[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Jan 30 17:31:26 EST 2006


At 03:27 PM 1/30/2006, H.Vidal, Jr. wrote:
>Jim Lux wrote:
>>Most excellent... another good philosophical topic to discuss.
>>At 10:06 AM 1/27/2006, Robert G. Brown wrote:
>>
>>>On Thu, 26 Jan 2006, Brian D. Ropers-Huilman wrote:
>>>
>>>>-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
>>>>Hash: RIPEMD160
>>>>
>>>>My first cut response, not the RGB 'bot response, which I'm sure will be
>>>>full of excellent anecdotes, is: absolutely.
>>>
>>>
>>>:-)
>>>
>>>Absolutely indeed.
>>>
>>>My "excellent anecdotes" on this subject are basically derived from:
>>>
>>><snip>
>>
>>
>>> From this, there is good news and bad news.
>>>
>>>The good news is that bright kids DO like to build beowulves in high
>>>school (including in schools in e.g. India, not just in the US!).  In
>>>nearly any school you'd have 5-15 students who would be perfectly happy
>>>to immerse themselves in it and have a great time doing so with ANYTHING
>>>like encouragement.
>>>
>>>The bad news is that the ones who succeed generally do so without any
>>>meaningful support from their school.  Sometimes not even with access to
>>>school-owned machines as a resource.  Almost never with anything like
>>>mentorship within the school itself.  They scrounge machines themselves.
>>>They find switches.  They learn about linux (usually from me telling
>>>them EXACTLY how to install a functional version for free on their
>>>scrounged hardware).  They find toy problems to play with.  Then alas,
>>>they graduate and move on, leaving very little that survives or might be
>>>used to turn into a "program".
>>
>>This is true of lots of things, not just HPC.  It would be the same for 
>>robotics, etc., or anything that is not in the "core objectives" for the 
>>school, which by and large are:
>>"Graduate students" and "provide athletic events for community entertainment"
>
>The emphasis on Graduate students is presumably applicable for college
>age students. And the emphasis on athletic events is nearly universal
>(plus kids really do need the break, it seems).

Actually, I was using graduate as a verb.. the objective is to get students 
out the door at the other end. Pass the exit exam, get them accepted to 
college, what have you.




>Well, what I would ideally like is to institutionalize HPC for this school.
>That's really more core goal.
>
>And so it will have life after my son's tenure here.

And that is a noble goal.  Hopefully, all this discussion has prompted some 
ideas on how to get there?



>>>Why so bleak a picture?
>>>
>>>Well, for one thing Windows overwhelmingly dominates as the OS installed
>>>in most schools.  It is so pernicious a phenomenon that they don't teach
>>>"spreadsheets", they teach "using Excel".  They don't qualify students
>>>with an end of grade test on "word processing", they qualify students
>>>with a test on "using Microsoft word".  That this is Evil beyond all
>>>measure is beyond any doubt -- imagine the screams if one had to take
>>>all drivers tests in a state using a Ford.  On the other hand, the
>>>schools are crippled by the near-vacuum in computer competent teachers
>>>in general -- it is doing as much as they can to end up with somebody
>>>that can teach "using Word" or "using Excel" as part of "keyboarding".
>>
>>There was an excellent article in "The American Scholar" 
>>(http://www.pbk.org/pubs/amscholar.htm) a few years back about how 
>>industry has hoodwinked the public school system (including at the 
>>collegiate level) into providing free training for their software.
>
>Do I take it (could not get article) that this implies free education
>in particular commercial applications conditions students to respond
>to these applications as the 'one true way' instead of being open
>minded to other technical options?

No, the article was more along the lines that schools spend precious class 
hours doing what is essentially user training for a single application, 
rather than generic skills.  The thrust was (this IS Phi Beta Kappa, after 
all) that society would be better served by spending tax dollars to give 
students a good liberal arts education, and let the employers pay for 
training people to use a particular software package.  I'll try and find 
the exact reference (oddly<grin>, the JPL library doesn't have it, and I 
probably threw the issue away a few years ago)


>Again, this may generally be the case, but if one has the fortune of being
>at a great school, then it's time to build opportunities. So this is not
>an average school, but it can be made better with a bit of participation by
>interested parents.....

Indeed.. and I'd say that most schools benefit by interested parents.  All 
to the better if they are math/science oriented, and if a sustaining 
program can be created.  It does happen.  It would be interesting to look 
at other successful programs and see what their origins were.  Athletic 
boosters have been around a long time, so that's not a good model, but 
perhaps a theater arts or music program that came into being?  Or even 
Science Fairs (which are out of fashion, these days).



>hv

James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Radio Frequency Subsystems Group
Flight Communications Systems Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875


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