HPC in K-12: what works?

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A question for those of you involved in helping to educate the next generation of HPC (and science and engineering) talent — what have you seen/done/been involved with that works for reaching pre-college students? I’m interested in studying what’s already been done as models for what might work in my own state. Leave a comment, or send me an email.


  1. Basically if the kid has already some good skills in C/C++ (and there is always at least one of these in a k-12 science class) the chances of doing successfully some HPC stuff are quite high.

    In 2007 I got a k-12 kid who take the following project: In my personal cluster (16 nodes) I use a lot MPTIB, which is wrapper of MPI to be called directly inside Matlab or Octave. You have all the advantages of Octave/Matlab and MPI combined. Just google it for more info.

    At that time, I have several programs that calculated acoustic fields produced by finite sources, each program is different in the sense of the degree of heterogeneity of the propagation medium but all them shared the same approach to distribute the calculation under MPI.

    The project consisted in writing a common logic (pretty much as doing a C++ class or template) that supported all the different scenarios.

    Well this kid took only a couple weeks to learn MPI, to understand around 8 programs, identify the central logic and write the new version. And he did not have any experience on Matlab/Octave (which is irrelevant since his knowledge in C++ helped him to jump in extremely quickly) . The following week we tested his new implementation and by week 4 the new code was in production.

    Three years later I have just made some small improvements to his code,

    The kid is currently following an undergraduate formation in Soft Eng at University of Waterloo, in Ontario.

    In 2008 we spotted another kid like this but he preferred to work in a project more oriented to control an acquisition system, anyway, this kid also did a terrific job implementing a quite complicated software.

    The lesson: Do not hesitate to bring k-12 kids to the HPC lab, he/she can put in shame several of the graduate students.