People - Written by on September 5, 2013

OLCF Continues Education Leadership with Summer Students

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Interns explore current and future technologies

William Walker Smith

William Walker Smith, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Intern

Nearly 25 student interns from middle school to graduate school got the opportunity this summer to work with OLCF staff and boost their computing skills.

The youngest — in fact the youngest intern in ORNL’s history — was 13-year-old William Walker Smith (pictured right), who participated in the Science Saturdays program. This was the first year for Science Saturdays, which was sponsored by ORNL and administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). The 10-weekend program allowed students in grades 8-12 to attend ORNL scientists’ lectures and hands-on activities beginning in February.

Smith landed an internship working with OLCF researcher Hai Ah Nam by being one of 10 winners in a related essay contest.

The upcoming eighth-grader’s essay was adapted from the research he did for the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair (SASEF). “At SASEF, I tested three methods for gathering solar energy,” says Smith. “Using that research, I proposed a method for making photovoltaic cells more efficient.”

This summer, Smith turned his attention from solar energy to programming in Java. In a talk he gave to OLCF staff and researchers, he explained that non-traditional education tools for programming, such as Khan Academy and Code Spells, could become part of school curricula as early as middle school.

Although he was the youngest summer participant at the OLCF, Smith was not the only impressive intern.

Benjamin Brock, a University of Tennessee (UT) Haslam Scholar and computer science major, was another exceptional intern who was full time at the OLCF from May until August. Under the supervision of OLCF research scientist Judith Hill, Brock helped port an out-of-core algorithm for solving systems of equations known as LU Factorization to UT’s Beacon supercomputer. Dense LU Factorization is well understood and widely established as a supercomputer benchmark to rank the performance of systems for the TOP500 list. “By porting an LU Factorization algorithm, I can evaluate the performance of Beacon’s Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors and investigate the development tools and libraries that are available, comparing them to the analogous GPU development tools and libraries on Titan,” Brock said.

Pellissippi State Community College student Jake Wynne III is interning part-time at the OLCF from May until December. Under the supervision of Suzanne Parete-Koon, an OLCF user support specialist, Jake has been writing tutorials that demonstrate parallel application programming interfaces (APIs) such as MPI, openMP, and CUDA. Wynne has come up with a step-by-step process for writing tutorials that show the progression from a completely serial code, meaning no APIs, first to MPI then to openMP, and finally to CUDA. “These tutorials are vital for Titan users to know how to get the most out of parallelization,” he said.

Philip Curtis, a senior in the computer science program at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, and Chris Martin, an Oak Ridge High School graduate planning on going to UT this fall, have both been working closely with the OLCF’s Jim Rogers since June to give some insight into some of Titan’s operations.

Martin is creating a 3D view of Titan that pulls real time sensor data from each cabinet and node, such as temperature, and allows a person to select different view modes such as minimum, maximum, and average, to get a better understanding of how Titan is performing.

Although Curtis is working on multiple projects, one way that he is giving insight into Titan’s operations is by creating an interface that looks at CPU power utilization data and then CPU and GPU power utilization data for specific jobs. “By looking at some of these operations, for example power consumption, we can defend Titan’s use of GPUs,” said Curtis. “GPUs require more energy to run, but the time frame is significantly less, making Titan more cost effective in the long run.”

While Brock, Wynne, Curtis, and Martin have been preparing researchers and students for current technologies, two more NCCS interns, Hyogi Sim, a computer science graduate student at Virginia Tech, and Yang Liu, a computer science graduate at North Carolina State University, are looking to the future.

Under the supervision of OLCF research scientist Youngjae Kim, Sim worked from May until August on a workflow management system that uses the concept of a non-volatile memory storage system that will allow computations out-of-core and within the storage systems themselves. “While still in the very early development stage, on such a big system like Titan, this workflow management system has the potential to free up vast amounts of memory use, benefitting all Titan users,” Kim explained.

Yang Liu was at the OLCF for his second summer internship from May until August. Under the direction of the OLCF’s Raghul Gunasekaran, Liu worked to characterize the I/O behavior of scientific applications on Titan’s Spider file system by observing the file system activity on the backend server systems at zero overhead without interrupting the user I/O activity. “The goal,” said Raghul, “is understand the I/O behavior of Titan users, and develop smart tools enabling the user to make workload aware I/O decisions.”

Austin Koenig