The transformation of Wee Archie

29 April 2024

We're looking forward to unveiling our updated Wee Archie mini supercomputer at ISC24!

Wee Archie original design

Wee Archie has been a mainstay of EPCC outreach activities for over seven years, with our original Wee Archie design so popular that we had to build a second unit to meet demand. The current Wee Archies, Green and Blue (named after their LED indicator colours), are based around Raspberry Pi 3s and host a custom Python-based application framework. This approach has been successful at events where visitors have used our laptop to run a simulation, watch Wee Archie light up during activity, and learn more about parallel computation. However the setup is now getting old, becoming problematic and increasingly limiting what we can do.

NVIDIA Jetson GPU board

We have therefore designed an updated Wee Archie based around new Raspberry Pis with an added NVIDIA Jetson GPU board. This new Wee Archie has different modules to show different forms of computing. The first module hosts traditional CPU-based units demonstrated by the Raspberry Pis, and the second hosts a small GPU to show how accelerators can be integrated into simulations. Each module has a way of showing how the hardware is being used, and users can access the Wee Archie software via a browser to run a simulation on the system. 

The design of the new Wee Archie is still being finalised, but it will comprise a series of different boxes which link together into one modular system that anyone at an event can use. This means that over time, as new boards and better technology come out, we will be able to integrate them more easily into Wee Archie.

New software stack

But fear not, Blue and Green aren’t going away just yet. Thanks to the work of a group of EPCC developers, the entire software stack has been rebuilt and modernised. To ensure a consistent and usable experience across the entire Wee Archie family, the new software stack means a custom application is no longer required to use Wee Archie, all you need is a web browser and a WiFi connection. 

Multi-user capabilities

Prior versions of Wee Archie software didn’t show a good example of a scheduling system or multi-user capabilities. The new software can handle multiple users at a time, and you may have to wait your turn for your job to run, just like with a real supercomputer. The new prototype system is built around Django, Vue and currently supports a Slurm scheduler, like the one used on ARCHER2, for running simulation codes in languages such as FORTRAN and C++. This means attendees at events will be able to try running a simulation from their phone or tablet any time they are near a Wee Archie.

Wee Archie aero demo

Image shows a screengrab taken from the new Wee Archie demo.


Wee Archie at ISC24

Software and hardware change, and so does Wee Archie. Come and see the new software stack prototype at ISC24, where the first browser access demonstration will be available to try, allowing you to create an aircraft wing design and test it on Wee Archie (see screengrab above). Then watch out for the new hardware module design coming later this year.

Further information

Wee Archie


EPCC's activities at ISC24


Dr Alistair Grant
Alistair Grant