Announcer: Just east of I-19 between Tucson and Nogales lies the town of Tubac. It was once the Spanish presidio, Europe's first settle men. It was a quiet outpost, the home of Charles Poston, the father of Arizona, even produced Arizona's first newspaper. Tubac has been abandoned and 12 come back to life so many times it's been called the city with nine lives. In the 1950's it seemed once again to be slipping into obscurity. Yet today it's the home of Arizona's first state park and a thriving artists' community.
Ted Simons: The 6th annual Arizona science and engineering fair awards were handed out to students in grades 5 through 12. The event held by the Arizona science and technology council. Grand award winners and their teachers advance to the Intel international science fair in Pittsburgh. Here to talk about the awards is Steve Zylstra, the CEO of the Arizona technology council and also one of the award winners, from Hamilton high school in Chandler, Varun Ramesh. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. Steve, as far as the guidelines for this particular contest, what's going on?
Steve Zylstra: So what happens is that students participate in their schools and ultimately in regionals. It's a competition, like dancing with the stars, right? They learn the scientific method, the experimental method, this competition gives them an opportunity to showcase their work, their research, and to compete with other kids for scholarships.
Ted Simons: What are the guidelines for this particular contest?
Steve Zylstra Well, there are all different categories. There's math and I.T. and bioscience and so on. So the students have to follow a very prescribed method using hypothesis and the traditional experimental method, which is laid out for them, then showcase their experiments and their output in a specific way.
Ted Simons: And this is supposed to also develop not just research for research's sake, it can really make an impact, correct?
Steve Zylstra: That is the case. Over the years both in the U.S. and around the world many students have developed real world solutions to real world problems.
Ted Simons: Varun, I want to find out what you did to win the award. From what I understand you developed a novel algorithm for real time terrain rendering using geometry city maps. What did I just say?
Varun Ramesh: So the kind of basis of my project was you have probably seen terrain in animated movies and computer simulations, graphic applications, but the purpose was to see what optimizations, what changes can you make to the procedures that actually handle this in the of the computer, what changes can you make to make terrain larger, more detailed and render them faster in real time.
Ted Simons: Is this something you've thought about for a while? How do you go about being interested in something like this?
Varun Ramesh: Well, I have been programming for an extremely long time, almost since fifth grade. One of the topics that has really, really interested me is human computer interaction and computer graphics. One deals with how do you interface with the computer. The other is how does the computer give information back to you. All computer graphics, it's almost in almost every field, terrain is a vital component in almost any scene that takes place outdoors. That's one of the reasons I gravitated toward that because it has so many commercial and research applications.
Ted Simons: From a layman's term and quite a distance hear, what I'm hearing cooler, quicker background for games and for videos and for any computer generated graphic?
Varun Ramesh: Yes, essentially landscapes in general, things that grow trees, grow grass, mountains, plains.
Ted Simons: How long did you work on this?
Varun Ramesh: Well, I have been working on this almost a year, since I got back from ISEP last year, pretty much the entire time. Over time it slowly developed. It didn't start out as complex as it wasand I didn't dive in right away, I first started with the very basics. Over time it slowly built up on itself.
Ted Simons: What was that you came back from?
Varun Ramesh: International science fair. It's the science fair that I'm returning to this year.
Ted Simons: That's in Pittsburgh. I understand Phoenix will host that, what, next year?
Steve Zylstra: In 2013 and actually in 2016 and 2019. There will be 15 to 1600 of the smartest Kentucky in the world here in Phoenix. It gives us an opportunity to showcase this region, showcasing some of the coolest stuff just like you heard Verun describe.
Ted Simons: We heard him describe it, it's tollent -- talented. He can develop these sorts of things. As far as what the technology council is doing, what do you want to see as a goal? This is obviously a success story. Are we seeing more of those success stories?
Steve Zylstra: We are. Science, technology, engineering and math is something we focus on. The future work force for technology comes from those disciplines. Things like the science and engineering fair are critical to motivating and exciting kids to pursue educational paths and career paths in the stem related fields. One of the major reasons we're supporting this and involved in it is to build the future work force.
Ted Simons: Are you seeing participation increase over the years?
Steve Zylstra: We are. We had over 600 projects and over 700 students this year participate, and not only that, the quality of their projects continues to increase as well.
Ted Simons: So where do you take this? You're in high school now. Where are we going to see you next?
Verun Ramesh: I guess after I go to college, one of the things I want to do is do actual research in the field of engineering and computer graphics and human-computer interaction. Maybe pursue more avenues of my other projects. I really want to sort of be in the forefront of the field where computer graphics is advancing. Right now so many new devices, ipods, iphones, it's really interesting because it affects almost everybody today.
Ted Simons: Well, good luck. Congratulations as well. Good luck in Pittsburgh on national event, international, whatever. Good to see you again. Congratulations as well on a job well done. Thank you so much.
Steve Zylstra: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," what Arizona town hall has to say about getting folks more involved in their communities, and we'll look at how nonprofits are reinventing themselves to address declining resources and growing needs. That's Thursday, 5:30 and 10:00, here on 8-HD. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.