UB to Hold First High School Workshop in Virtual Reality and Visualization

Release Date: June 27, 2001 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A dozen of the area's best and brightest high school students are getting the chance to let loose their imaginations this summer with an intensive workshop in scientific visualization and virtual reality cosponsored by the New York State Center for Engineering Design and Industrial Innovation (NYSCEDII) and the Center for Computational Research (CCR), both at the University at Buffalo.

Beginning June 25, the free, two-week workshop will offer an introduction to the cutting-edge technologies available at UB's centers. The workshop, which for two years has spotlighted computational chemistry and the CCR, one of the world's leading academic supercomputing sites, turns its attention this year to newcomer NYSCEDII for its expertise in visualization and virtual reality.

Not only will students be exposed to the integration of visualization and virtual reality in business and research, they also will develop and create a final project, said Eliot Winer, associate director of NYSCEDII and facilitator of this year's workshop.

"We'll introduce them to some technology, and show them how to program things, and then we'll steer them toward a project," Winer said, noting that the 9-to-5 days will be split between instruction and hands-on activity, with greater emphasis on the latter. "The ideas really come from them. It can be anything they want to do."

The students -- predominantly high school sophomores and juniors who excel in mathematics and science -- come motivated and ready to work.

"These are kids who really want to learn about high-performance computing and high-end visualization," said Russ Miller, director of CCR, noting that they receive no high school or college credit for the workshop. Accepted applicants, it seems, all have one thing in common -- ambition. Case in point: One student coming to the workshop this summer operates his own Web company.

"We're looking for the best and brightest students in Western New York," Miller noted. Whether inspiring interest in math, science, engineering or computing at UB, or elsewhere, Miller said "a high-end program for local high school students is just the right thing to do for a university with these state-of-the-art capabilities."

Kevin Chugh, a research associate with NYSCEDII who has in large part coordinated programming for this summer's session, said the workshop is a unique service to the community, given the short list of institutions in the U.S. that pack such a powerful one-two punch of high-end computing and visualization technology.

"(UB) is one of only a handful that has this kind of facility, expertise, staff and faculty that are doing this," he said.

In recognition of its service to the community, Praxair Inc., a frequent partner with CCR and NYSCEDII on numerous projects, has awarded CCR a $4,000 grant to support the program this year and next. Praxair is a global supplier of industrial gases with local operations in Tonawanda.

UB has been fortunate to welcome back some of the participants from previous workshops as university students. And those who have gone onto other institutions often come back during their summers to work at CCR, Miller said.

Yan Shtarker, a computer engineering major entering his third year at UB, already was planning to attend UB when he was accepted into the workshop as a senior at Williamsville East High School.

In his freshman year, Shtarker continued his relationship with CCR as a work-study student, and, as a research assistant his second year, was granted a fellowship to study supercomputing through the Department of Energy at the Oak Ridge Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Other students from the first workshop have returned -- now as UB students -- to teach the introductory material to newcomers.

"We're holding up our own, and training our own," Winer said. "When they leave here, they're going to have a set of skills they continue to use. It's immensely rewarding, even to us, to see what these kids can do in two weeks."

Workshop faculty and staff volunteer their teaching time.

"It is critical that high-end technology reaches the scientists of tomorrow while they are still impressionable," Miller said. Education is part of the joint mission of CCR, established in January 1999, and NYSCEDII, up and running since October 2000.

"As much as scientists and engineers who work in these areas love to talk about bits and bytes, it is great to see how much they enjoy working to bring state-of-the-art technology to these young minds -- because they are the future."

The students participating in the workshop are:

o Brian Goldstein of East Amherst, sophomore at Williamsville North High School

o David Grabau of North Tonawanda, senior at Christian Central Academy

o Landon Jurgens of Batavia, student at Monroe Community College

o Samuel Lojacono of East Amherst, senior at Canisius High School

o Justin Schaber of Grand Island, senior at Canisius High School

o Jake Gadikian of Hamburg, senior at Canisius High School

o Joe Salazarof Orchard Park, senior at Orchard Park High School

o Brad Schwagler, 2001 graduate of Orchard Park High School, who will be attending UB

o Josh Julian of Williamsville, junior at Amherst Central High School

o Chris Bowley of East Amherst, senior at Williamsville East High School

o Phillip Cleague of Buffalo, sophomore at City Honors High School

o Joseph Bauser of Williamsville, senior at Williamsville South High School

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