Project HiSchool DiSCo April 7, 2007Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
I wanted to tell you about the project HiSchool DiSCo. This is a project that I started almost a year ago here at WSU as part of outreach effort supported by my CAREER award. The idea was to set up a network of (Linux-powered) computers at local high schools, both in Detroit and suburbs.
Why? Well, the way high performance computing is going nowdays, scientists and engineers will be using powerful grids of computers to solve computational problems. In fact, data from the highest-energy-to-be accelerator in the world, the LHC, will be processed using Grid technology using computers all over the world. There are many other exmples in physics and astrophysics (ex. LSST). Also, grids can be used for drug design, data minig, etc… The idea of Grid computing is very similar to electric power networks (“grids”): users of electricity can access electric power without actually wonderting about which power plant that energy is coming from. So, IMHO, its the way of the future in high performance computing.
Now, how can I interest high school students in this cool technology? And, generally, excite them about science and engineering careers? And make them think that physics is not boring? Certainly, no one will allow them to play with, say, the LHC Grid. This is where the HighSchool DiSCo comes in. Basically, it’s like a “toy grid.” Those computers in high schools would be used for the dual purposes of teaching high school students the basics of Linux/Windows administration and scientific computational methods and as a commodity cluster for high energy physics computations (in my case, analytical calculations of pQCD corrections). An many other things.
NSF thought that it is a good idea and funded a research assistant to work on this project. And that’s where we got stuck — no money for computers to place in schools!!! I was trying to get some private money and, naturally, contacted our University Development Office. They were “helpful” by enthusiastically agreeing to help, sitting on a proposal for almost a year doing nothing. Blew all private foundations’ deadlines without even letting me know… Of course, who cares about $30-50K when one can work on funding for a new building for several milllion $$$… At the end, I even had to spend money I got as part of one of the local WSU “outstanding faculty” awards to buy some computers… But still, no money for computers at schools! This is how the project looks like now, at least the WSU part of the cluster:
Maybe someone has some ideas of how to get this thing fully-funded? Or can offer funding? I’d appreciate the info…