Coding the future | Company

At Quantum Quest, an all-girls quantum computing camp, 20 teenage students recently found themselves on the brink of a brand new technology: quantum coding.

“(Scientists) use quantum computers,” said program manager Gabbie Meis. “(Quantum computers) actually use quantum mechanics to solve some of the biggest problems in the world, like data-intensive things or simulations that our classical computers just don’t have enough power to do. Instead of our classical computers, quantum computers are actually an entirely different type of machine that is still under development today.

This type of computer requires quantum coding and, when programmed, could be used to help solve problems such as mitigating the impacts of climate change; transport mapping, such as figuring out how to remap the whole Australian country with more efficient roads; or even biomedical research, such as protein folding for vaccine development or drug discovery research.

“In 2019, Google ran into a problem on its quantum computer that it predicted would take the most powerful supercomputer about 10,000 years to fix,” Meis said. “They said they had their (quantum) computers to solve it in less than two days.”

During the camp, students learned the programming language, Qiskit, an open source software development kit (free). Meis called it a Python-backed library, Python being a programming language. Qiskit allows students’ classical computers – the type most used at home – to communicate with quantum computers. Ironically, although the students all opened their laptops, the learning took place on dry erase boards.

“Quantum is interdisciplinary, so they learn the basics of linear algebra,” Meis said. “They learn computer science and how to code in Python, and they learn quantum physics, all in one week.”

The Coding School, located in Southern California, has a quantum coding initiative called Qubit by Qubit, the most fundamental unit of information in quantum computing. The initiative aims to make quantum computing education accessible to K-12 students, because as things stand, Meis says, students typically don’t see quantum computing until they are not graduate students.

To bring quantum coding to the masses, the school developed the Quantum Quest camp and partners with other organizations to offer it locally. For Tucson, they partnered with the University of Arizona Office of Societal Impact and the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona (GSSA).

“When all of this happened, it was the perfect marriage between the coding school, the U of A, and the Girl Scouts to try to bring accessibility to this more advanced part of STEM,” said Colleen McDonald, Director of GSSA Staff Supported Programs. . “As Girl Scouts, we see ourselves as the connector. We want to make sure that all girls have access to it.

The coding school has been offering this camp for a while — this is their 10th camp — but this is the first time it’s been offered in Tucson. Camp topics included everything from fundamental concepts that make up the quantum world such as entanglement and qubits, and culminating in teaching the girls how to code real quantum computers.

It’s a whole new science. These students are the very foundation of quantum coding, according to Meis, and that’s part of why it’s so important to offer this to young women. First, they are introduced to quantum computing, but second, they are therefore not alone and do not feel alone in their interest in this field, Meis said.

“It’s a hard science, isn’t it?” Meis said. “We really want our students to feel that there is a place for girls. We’re really trying to empower them now while they’re still in high school.

“I’ve worked with girls for two decades doing STEM with them and one of the biggest things I hear is that they think they’re the only ones who like STEM, that ‘they don’t realize that there are other girls who are also ready to push themselves,’ added Michelle Higgins, who is associate director of the Office of Societal Impact.

The main instructor of this camp is herself an example for these students. Emily Van Milligen is a doctoral student in the Department of Physics at UArizona. His field of study is quantum entanglement and routing protocols. She noticed that no student was late; they all listened.

“They love it,” Van Milligen said. “They like the talks I give, which is exciting because it means they like the content. I’m not doing anything special.

One student, Sagan Friskey, 18 and future student of Pima Community College, spoke enthusiastically about the camp.

“I think it’s super interesting to learn more, especially since we’re at the very beginning of being part of something that you can learn and work with,” she said. .

Gabriela Malo-Molina, 14, and a student at Catalina Foothills High School, said she had never seen this before, but might be interested in exploring the matter further.

“I think this is a very special opportunity, and this area will definitely be more commonly used in the future,” she said. “And quantum computing in the future will be very useful for discoveries, especially in the medical field.”

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