With our increasing reliance on technology and computers it is critical that students begin their computer education early and that it involve more than just while loops and if statements. The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) developed the Computation Exploration program to address these issues and expose area high school students to today's high performance computing (HPC).
Computation Exploration (CompEx) is a high performance computing teaching module designed to be incorporated into existing curricula in high school computer science classrooms. This program teaches high school students the basics of parallel programming and guides them through the development of their own parallel programs. Once the parallel programs are written, the students are introduced to various HPC platforms, and get to run their programs on those platforms. In addition to traditional HPC architectures, students are exposed to cloud computing and run their own MPI programs on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. Finally, students learn about large scale data analysis using Hadoop.
CompEx is a nine week course offered to Pittsburgh area high schools. Approximately twice a month, PSC staff travel to the high school to lecture and teach key concepts to the students. Between those visits, the students work on programming projects related to the course. Most students who participate in the program have minimal programming experience. Typically, they are only halfway through an introductory computer programming class before CompEx begins. Every student who participated said that their programming skills improved and that they would recommend CompEx to a friend.
"It showed me how real programming is done."
"...getting my code to run in parallel was a joy, especially since I got to be the first."
"I learned to create code that ran on multiple processors, something we normally wouldn't do in class."
"I enjoyed working with high level computers and things we normally would not have had access to without a fat wallet."