[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

H.Vidal, Jr. hvidal at tesseract-tech.com
Thu Jan 26 19:25:42 PST 2006


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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