[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

Brian D. Ropers-Huilman bropers at cct.lsu.edu
Thu Jan 26 22:09:05 EST 2006

Hash: RIPEMD160

My first cut response, not the RGB 'bot response, which I'm sure will be
full of excellent anecdotes, is: absolutely.

My sources say -- pay attention to the upcoming State of the Union address.
You'll hear a lot of talk about U.S. competitiveness in STEM (Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). HPC is used more and more
regularly in "traditional" businesses such as finance or even package delivery.

Modeling or simulation is becoming the third pillar of Science, next to
theory and research [ Ref.: pg. 12 of the 2005 U.S. PITAC report
"Computational Science: Ensuring America?s Competitiveness" ].

While this whole "competitiveness" bit smells strongly of "the sky is
falling," I happen to believe strongly that, regardless of our weakening or
strengthening of STEM graduates in the States, HPC is steadily moving it's
way out of academe and into every day business.

The Council on Competitiveness did an excellent short video, using the
Penguins from the movie "Madagascar," on "HPC in Everyday Life" [
http://www.compete.org/hpc/everyday_life_video.asp ]. {full disclosure: we
contributed to this video}. For $10, it's a cheap way to possibly further
influence the School system or wary parents.

H.Vidal, Jr. said the following on 2006-01-26 21:25:
> Howdy.
> My son attends a Science and Tech focused high school here in beautiful
> New Jersey. This is a pretty neat place for a high school, about 70%
> of the faculty has their PhD Kids take about 2-4 semesters of physics
> and chemistry, there are lots of computers, they teach Scheme as well
> as C++, Java, etc. Freshmen get the option of taking things like Number
> Theory. Interesting place.
> However, I have a thought. There is, to my knowledge, essentially
> zero exposure to high-performance computing at this school. And I
> think this is a mistake.
> My thinking is this. I have observed that in materials science,
> in medical imaging, in genetics, even in theoretical mathematical
> studies, these days you see a lot of applied high-performance
> computing. I get the impression (back me up here if it's otherwise)
> that skills in high-performance computing have a fair amount
> of value, and are growing in terms of overall industry demand.
> Yet smart kids really have very little exposure to these classes of
> problems, even if there are exposed to the problems themselves.
> These kids can take a class in genomics, and they even learn about
> some classes of problems in genomics or proteomics where you
> need to run large mathematical problems to get 'concrete results'
> towards practical studies or applications in the problem domain, but
> they are kept far from actual hands-on or low (or even high)
> level theory in terms of actual implementations or even
> engineering considerations WRT HPC.
> Yet they have *rooms* full of computers doing nothing, fully
> networked. (there's always lots of rooms of unused computers
> in places like these, I have found, because they basically keep
> upgrading to new hardware every year or two. Each summer,
> the hallways are nearly impassable due to stacks and stacks
> (not kidding) of computers to be thrown out or recycled).
> So I have convinced the faculty at this school that HPC
> is enough of a valuable study, even a strategic interest, that
> sharp kids like these really should be educated in the ins and outs
> of high performance computing. In general, HPC; in particular, our
> good friends, the Beowulf clusters.
> I would like to get real feedback from students, engineers and
> scientists on this list about this broad idea: is it useful to expose
> young engineer and scientists-to-be to HPC at the high school
> level, in generaly, but especially if these kids are on track
> to be the next generation of users of this tech? If so, what is a decent
> route to take when it comes to this as a HS level scholastic pursuit?
> So there you go, I have thrown out the first chip. Any takers to place
> a comment or two?
> Thanks in advance for your collective wisdom and help.
> H. Vidal, Jr.
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- --
Brian D. Ropers-Huilman, Director     .:.    High Performance Computing
Networking, Infrastructure, & Research / Information Technology Support
Frey Computing Services, Rm. 323                        bropers at lsu.edu
Louisiana State University                          +1 225.578.3272 (V)
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-1900  USA                     +1 225.578.6400 (F)
http://www.hpc.lsu.edu/                         http://www.cct.lsu.edu/
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