[Beowulf] A cluster of Arduinos

Ellis H. Wilson III ellis at runnersroll.com
Thu Jan 12 05:58:20 PST 2012

On 01/11/2012 09:03 PM, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:
> The whole purpose of PC's is that they are generic to use. I remember
> how in past decision taking bought low clocked junk for big price -
> much against the wish of the sysadmins who wanted a PC for every
> student exclusively. Outdated slow junk is not interesting
> to students. Now you and i might like that CPU as it's under $1, but
> to them it's just 70Mhz, factor 500 slower than their home PC single
> core
> is. What impresses is if you got something that can beat their own
> machine at home.
> In the end in science we basically learn a lot easier if we can take
> a look into the future - so being faster than a single PC is a good
> example of that.

Take this advice in any other area, let's say, Chemical Engineering or 
Mechanical Engineering, and the students are going to come out the of 
the experience with chemical burns at least to at most blowing up half 
of the building.  In the best case all they do is screw up very, very 
expensive equipment.  So I have to respectfully disagree that learning 
is only possible and students will only be interested when working on 
the stuff of the "future."  I think this is likely the reason why many 
introductory engineering classes incorporate use of Lego Mindstorm 
robots rather than lunar rovers (or even overstock lunar rovers :D).

Point in case, I got interested in HPC/Beowulfery back in 2006, read 
RGBs book and a few other texts on it, and finally found a small group 
(4) of unused PIIIs to play on in the attic of one of my college's 
buildings.  Did I learn how to setup a reasonable cluster?  Yes.  Was it 
slow as dirt compared to then modern Intel and AMD processors?  Of 
course.  But did the experience get me so completely hooked on 
HPC/Cluster research that I went on to pursue a PHD on the topic? 

Granted, I'm just one data point, but I think Jim's idea has all the 
right components for a great educational experience.



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