SIGCSE 2015 Special Session:

Budget Beowulfs

This is the resources page for the special session on Friday, March 6, 2015 at 10:45 AM - Noon
Room 3501H

Presenters: Joel C. Adams, Calvin College; Jacob Caswell, St. Olaf College; Suzanne J. Matthews, United States Military Academy; Charles Peck, Earlham College; Elizabeth Shoop, Macalester College; and David Toth, Centre College


In response to the shift to multicore processors, the ACM-IEEE CS2013 curriculum recommendations [1] include parallel and distributed computing (PDC) as a new core knowledge area. Some of the key concepts in PDC are the distinctions between shared-memory, distributed-memory, and heterogeneous system architectures.

Most CS educators would agree that providing students with hands-on experience improves their students' learning. Given the ubiquity of multicore processors, it is quite easy to give today's students hands-on experience developing software on shared-memory architectures. By contrast, providing students with hands-on experience developing software for distributed architectures has typically required access to a Beowulf cluster, whose price was beyond the reach of many institutions. However, hardware manufacturers have recently begun producing a variety of inexpensive "system on a board" multiprocessors. Creative CS educators are using these multiprocessors to design and build inexpensive Beowulf clusters, and using them to provide students with hands-on experience with shared-memory, distributed-memory, and heterogeneous computing paradigms.

In this special session, four PDC educators and a student will bring, present, and demonstrate their innovative Beowulf clusters; each designed and built using a different inexpensive multiprocessor board.

Outline of the session

*** Link to this resource page: ***

  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
      Jacob Caswell, St. Olaf College
      Raspberry Pi 2 nodes; briefcase container 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...
  3. Group questions and answers (11:10) -- Joel Adams

  4. Show and Tell (11:35) -- all presenters
    Audience members interact with presenters and their clusters


[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

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