"In a two-month summer course on high-performance computing, promising undergrads compete to create innovative applications. This summer's winner developed a touchscreen Braille writer that stands to revolutionize how the blind negotiate an unseen world by replacing devices costing up to 10 times more.
ANDREW MYERS | OCT. 7, 2011 | STANFORD ENGINEERING
Each summer, under the red-tiled roofs and sandstone of Stanford, the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center (AHPCRC) invites a select group of undergraduates from across the country gather for a two-month immersion into the wonders of advanced computing.
Some of the undergraduates are gathered into teams. Some work alone. All are assigned mentors and tasked with a challenge. They compete, American Idol-style, for top honors at the end of the summer.
The competition is made possible in part by a collaboration between the U.S. Army and several university and industry partners that makes up the AHPCRC.
Adam Duran is one such undergraduate, a student both lucky and good. He is now in his senior year at New Mexico State University. Last June, he came to Stanford at the suggestion of one of his professors. His mentors were Adrian Lew, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Sohan Dharmaraja, a doctoral candidate at Stanford studying computational mathematics.
"Originally, our assignment was to create a character-recognition application that would use the camera on a mobile device – a phone or tablet – to transform pages of Braille into readable text," said Duran. "It was a cool challenge, but not exactly where we ended up...."