STEMulate Learning HPC Turns 21!

Our crowd-funded supercomputing node continues its work, lending CPU power to support humanitarian projects as a member of the World Community Grid, addressing global problems such as the search for clean water resources, clean energy producing materials, as well as medications to deal with diseases and parasitic infections like malaria, leishmaniasis, and cancer. Participation in this effort has allowed instruction of students into subjects like:

  • Effects of globalization
  • Stewardship of natural resources
  • Global migration patterns
  • Common biological antagonists
  • Health and the effects of geopolitical isolation
  • High-performance computing
  • Group participation in widescale crisis situations

By tweeting successes and contributions of the node##Q##s CPU power towards the various projects supported by the World Community Grid, educators and students can follow our successes every week. This has led to a host of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) focused studies around individual issues like sanitation, water purification, alternative energy, and distributed computing.

Since going online in January of 2012, the multi-core node has provided more than 21 years of combined CPU power – if the CPU power were a person, it would now be old enough to take on all legal qualities of adulthood! This 21 years of CPU power represents the collective actions provided by processor components that can each run a part of the whole effort while each other processor core does the same with its piece in turn. Back in October of 2012, we were at 14 years of combined CPU power, and now we reach another 7 years of combined processing power in just over 5 months more time – 21 years of total effort across just over 1 years and 2 months of calendar time.


This is a tremendously useful tool for instruction in high-performance computing, parallel processing, and a range of other highly useful topics for instruction. Even maintenance on the hardware itself has provided a number of lessons for rising junior high and high-school students who will soon be entering the workforce with documented experience in computer hardware maintenance. It continues to provide an example for students and educators and is spinning off following projects in turn!


I am currently working on a three-node Raspberry Pi supercomputer demonstration using the MPI interface implemented and shared by the University of Southampton. With this, students will be able to test out parallel processing across multiple nodes, which they can individually reconfigure as they try out different alternatives and setup details – all for only a few hundred dollars! This is definitely a tool that meets the STEMulate Learning goals of being available, easily implemented and affordable!

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