[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

Douglas Eadline deadline at clustermonkey.net
Fri Jan 27 09:00:58 EST 2006


I recall almost 8 years ago, Jon "Mad Dog" Hall talking
about High School in New England that was asking parents to donate
old computers to build clusters. Obviously, there can be two goals
here.

- learn about clustering using older, but ubiquitous hardware. Which is
  really a powerful thing. The basics of the "clustered approach"
  can be applied to many different problems.
- use a real cluster to do HPC (the benchmark being better performance
  than a good desk top system can achieve.)

I have an interest in such an idea as well at both ClusterWorld and now
ClusterMonkey.net, the writers and I have put quite a bit of effort into
"introductory material".  Take a look at the "New To Clusters"  page on
Cluster Monkey.net:

http://www.clustermonkey.net//content/view/91/44/

that includes RGB's excellent introductory series (about half the articles
are published). Furthermore, anyone who would like to contribute
to a "Clusters in High School" section on Cluster Monkey.net will have my
support and my help as I have been talking to some local high schools
about
a similar idea.

Finally, I think I'm going to add a set of links for "instant cluster CD's"
so that those latent PCs can be easily turned into a real cluster.



--
Doug







> 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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--
Doug
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