Alex Tomala garners silver medal, Challenge Award at Canada-Wide Science Fair
Alex Tomala has an aptitude and passion for science.
It’s no wonder the 16-year-old Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School student had an impressive showing at Youth Science Canada’s 53rd annual Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF).
The Grade 11 student earned a silver medal and a Challenge Award in the Information category at the senior levels for his project, “An Innovative Approach to Multi-core Processor Interconnection Networks.” He also scored $11,800 in prize money and university entrance scholarships.
“I was pretty excited about going to the CWSF, as I went to the event last year,” he said. “Last year, the CWSF was a bit more competitive and I was a bit sad when I got a silver medal only at the event. This year, it was more about enjoying the experience and when I got the silver medal I was really happy.”
The CWSF, held this year from May 10 to May 17 at the University of Windsor, features the top science fair students from across the country.
About 500 finalists were chosen from more than 100 regional science fairs held across the nation to present their projects at the week-long event.
Tomala was among 16 students who were selected from the top projects at the 54th annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair in March to win an all-expense paid trip to compete at the CWSF.
His project aimed to assess the potential of a tree-based interconnection network with a hierarchy-based cache coherence protocol to interconnect a large number of processor cores together, compared to a 2d-mesh interconnection network and cache coherence protocol. The architecture was developed and implemented on the GEM5 simulator and on an Altera FPGA (field-programmable gate array).
Tomala said he essentially evaluated a unique method of connecting a large number of processor chords together.
He spent about nine months working on the project.
Tomala said when it comes to science fair projects, it’s sometimes a “love-hate relationship.”
Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, he added.
“One thing I really enjoy about the process is getting the chance to present your project because you get to present it to people and pretty much explain what you’ve been spending months working on. It’s always great to be able to discuss your project with judges,” Tomala said. “It’s very interesting to talk to them and they understand what I’m talking about. I can typically talk about their research, what they’re doing and explain how my project can actually benefit them, and it was really fun doing that at the CWSF this year.”
Tomala said his passion for science and technology was fostered at a young age when he was interested in astronomy, which developed into an interest in math, physics and computers.
“What I think motivates me somewhat with this stuff is the fact that pretty much no one in the world is effectively doing the exact same thing that I’m doing right now with the research and the specific theoretical architecture,” he said. “It is pretty rewarding doing something that no one else in the world is doing. And of course, if it ever ends up proving to be effective, then I can always end up commercializing it and it can have a profound effect on the world.”