Initial Publication Date: February 9, 2016

SIGCSE 2016 Special Session:

The Micro-Cluster Showcase: 7 Inexpensive Beowulf Clusters for Teaching PDC

10:45 AM - 12 noon, Thursday March 3, 2016
Mississippi Room


Joel Adams, Calvin College
Jacob Caswell, St. Olaf College
Suzanne Matthews, U.S. Military Academy
Charles Peck, Earlham College
Elizabeth Shoop, Macalester College
David Toth, Centre College
James Wolfer, Indiana University, South Bend

Summary: Just as a micro-computer is a personal, portable computer, a micro-cluster is a personal, portable, Beowulf cluster. In this special session, six cluster designers will bring and demonstrate micro-clusters they have built using inexpensive single-board computers (SBCs). The educators will describe how they have used their clusters to provide their students with hands-on experience using the shared-memory, distributed-memory, and heterogeneous computing paradigms, and thus achieve the parallel and distributed computing (PDC) objectives of CS 2013.

Most CS educators are aware of the Raspberry Pi, but many have never heard of more powerful SBCs, such as Adapteva's Parallella, the Nvidia Jetson, or the ODROID C1+ or XU4 . In this session, our primary objective is to give CS educators the opportunity to:

  1. See clusters that their peers have built using SBCs.
  2. Hear how their peers are using their clusters to teach PDC. 3. Interact with those peers on a personal basis.

A secondary objective is to inspire other CS educators to create their own clusters. By showcasing these clusters and exploring how they are being using in the classroom, we hope to catalyze a wave of innovation in PDC education.

Outline of the session

  1. Brief introduction (10:45) -- Joel Adams
  2. Lightning talks (10:48) Slides (Acrobat (PDF) 19.2MB Feb24 15)
  • StudentPi and StudentParallella
    Suzanne Matthews, United States Military Academy
    Raspberry Pi nodes; Parallella nodes; 3D-printed frames. More...
  • PIs To Go and Remora
    Jacob Caswell, St. Olaf College
    Raspberry Pi 2 nodes; briefcase container More....
    Portable clusters of virtual machines More...
  • HSC-1 and HSC-2
    David Toth, Centre College
    CubieBoard2 nodes; ODROID-U3 nodes; plasticware containers.
  • Rosie
    Elizabeth Shoop, Macalester College
    NVIDIA Jetson TK1 nodes; metal standoffs
  • LittleFe
    Charlie Peck, Earlham College
    Intel 4-core Celeron nodes with integrated GPU; custom frame. More...
  • CU-T-Pi
    James Wolfer, Indiana University, South Bend
    A heterogeneous cluster with one Nvidia Jetson-TK1 and four Raspberry Pi nodes
  • Group questions and answers (11:10) -- Joel Adams
  • Show and Tell (11:35) -- all presenters Audience members interact with presenters and their clusters
  • References

    [1] CS2013 curriculum -- ACM-IEEE/CS Curriculum guidelines for undergraduate CS degree programs (all fields). CS2013 website ; direct link to Final report (518 pages)

    Additional resources