Charles Powell is a dedicated physics and science teacher at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, a suburb west of Denver. Six years ago, he was chosen to be a pilot teacher for AP Computer Science Principles at a time when only 40 schools were selected to implement this program. Powell also was president of the Colorado CSTA (Computer Science Teacher Association) in 2015 and again in 2018.
Meanwhile, Bruce Loftis, a deep-rooted and active SC committee member since 2000, has made a career of working with and supporting users at universities with a significant HPC presence. His latest work is with the University of Colorado at Boulder.
In 2017, Loftis contacted Powell to invite him and his students to participate in the SC17 conference in Denver. Powell offered the opportunity to his AP computer students and, together, he and 13 interested students ventured to the Colorado Convention Center.
Taking in SC17
Their adventure started in Boulder as the group travelled to downtown Denver. “In itself, taking the light rail and walking to the convention center was already a neat experience for them,” Powell commentated, marking the starting point of their eye-opening journey.
At the convention center, an SC volunteer greeted the group and gave them an overview of SC. They then were offered “official” SC backpacks and other promotional items before finally hitting the show floor. At first, the students were overwhelmed with their attendee experience, but as they walked among the booths, interacted with professionals, and discovered many new things the value of attending SC became more and more clear.
“That was definitely the highlight of the day for the students,” Powell said. “They couldn’t really grasp everything, but they got a good taste of it. After the show, it was fun seeing them at school with their SC backpacks. I could recognize them from afar.”
A New Initiative Born
Once the conference was over, Loftis contacted Powell, asking if he would be interested in working on projects with him. It did not take long for Powell to accept. Soon, Loftis started presenting a few lectures aimed at high schoolers to describe the ideas of scientific high-performance computing (HPC) to the students.
“Part of the message in the high school lectures is that there are spectacular career opportunities in HPC,” Loftis explained. “You get to play with really big and expensive toys and solve really hard scientific problems. We provide students in the class with accounts on Bridges, a supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. They are able to run jobs and begin to understand the challenges of parallel computing.”
The Collaborative Magic Continues
Last year, Matt Morben, one of Powell’s students, asked Bruce Loftis to be his mentor for a Capstone project. “We are working with researchers at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). USGS planes, with elaborate sensors, fly over land and measure subsurface characteristics. An enormous amount of data is collected. USGS programs analyze the data. Matt is working with these programs, understanding their performance, making them more efficient using more processors and, hopefully, reducing time-to-solution,” said Loftis.
What began as a simple invitation to the SC conference has developed into a long-lasting year-round project. This dynamic is part of the experience when attending SC. Volunteers, attendees, speakers—however people become involved with SC—the outcome often opens the door to an ever-increasing, tight-knit, supportive community dedicated to sharing its wealth of HPC knowledge.
Opportunities Await for Students at SC
Are you a student inspired by this story? Learn more about the many opportunities that are available to students through the Students@SC program.
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.