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Beowulf Boot Camp

The Louisiana State Universtiy Center for Computation & Technology (CCT), is hosting the third annual Beowulf Boot Camp this week, drilling Louisiana high school students in supercomputing basics, and giving them a chance to work hands-on with university researchers.

The camp is named after the Beowulf supercomputing cluster, which CCT and LSU Department of Computer Science Professor Thomas Sterling invented. Beowulf is now the building block of many of the world’s supercomputers.

Sterling, a former NASA scientist who leads the CCT Systems Science and Engineering research focus area, wanted to develop an outreach activity that would give high school students in the state a chance to experience computational science research.

He created the first Beowulf Boot Camp in August 2007, with assistance from CCT faculty and staff. In 2007, students and teachers from five Baton Rouge high schools participated, and for the second offering of the camp in 2009, 24 students and one teacher from 15 Louisiana high schools attended.

Since beginning this activity, Sterling hoped to expand the camp to more students statewide and this year, 40 students from 19 Louisiana high schools in all parts of the state are attending. CCT offers this camp at no-cost to participating students, who enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis in January 2010. Hewlett-Packard provided CCT with equipment for the camp at a discounted rate, and donated printed materials for the students.

The students will work directly with Sterling and faculty from his research group. During the camp, students will form small groups to build computer clusters from scratch, then connect the clusters together to form a mini supercomputer. The students then will develop and run basic applications on the clusters, learn simple programming exercises, and conduct performance benchmark tests to see how the mini supercomputer they build measures up against the largest and fastest supercomputers in the world.

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