Thursday, April 19, 2007

Where are the students?

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A few local media fought the gusting wind and sideways rain Monday to interview Prince George’s County high school students working on Bowie State University’s heralded super computer.

When the media event began, press and politicians were left wondering where the students had gone. It turns out the class lets out at 5:30 – the same time the event was slated to begin – and the 20 county students left a little early.

‘‘They were tired, so they all went home,” said Shukoor Ahmed of Bowie, who was invited by Del. Gerron Levi (D-Dist. 23A) to scope out the students’ complex computer projects.

Levi, Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (Dist. 23) and William Ritter, the newly-appointed head of the county’s High School Consortium, were a few of the small crowd that followed university Professor Mark Matties through a tour of the BSU Xspeed Supercomputing Cluster, which was ranked in the top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world in 2005.

Matties said any Bowie State student can use the computer – but only by appointment and only for a good reason.

‘‘This is not to check your e-mail on,” Matties said. ‘‘We take appointments because we don’t want freshman coming in and spilling Coke all over it.”

Since February, county students from Eleanor Roosevelt, Duval and Bowie high schools have come to the campus to write computer programs. The after-school initiative, funded mostly through a NASA grant, also brings pupils from James Harrison and Gaywood elementary schools to the campus to create their own video games.