First day at BBF 2017

Author: Juan Rodriguez Herrera
Posted: 15 Mar 2017 | 22:04

During my period as a PhD student, I dealt with questions from academics, ranging from university students to full professors. However today at the Big Bang Fair (BBF) it was slightly different. This time the questions regarding what supercomputing is and what it involves came from pupils from different UK schools.

Today is the first day that BBF opened its doors to the general public. It is based at the NEC (National Event Centre) in Birmingham, UK, which is a huge venue with good connections to almost everywhere.

We spent two days building our booth, with different activities relating to high performance computing laid out to show what we do. Kids and not so young people (friendly BBF staff for instance) could enjoy trying out our ball-sorting activity demonstrating the benefits of parallelism in a simple manner, designing an aircraft wing or building their own supercomputing centre online. A total of seven people from EPCC were involved today to share their knowledge with future engineers, teachers, researchers, etc.

I was one of the staff responsible for explaining the Supercomputer app today. In this activity the person involved needs to run a computing centre and to decide what to buy and how to configure computing nodes in order to execute the jobs that appear in a working queue. If the number of pending jobs is greater than ten, the game is over. To play this educational game, you only need to have a web browser and internet access. A tutorial is available on the pertinent webpage. A display screen shows the ranking of the people that have already played this game throughout the day. I was able to see lots of kids with enough skills to be a computer scientist. To be honest, some of them got better scores than I did!

Once the BBF had closed its doors for the day, I had the opportunity to have dinner and discuss the day's issues with my EPCC colleagues. The day has been exhausting, but I feel happy to have shared my knowledge about supercomputers with young people.

Author

Juan Rodriguez Herrera, EPCC