[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

Douglas Eadline deadline at clustermonkey.net
Fri Jan 27 06:00:58 PST 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

- 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:


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
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.


> 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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