STEMulate Learning HPC turns 40!

STEMulate Lab-40 YearsThrough the support of our crowd-funded technology and donated equipment, we have been able to participate in the World Community Grid, adding over 40 years of CPU processing power to the search for cures for diseases and parasitic infections, as well as into the exploration of new resources for power and fresh water. Grid computing is a form of high-performance computing (Supercomputing) that involves breaking a major project into smaller chunks that can be distributed across many less-powerful computers to solve individual chunks before combining them all into a larger solution for the whole.

The Longhorm supercomputer at the TACCThis distributed processing power also allows dedicated HPC systems to perform their wonderful calculations internally, while we are using the World Community Grid to demonstrate publically the capability of using normal desktop computers to accomplish similar results over a longer period of time. In our STEMulate Learning workshops, we have been using the magnificent Raspberry Pi single-chip computers as well as specialized hardware like the Block Erupters used by BitCoin miners, to illustrate various techniques for teaching and learning about high-performance computing without relying on multi-million-dollar equipment well outside of the average public school classroom’s capabilities.

My original “Scrap-heap Supercomputing” workshops have since spawned many alternatives that educators can integrate into their curricula using equipment already near at hand in educational surplus equipment bins. I know many have asked why I have provided my designs and ideas freely, rather than packaging them for sale, but this is a legacy I own my parents – they taught me that knowledge and learning opens many doors and my father’s own efforts to show teachers how to build designs for their students to learn from and within will continue long after his own retirement. He created a process known as “Cardboard Carpentry” that allows teachers to build everything from fish-tanks and soap-box derby cars to life-sized Pteranadon skeletons that hang in the gym and give kids the ability to visualize the lessons of the day in much more fundamental ways.


Today, I try to emulate the giving nature I was taught and share with others wherever the lessons may provide resources for further instruction and learning. By Tweeting the accumulated successes from the first STEMulate Learning Lab node (named “Delphi” by my workshop participants), students can review the progress of the nodes over the past several years to see what their own contributions can offer the world. They even identified when new systems (Monolith, Daedalus and Tantalus) joined the team and some have added additional support by joining the STEMulate Learning team and contributing their own computer’s idle processing power to solving global difficulties when they are not using it.

STEMulate Learning alone has provided more than 40 years worth of combined CPU power, while the team has provided an additional 13 years to this effort, with other computers joining and leaving as our supporters have time and available resources.

Join the team and download the free community-sourced grid computing client here:

 Whatever you do, make sure to share the lessons you learn in life with your children and our teachers! Every opportunity can add to their lives and there are many excellent programs in your area from Scouts to Makerspaces and public libraries.BSA Troop members returning from an outing

Start up your own program and see what lessons you can develop – and share them with others!

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