Parallel processing for pre-schoolers

Author: Iain Bethune
Posted: 8 Jul 2014 | 09:45

On the 10th of April Lorna Smith, Toni Collis and I spent the morning at Tweedbank Community Centre with a group of 30 pre-school children from the local nursery and playgroup - possibly the youngest group of potential HPC users we have met yet!  As part of the Borders Science Festival, we had offered to run a workshop giving an overview of HPC, kick-start an interest in STEM, and help cover one of their Curriculum for Excellence outcomes: "I can talk about science stories to develop my understanding of the world around me".

Some of the activities we had done before, like coloured ball sorting to illustrate how several processors (children) can work together to complete a task faster, and the always popular dino-racer! To keep them engaged, as well as using HPC to model how dinosaurs might have walked, and figure out what attributes might make them faster or slower the children experimented themselves with various two and four-legged gaits to see which was fastest. We also took along some clockwork dinosaurs to race along snap-together tracks. Everyone loved the mini T-rex, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus and Triceratops, and I was suprised by just how many different dinos the children could identify and name.

We added a couple of new activities, the first of which was a parallel sandwich-building task using wooden ingredients (bread, cheese, lettuce...) which had to be combined in the right order to complete 10 sandwiches. The task could be done one-by-one (serial), one sandwich per child (parallel), or as an assembly line (pipelined). Lastly, we showed some of the great HPC cabinet door designs and let the children design their own with pen and crayon on a blank outline. Oddly enough there were a number of dinosaur-themed designs.

Feedback from the Nursery staff was very positive, and the children seemed to have a great time on the day too. It just goes to show that you're never too young to start learning about HPC!


Iain Bethune, EPCC


Nice work, learning about HPC starts from kids.

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