Gifted grade-school kids zip past their elders

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By Roger Snodgrass

A story that emerged from the New Mexico Supercomputer Challenge in Los Alamos sent out a definite message to other students in the state.

A team of fifth-graders from Aspen Elementary entered the statewide competition as long shots against hundreds of high-school and middle-school opponents from all over the state.

To their thrill and surprise, they won two prizes against a bunch of older students. One was an award for Best HTML. The other was for Forensics and Encryption.

Now, they are each $50 dollars richer and walking on air.

Dhaivat Pandya, Colin Redman, Matthew Ticknor, are Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students.

According to their sponsoring teacher, Zeynap Unal, they started with the advantages of their basic strength in math and computers.

“They grasped the concept quickly,” she said, particularly the importance of teamwork and collaboration, dividing up responsibilities with each taking on a piece of the problem, she added.

The team met twice a week during lunch hours and Unal said they never missed a meeting all year. They also sacrificed evening and weekends to work on their project.

Their mentor was Redman’s mother, Elizabeth Cooper.

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