Initial Publication Date: February 24, 2015

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...
  • 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

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