New Scientist Live 2019

Author: Jane Kennedy
Posted: 6 Nov 2019 | 12:15

From 1013 October, EPCC were exhibitors at New Scientist Live 2019. Various members of EPCC attended – as well as myself, there were Outreach regulars Gordon Gibb, Oliver Brown, Juan Rodriguez Herrera, and Ben Morse, as well as relative newbies Darren White, Spyro Nita, and Evgenij Belikov.

New Scientist Live is an annual science festival at the Excel centre in the city of London. It is a relatively new show, with this year marking their fourth event, and comprises a large exhibition and talks from a wide range of speakers across four days. For EPCC, New Scientist Live is the second biggest event in our outreach calendar, and it’s provided a good opportunity for us to exhibit outside our local area. Since the ARCHER service is available to researchers across the whole UK, we try to attend events locally and further afield too. We were not the only University of Edinburgh exhibitors, with colleagues from ICMS, HYPED, and Global Academy Agriculture and Food Security also exhibiting.

It was the biggest show they’ve had yet with more than 40,000 visitors over four days, including for the first time ever a Friday night opening more targeted at an adult audience with a bar and DJ. With both this, plus school groups visiting on the Thursday and Friday, it’s a great opportunity to both educate and promote STEM careers to young people, as well as engage with people about our work funded by public money.

The show has five main themes, reflected in the exhibition floor layout – Humans, Technology, Earth, Engineering, and Space. There are numerous stages, where visitors can see speakers talk about their work. HPC and data science domains touch on all five of these themes, however this year we were situated in the heart of the Technology Zone opposite the stage area.

Visitors to our stand could learn about supercomputing hardware, as well as applications. Many people were interested to know how performant ARCHER is and what its current standing is in the global rankings, which we could use to tell people about the new ARCHER2 system that will be hosted by EPCC from next year. For exhibits, we brought our tried and tested high-throughput crowd favourites:

  • Wee Archie Green with two demos based on ARCHER use cases. Firstly a wind tunnel simulation, where users design a wing aerofoil and see whether this generates enough upward force for the aeroplane to take off. The second was newly developed this year – the user places coastal defences on a map screen and Wee Archie simulates how this affects the height of tidal waves and value of savings from protecting a town against a baseline where no defences are in place.
  • An XC30 blade like those found in ARCHER, plus lifesize pull-up banners of a cabinet to show how these are part of a far larger system.
  • A parallel beanbag sorting game, where participants sort different coloured beanbags into different coloured buckets within a limited time. We keep a chart to show how the number changes as the group of sorters increases – firstly increasing linearly before dropping off as contention for access to the unsorted beanbag supply gets worse.

It’s such a busy event that we were all ready for a rest at the end of it, however we had some great conversations with visitors that made it feel like one of our most enjoyable outreach trips in recent times. We are already looking ahead to next year and the possible demos we can create to better showcase the data science side of our work.

Outreach at SC

EPCC’s Weronika Filinger will host a 'Birds of a Feather' session entitled "Community Building for Sustainable and Scalable HPC Outreach" at this year's Supercomputing conference in Denver. Please join if you’re attending the conference and are interested in participating in the HPC Outreach community. See:


Jane Kennedy, EPCC

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