Learning about supercomputers and computer programming is something most people wait to learn in college, but not 17-year-old Clark Barrett. Computers are his hobby and his future.
Barrett recently returned from one of the nation's leading supercomputer centers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's High School Supercomputer Honors program.He joined 57 other high school honor students for two weeks at the laboratory's National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center, about 40 miles from San Francisco.
"We learned about supercomputers and how they are used in science and technology," Barrett said. "They let us use them to do different projects that relate to science. I liked it."
Barrett, a recent graduate of the Waterford School in Provo, was one of 53 U.S. students - one from each state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and American Samoa - to attend. Students from Canada, Japan, West Germany, Great Britain and Italy also participated.
According to program officials, the event brought together the world's brightest and best students with an array of supercomputers.
"There were a lot of smart people there, but I kept up with them," Barrett said. "I was able to do all the projects they gave us."
The supercomputer program is one of seven honors programs operated this year by the Department of Energy. The students were selected on the basis of their scholastic aptitude and mathematical and computational skills.
At the Livermore center, the students received personalized instruction in scientific supercomputing and worked on advanced programming projects. Supercomputers are used in scientific applications requiring rapid, complex calculations.
Science and math has always been an interest for Barrett. His parents, Wayne and Thaylene Barrett, are both math teachers.
Attending Waterford School - where computers are used in teaching - added fuel to the fire.
"I would go in after school to use them more and learn about programming," he said. "I sat through summer sessions at BYU to learn programming."
Barrett, a National Merit Scholar, will attend Brigham Young University as a Benson scholar this fall. He plans to major in computer science and math and eventually go on to graduate school.
He was accepted at MIT, Stanford and Caltech but chose BYU because of his scholarship and because of the undergraduate focus at the school.
Besides computers, Barrett enjoys music, plays soccer, basketball and volleyball.