OGDEN -- Ian Sohl earned top science honors by developing a computer program that predicts how long it will take space dust and debris to collect enough mass to sustain an atmosphere, becoming a junior version of gas giants such as Saturn and Jupiter.
Sohl, 17, has been invited to display a poster representing his scientific work next month at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh.
Classmate Sheyne Anderson, also 17, will be taking his own 8-foot by 4-foot poster board, illustrating his program that makes it easier for computers to communicate with humans.
"I think Sheyne is going to enjoy the trip," said Ian. "He hasn't been there before. I am an old-timer."
The two attend DaVinci Academy, a science and arts-oriented charter school in Ogden.
School officials are proud that, of the academy's 370 students representing grades seven through 12, DaVinci took two of three top honors at Weber State's Ritchey Science Fair last month. The third student whose Ritchey Science Fair project earned him an invitation to internationals is William Shipley, from Bear River High School.
Ian is looking forward to the international fair, called ISEF for short.
"ISEF is fun, and a chance to talk to students with similar interests," Ian said. "And when you make science jokes, they laugh."
A number of science fairs besides Weber State's qualify students to attend the internationals.
Dawn Gatherum, a WSU botany department professor and Ritchey Science Fair spokesman, said in addition to the three students who qualified at Ritchey, he'll take 10 other student science scholars to Pittsburgh.
Winning students from Davis School District are Erika Mueller, Andrew Ross, Jed Grow and Skyler Wiser. Winning students from Weber School District are Tessa Carver, Braxton Harris, Joshua Hernandez, Elias Johnson, Lindsey Johnson and Caid Lunt.
"The quality of work has improved significantly in recent years through the effort of the teachers and school districts," Gatherum said. "The fair gives students opportunities to learn the scientific process and to put together a presentation.
"They not only write their ideas verbally on their demonstration board, but they present it verbally. They learn skills that will be meaningful for a lifetime. Even if they don't go into the sciences, they will learn important skills they will use for the rest of their lives, on a regular daily basis."
Back at DaVinci, Ian, for one, does plan to use his science skills for the rest of his life.
"I enjoy physics," he said. "It's not the only thing I like to do, but it's one of my favorites. My whole family is very focused on the sciences. I love figuring out the secrets of the universe, and how things work and why things work. I want to know why and what I can do with that information. Physics is the backstory of the world, and I find that
Ian's original computer program found that future gas giants can begin having atmosphere much faster than previously believed.
And Ian's classmate, Sheyne, plans to work on more advanced versions of his linguistic computer program well into the future.
"Artificial intelligence has always interested me," Sheyne said. "Eventually I may be able to attach a speech detection system. It would be really cool to be able to talk to my computer."
Sheyne is finishing his junior year at Da-Vinci, and Ian is a senior and has earned multiple scholarships available for use at the college of his choice. He's currently considering programs at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, M.I.T. and a number of other top schools.
So what does he plan to study?
"Ultimately, I don't think it's the time now to make that specific decision," Ian said.
But not theater, right?
"No, never," he said, alarm obvious in his voice.
"That kind of thing is the bane of my existence," Ian said, laughing. "No theater, no poetry, no psychology or anything to do with actual contact with people."