciences.”

Dubbaka, a sophomore at Olentangy Liberty High School, worked with the group focused on image processing.

“I’m really interested in computer science,” he said. “I’m in the comets project. I can say that this is one of the projects that uses programming a lot. So, it’s not only taught me how to use various programming languages, but it’s helped me get better in general in all programming languages.”

Halter, a senior at Olentangy High School, worked with the network design and engineering group.

“I want to go into systems engineering,” she said. “I have a passion for math and mathematical modeling and I did a science fair project with systems engineering and fell in love with it. I’m in the networking group here and that’s all we get to do. Some of it is over my head, but I’m willing to learn and I have an instructor here that’s willing to teach me. So, it’s been really fun and I’ve been able to come here and be in a group that fits my passion.”

She said that she’s interested in applying to Ohio State, Purdue, Northwestern, Georgia Tech and Cornell to continue her education.

Shrivastava, also a senior at Olentangy High School, worked with the nanofluidics group.

“The one that I’m working on is specifically about nanofluids,” he said. “What we’re doing is we’re trying to simulate how nanoparticles will behave in a really small slate of glass.”

Shrivastava provided an impressive description of the project that his group is working on at the Summer Institute.

“This may seem to not make sense at all, but what scientists right now are currently trying to do is take all the materials that you find in a regular lab – when you’re running blood tests, pathologies and all of that stuff — and be able to put it on a chip,” he described. “Let’s say that you were trying to get diagnosed with heart disease – obviously really extravagant goals. Instead of going to a lab, ideally you have a device that you can hold in your hand that takes a small sample of your blood and is able to diagnose you with a hundred percent accuracy.

“We are working on a very small part of that, which involves making sure that objects can flow through different channels on the chip and that’s why we’re working with nanofluids – there’s a lot of different forces at play when objects are that small.”

He said that he will be applying to Ohio State, but that MIT “has always been a dream.” But with the description that he provided about the nanofluidics project, that dream could be a reality.

Shrivastava missed the application deadline last year, something that he didn’t want to happen again.

“My friends took part in the program last year and by the time I heard about it, it was already summer and it was too late to apply,” he said. “I told myself, ‘I’ll definitely have to apply next year,’ because it sounded so cool.”

Students presented their projects to parents and family members as well as scientists, staff members and Summer Institute alums at the end of the two-week camp.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center is a member of the Ohio Board of Regents Ohio Technology Consortium. It has hosted the Summer Institute since 1990.

For more information on the Ohio Supercomputer Center, visit www.osc.edu.

For more information on the Summer Institute, including photos of the participating students, visit www.osc.edu/si.