Return to the Big Bang Fair

Author: Mario Antonioletti
Posted: 17 Mar 2017 | 07:54

The Big Bang Fair, billed as the UK's largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people, provides our Supercomputing Sleuths event with an excellent opportunity to show the benefits of supercomputing to a host of young people through a number of targeted acitivities.

Juan wrote about our enhanced supercomputing app yesterday, which simulates a modest supercomuting centre where participants manage and source hardware that generates income through the running of jobs, so allowing better hardware to be purchased which in turn allows more jobs to be run, generating more income and so on. Operated through a couple of iPads, participants scores can be added to a leader board, which appears to be a draw for some even though their moment of glory can be short lived.

An improved version of the Wee Archie mini supercomputer has also made an appearance this year, with the newer Raspberry Pi boards boosting performance. Last year's dinosaur-racing demo has been replaced by an app that allows participants to design the wing of a plane. Air flow around the wing is calculated, providing the lift coefficient that determines whether the plane will be able to fly. A short video shows the plane taking off with the integrated trajectory, it then flies away or ditches into the sea (with life rafts provided to save the passengers and crew). The aim here is to show a real app working in parallel, but it also provides a pretty display.


My favourite acitivity is the beanbag sorting. The object here is to sort as many coloured beanbags as possible into the corresponding coloured bucket in 30 seconds. We start with a single participant, then have 2, 3, 4, 5 and up to 6 players trying to do the same. This shows in a very simple manner how parallel computing can allow you to do more in the same time or do the same thing faster. This year we have also incorporated an app written by EPCC's Amy Krause and Nick Brown to show the speed-up this obtains, which has further enhanced the activity. In practice, we don't often get a chance to try out all the combinations because of the queues of people who want to test their parallel-sorting skills.

I leave it to my non-camera-shy colleague Nick Brown to provide a summary of the day:

We'll be at the Big Bang Fair for another two days, and we hope that some of my colleagues will report on these.

This is the second year that we have participated in the Big Bang Fair (BBF) thanks to ARCHER Outreach and, in my particular case, to the Software Sustainability Institute


Mario Antonioletti, EPCC

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