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BYU student wins HP's national calculator contest

Engineering major takes home scholarship for calculator design

The next generation of calculators may come from the mind of Tim Wessman, an engineering student at Brigham Young University who won HP and Scholastic Inc.'s third Create-a-Calculator contest. Wessman, a junior, earned a $4,000 scholarship and the pick of any HP calculator with his innovative "HP-50" calculator design.

"I was completely surprised," Wessman said. "I couldn't believe it at first. I was about to go take a calculus test when I got the e-mail telling me I'd won. I didn't do so well because I was so distracted."

The HP-50 was designed to enable engineers to share data on their calculators with other devices.

"This calculator frees engineers from their desks," Wessman said. "It's an input device that they can carry around the lab or in the field with them, but still interface with their main computers. It's useful for both college students and professionals."

Wessman, a manufacturing engineering major at BYU, began working on the calculator design two nights before his wedding. He finished the night before and had his father submit the work while Wessman was on his honeymoon.

Wessman credits calculators with bringing him and his wife together. Nearly four years ago, Wessman's future father-in-law, Brad Panike, read some online help documents Wessman had written about a calculator. Panike was so grateful that he wrote to thank Wessman. The two e-mailed for nearly three years before Wessman started dating Panike's daughter, Katie.

Recently, Wessman was hired part-time by HP as a product specialist to share his knowledge of calculators with teachers, helping them better use HP products in the classroom. He has also started a business that focuses on turning the HP 49g+ Graphing Calculator, the same one he chose as his prize, into a land-surveying field tool. Contractors and civil engineers will be able to use the instrument to help with construction or property deeds. For more information, visit

Writer: Anthony Strike

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