Students From MSU Denver Get Their Inspirational ‘Spark’ at SC Conference
Henricus Bouwmeester, an assistant professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) in the Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, had a “teacher” moment when he brought some of his students to the SC17 conference in Denver.
“I saw the spark that lit up in their eyes,” Bouwmeester said. “In our school, half are first-generation students, and about 45 percent of our students are students of color, of which 28 percent are Hispanic. And, we are a Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI).”
Most of Bouwmeester’s students had never been to a scientific conference—let alone one centered on high-performance computing (HPC). They did not know of opportunities that were available to them after graduation.
An Introduction to SC & HPC: The Student Tours Program
To learn more about student tours during SC17, Bouwmeester reached out to his colleague, Julien Langou, a professor at the University of Colorado Denver, where he learned he could bring about 10 students to the conference. MSU Denver offers many different types of classes to their students, but Bouwmeester decided to offer this opportunity to his Numerical Analysis students, noting they were “the perfect class to be introduced to this.”
Initially, 20 students wanted to attend, so Bouwmeester “decided to interview each student to find out their motivation and get true commitments from them.” In the end, only six students actually attended, and this group of motivated students had no idea what to expect. They had heard of HPC but could not grasp the extent of what it actually implied or the opportunities behind it.
When the group arrived at the conference, they were guided into a large room for a presentation about the conference held for all of the invited students.
“They presented the general idea of HPC and SCinet, and we learned about the student programs as well,” Bouwmeester recalled. “After, we went on the show floor and visited the booths. Walking throughout the booths, the students saw possible applications that were linked to their education, which opened their eyes and even guided them toward new educational objectives. They loved Purdue’s virtual reality application of Mars colonization in 2040. They also loved the one at the NASA booth, modeling billions of snowflakes to forecast winter storms and about how they are modeling noise from airports in the form of airframe noise from airplanes to noise from drones, both commercial and private.”
Students Discover New Ways of Using Technology
After their SC excursion, Bouwmeester held a debriefing session with his students. The students expressed they were surprised to see that the U.S. Department of Energy is involved with the conference and works with supercomputers.
“Some of my students were surprised and curious by the variety of tutorials and workshops that were offered,” he said. “Again, this experience was all new to my students, who had never been to a conference, so they didn’t foresee such learning opportunities. Best of all, four of my students inquired about graduate school, and all sought information about how they could get involved with SC.”
According to Bouwmeester, the debriefing was really where he saw that spark, “the glimmer in their eyes.”
“One student was blown away by SCinet, walking around with his calculator trying to figure out the scale of the 4.02 Tbps bandwidth and comparing it with what he had at home,” Bouwmeester noted. “Today, this student has transferred to the University of Denver and now has a very clear idea of what he wants to do and how he will get there, from the company he wants to work for to the graduate school he dreams of attending: Berkeley or MIT.
“One other student was a bit lost as to what she would be doing after her graduation,” he continued. “After her SC17 visit, she asked many questions about using her knowledge and how to apply it with supercomputing. She remodeled her class choices and concentrated more on data. After graduation, she started working with UBER and today works as a senior analyst for Standard and Poor’s. If we had not gone to SC17, these students would not be who they are and where they are today.”
SC Makes Dreams Feel Accessible
Such results have inspired Bouwmeester, who is planning on bringing another group to SC19 in Denver this year. He also has written references for students trying to get involved as SC student volunteers. Providing these hands-on opportunities to students makes everything they work toward more real and relevant. For Bouwmeester’s students, being able to see the schools and research groups all under the same roof at SC made the intangible tangible. For them, having a dream, or an objective, suddenly felt accessible. It fostered drive and perseverance.
Moreover, that initial visit to SC17 left Bouwmeester with one happy recollection of his students: “I could also recognize them on campus from afar with their SC17 backpacks that they were proud to carry around.”
Opportunities Await for Students at SC
Christine Baissac-Hayden, SC19 Students@SC Communications Liaison (Easy English 4 All)
Christine Baissac-Hayden created Easy English 4 All, which provides multilingual communication tools for clients from diverse backgrounds in the renewable energy, medical, defense, marine science, and film industries. Easy English 4 All provides English as a Second Language (ESL), French, Spanish and Japanese tutoring from certified native-speaking teachers and organizes international student exchanges with personalized objectives and goals.