[Beowulf] A cluster of Arduinos

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Jan 12 07:10:40 PST 2012

On 1/12/12 6:39 AM, "Vincent Diepeveen" <diep at xs4all.nl> wrote:

>The average guy is not interested in knowing all details regarding
>how to
>play tennis with a wooden racket from the 1980s, just around
>the time when McEnroe was on the tennisfield playing there.
>Most people are more interested in whether you can win that grandslam
>with what you produce.
>The nerds however are interested in how well you can do with a wooden
>from 1980s,therefore projecting your own interest upon those students
>will just
>get them desinterested and you will be judged by them as an
>irrelevant person
>in their life, whose name they soon forget.

Having spent some time recently in Human Resources meetings about how to
better recruit software people for JPL, I'd say that something that
appeals to nerds and gives them something to do is not all bad. Part of
the educational process is to find and separate the people who are
interested and have a passion.  I'm not sure that someone who starts
getting into clusters mostly because they are interested in breaking into
the Top500 is the target audience in any case.

If you look over the hobby clusters out there, the vast majority are "hey,
I heard about this interesting idea, I scrounged up N old/small/slow/easy
to find computers and tried to cluster them and do something.  I learned
something about cluster administration, and it was fun, but I don't use it

This is exactly the population you want to hit.  Bring in 100 advanced
high school (grade 11-12 in US) students.  Have them all use cheap
hardware to do a cluster.  Some fraction will think, "this is kind of
cool, maybe I should major in CS instead of X"  Some fraction will think,
"how lame, why not make the single processor faster", and they can be
CompEng or EE majors looking at how to reduce feature sizes and get the
heat out. 

It's just like biology or chemistry classes.  In high school biology
(9th/10th grade) most of it is mundane memorization (Krebs cycle, various
descriptive stuff.  Other than the use of cheap cmos cameras, microscopes
used at this level haven't really changed much in the last 100 years (and
the microscopes at my kids' school are probably 10-20 years old). They
also do some more modern molecular biology in a series of labs partly
funded by Amgen:   Some recombinant DNA to put fluorescent proteins in a
bacteria, running some gels, etc.  The vast majority of the students will
NOT go on to a career in biology, but some fraction do, they get
interested in some aspect, and they wind up majoring in bio, or being a
pre-med, etc.   

Not everyone is looking for the world beater.  A lot of kids start with
Kart racing, even though even the fastest Karts aren't as fast as F1 (or
even a Smart Car).  How many engineers started with dismantling the
lawnmower engine?  

For my own work, I'd rather have people who are interested in solving
problems by ganging up multiple failure prone processors, rather than
centralizing it all in one monolithic box (even if the box happens to have
multiple cores).

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