Need idea for Westinghouse project

Roy Smith roy at
Mon Oct 29 17:23:05 EST 1990

	A high school junior just introduced himself to me, looking for a
mentor for a Westinghouse project.  It sounds like what he wants to do is
something in computational biology.  He mentioned things like RNA folding
and molecular modelling.  He's just learning C and is taking a course which
I think he said is called Biological Research but sounds like it's really
"Let's Do a Westinghouse Project, 3 credits per semester, by permission of
the instructor"

	I'm not sure how to approach this.  From the 3 minutes I got to
talk to him, he seems pretty bright, but I'm not sure how serious a project
even a really smart high school junior can be expected to tackle in a
year's worth of effort.  When I was a junior or senior in high school, a
really cool computer project was writing Hunt The Wumpus in BASIC; clearly
that's not going to win any Westinghouse awards.  Didn't I hear somewhere
that Ray Lau wrote StuffIt for the Mac while he was in high school?  Have
things changed that much in 15 years, or is Ray just a lot smarter than me?

	I certainly don't want to just think up a year's worth of busywork
for him to do, but I also don't want to end up with a project that's too
big or too hard to get a handle on.  I'm not even sure how much of the
planning I'm supposed to be doing anyway; I always look at the projects
Westinghouse winners do and think, "no way did a high school kid conceive,
plan and excecute that on his own" and don't want that to happen here.  Any
ideas on how I should deal with this?

	I guess the big question is, it is reasonable to expect that a kid
just learning C now could possibly, in a year from now, produce some
useful, impressive, or just plain interesting body of work in computational
Roy Smith, Public Health Research Institute
455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016
roy at -OR- {att,cmcl2,rutgers,hombre}!phri!roy
"Arcane?  Did you say arcane?  It wouldn't be Unix if it wasn't arcane!"

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