Los Lunas winners - Albuquerque Journal

Los Lunas winners


Jen Marie Phifer and Forest Good hold their first-place plaques in the annual, statewide Los Alamos Supercomputing Challenge. (Deborah Fox/News-Bulletin)

LOS LUNAS – Two students from Los Lunas High School received the top honor in the yearlong Los Alamos 28th annual Supercomputing Challenge that concluded last month.

Senior Jen Marie Phifer and sophomore Forest Good took first place after competing against 60 teams representing 26 schools from around the state.

Their project, “What’s Missing?” looks at a way to create a systematized method for finding missing pieces of data. The project has implications for the fields of accounting, logistics and cybersecurity.bright spot

The two became a team because Phifer was interested in cybersecurity and Good was interested in math. Their project was inspired by the card game, Set, which asks players to find one missing card that is taken out at the beginning of the game. In their case, it was two missing cards. Groups of cards are similarly themed, so it’s a process of figuring out which ones make sense together.

“We managed to program that into a computer to play an actual game,” Phifer said.

“Through playing the game and looking only at cards that are left and can’t make any sense, then we can figure out exactly what that one card is or what those two cards are,” Good said.

The competition took place at Los Alamos National Labs where the students were given a tour.

Phifer said it was “pretty cool, and literally cool because the rooms were kept at a fairly cool temperature for the servers’ climate control,” she said.

“They took us through a tour of all their server rooms and supercomputing stations, and taught us how real supercomputers function,” Good said. “We weren’t allowed to bring any of our phones or anything into those rooms – they were real secure.”

The sophomore hasn’t narrowed down his career interest yet, but Good said “anything to do with science, physics or mathematics.”

Phifer plans a career in computer science. She plans to attend New Mexico Tech next fall.

The actual competition was a yearlong, after-school commitment. The students started working on their project last year, then wrote a report on their results and what they did.

The first place prize was a $1,000 check for each, plus $100 in cash. Because Phifer is a senior, she also received a $1,200 scholarship to New Mexico Tech.

The Challenge is open to any middle-school or high-school student.

LLHS students win Supercomputing Challenge

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