[Beowulf] about clusters in high schools

Gerry Creager gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Fri Jan 27 16:32:53 PST 2006

A couple of thoughts.

I know of a major University located in a large southern State where 
numerical analysis is taught using Excel, rather than having the kids 
learn how to write code in Fortran (that was FORTRAN [not shouting] in 
the old days; I see you spelled it correctly ;-) or C.  Somehow I think 
they're missing something in not having to go through the exercise.

Mathcad and MatLab both have their uses but I'm not real happy seeing 
MatLab now seen as a parallelizable modeling tool.  We're installing it 
for our Civil Engineering dept. so they can run some code they have, so 
I'll have more opinion about it shortly.  What I fear is that, in using 
such a high-level "language" to script their models and analyses, the 
students... and the prof's... will have failed to understand the errors 
when they make 'em.

Right now, my son isn't interested in learning how to write code.  It's 
not "cool" in his group of friends, and he sees the hours I put in at 
work as too much.  I'm envious of you and the relationship that got you 
to the point where your son was able to embrace some of this.

For what it's worth, I guess I'll have to be content with a great kid, 
and a pretty good soccer player, and teaching grad students how to write 
numerical weather code in an antiquated language!


Timothy W. Moore wrote:
> It is my opinion that higher education does not prepare our future
> scientists as well as they should.  I am amazed at the program your
> child's school offers... and I thought my son went to a good high
> school.  My son is a junior in engineering at a prominent Div 1
> university (the same school I attended) and is not required to take any
> programming languages.  I was required to take FORTRAN and C programming
> and apply those programming skills to solve problems.  To this day, I
> still use FORTRAN to solve complex problems in chemistry and physics.
> I now run a small business with HPC and engineering at the core.  My son
> works for me during the summers and holidays where I expose him to
> real-world problems and that the software package required for a
> particular application is not always nicely bundled in the window$ OS
> and most likely does not exist. I have him using Linux and doing
> elementary programming in FORTRAN.  Did you know that many engineering
> programs have eliminated programming as a requirement?  I thought this
> to be an isolated incident until I discussed it with a colleague at
> Sandia Nat'l Labs and he echoed the same sentiment.  This gentleman
> further noted that most applicants only know Matlab and/or Mathcad.  I
> personally have no beef with either package because I have used neither
> and am sure they have good utility in the science world.  I just do not
> believe them to be a replacement for good programming skills.
> I have also taught him networking skills, parallel computing, 32 bit vs.
> 64 bit machines, scripting and AMD64/Itanium2 architectures.  He has
> indicated to me how much the information which I have imparted has
> helped in his education making him a better student and having the
> ability to understand problems.  His interest is in CFD and uses the
> codes not only for me but for school projects as well.  He has his 64
> bit workstation at school but for more challenging problems, he can ssh
> into the intanium cluster here at the office.  His experience outside
> academia has already landed him a job offer where they want him to start
> working during the summers until he finishes his education.  He has
> plans to atend graduate school because he knows he will be better
> prepared for the the real world.
> I now understand how someone can write extensive responses to these
> sometimes simple questions.  It is because the topic touches a nerve for
> which we are so passionate.  Continue your push for this project...it
> will be so beneficial.  The earlier these kids are exposed, the better
> they absorb the knowledge AND retain it.  They will attend college and
> on day 1 will be light years ahead of their counterparts.  Any professor
> or administrator would be happy to have them employed for they could
> walk in and begin work (with no/minimal training) immediately.  My alma
> mater now has a computer science program funded by various 3-letter
> agencies emphasizing computer security for the USG.  It is a program
> that if you choose to give the USG the first few years of your career,
> they will pay for either part/all of education and provide summer
> employment (extensive background investigation required).  I have met
> one of the participants and he indicated that the program is on the
> bleeding edge of technology.  Is sounds as though grads of this high
> school would be excellent applicants for this program.
> I apologize for the long response...I just wish all students who wish to
> be scientists, mathematicians, or programmers had access to what your
> school offers. Keep up the good work!!!
Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Texas Mesonet -- AATLT, Texas A&M University	
Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.458.4020  FAX 979.862.3983
Physical: 1700 Research Parkway, Suite 160,
College Station, TX 77843-3139

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