OLCF Director of Science Jack Wells speaks about outreach to the High-Performance Communications for High-Performance Computing group at ISC ’15 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Image Courtesy of ISC ’15)

OLCF Director of Science Jack Wells speaks about outreach to the High-Performance Communications for High-Performance Computing group at ISC ’15 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Image Courtesy of ISC ’15)

Leaders in the supercomputing community unite to discuss HPC outreach and achievements

Educating the next generation of computing experts was among the topics on the agenda for the 2015 ISC High Performance conference in Frankfurt, Germany, where Jack Wells, director of science for the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), cochaired a birds of a feather session on science education outreach.

At the July 15 session titled “Motivating, Engaging, & Educating the Young into the HPC World,” Wells discussed OLCF’s “hands-on” outreach approach by presenting Tiny Titan, an educational counterpart to OLCF’s Titan supercomputer built from nine $35 Raspberry Pi processors. Wells and Carolyn Lauzon, facilities program manager for the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) Office, discussed the drive for developing this new platform for outreach and the impact it has had in helping students understand parallel computing. ASCR is the sponsoring agency for the OLCF, located at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Birds of a feather sessions are designed for conference participants with specific shared interests. Wells said the attendees at his session represented other supercomputing centers, vendor organizations, and high-performance computing (HPC) programs. “They also have outreach missions like ours. They may want to implement these ideas as part of their own outreach,” he said. “They could build a Tiny Titan, too; the materials and components are very inexpensive. They can put it together and have a demonstration vehicle and demonstration computer that has the purpose of really making clear how these different computers work together as one.”

Tiny Titan has exposed students to HPC in various settings, connecting with them in new and impactful ways. Students can explore Tiny Titan in a classroom by downloading and running its software to solve simplified versions of the kinds of problems that can be solved on Titan. Those interested in engaging Tiny Titan further can tour exhibits at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; DOE headquarters in Washington, DC; and the OLCF, a DOE Office of Science User Facility and the home of the original Tiny Titan.

“It’s important to make young people aware of the opportunities so that they might choose to become educated and develop their own career paths in HPC,” Wells added.

This year’s ISC High Performance—formerly known as the International Supercomputing Conference—marked the 30th anniversary of uniting members of the HPC global community. From July 12 to 16, attendees networked, exchanged ideas, shared innovations, and discussed challenges with the global goal of advancing the field of HPC.

“ISC is one of the two main supercomputing conferences in the year,” Wells noted. “So, in terms of being current and being present, it’s important for us to attend because we want to be among the leaders in the field. I think the main thing for me was learning about the new science achievements and HPC achievements that were reported.”

ORNL attendees included Buddy Bland, OLCF project director; Jong Youl Choi, Scientific Data Group researcher for ORNL’s Computer Science and Mathematics Division (CSMD); Jack Dongarra, CSMD distinguished research staff member; Barney Maccabe, CSMD director; Dave Pugmire, visualization task leader for the OLCF; Jim Rogers, OLCF director of operations; and Jeffrey Vetter, CSMD Future Technologies Group leader. – Miki Nolin

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.