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Virginia Team Wins Supercomputer Prize

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Copyright 1988 Editorial The four-student team from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology won a $1-million supercomputer last month, after defeating teams from 1,500 other high schools in a computer-programming contest.

The competition, entitled "SuperQuest--The High School Computer Challenge," was sponsored by ETA Systems Inc., a subsidiary of the Control Data Corporation.

The Minnesota-based company will install the computer, which is capable of performing as many as 375 million calculations a second, in the school's computer laboratory in October and operate the equipment free of charge for two years.

Students at Thomas Jefferson, a school for students with special aptitude in science and mathematics, and other Fairfax schools will be given priority access to the machine.

But according to the coach of the Jefferson team, other students in the region will benefit as well. "Our philosophy is to be a resource in the area," said Donald W. Hyatt.

Mr. Hyatt specifically mentioned Montgomery Blair High School, in nearby Silver Spring, Md., as likely to receive some computer time. Montgomery Blair's was one of three teams competing against Jefferson in the finals of the contest.

After the free-maintenance period expires, the school system may allow high-technology firms in the area to buy computer time, said Robert R. Spillane, superintendent of Fairfax schools. It costs about $100,000 a year to operate the computer.

Competition for computer time, which is valued at $2,000 an hour, will be stiff. One-quarter of Jefferson's 1,600 students enroll in an advanced-placement course in computers.

"They do begin to think in much greater scales than I can," said Mr. Hyatt, who directs the school's computer-systems lab. "Our students have no trouble developing applications."

ETA officials plan to make the competition an annual event. Beginning next year, it will also be open to schools from outside the United States.--pw

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