Tiny supercomputer created at ORNL could come to schools

Students could soon get hands-on experience with a scaled-down version of the world's second most powerful computer.

(WBIR-Oak Ridge) Students could soon get hands-on experience with a scaled-down version of the world's second most powerful computer.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) recently finished Tiny Titan, a scale-model of Titan.

Titan is a multimillion-dollar supercomputer housed in ORNL. Scientists use it to help solve real-world problems, like how to make semi-trucks more fuel efficient.

But to help people understand just what a supercomputer can do, they created Tiny Titan.

It consists of nine nodes, identified by different colored lights. Images on a connected monitor use the same colors to show the activity of each processor.

"You just have tons of tiny little computers working together to solve really complicated problems," said Dylan Wood, a mentor for the Governor's School for Computational Physics at Austin Peay State University.

High school students involved with the summer program visited ORNL on Friday to learn more about Tiny Titan.

The program consists of more than 40 of the brightest students across the state, including Danielle McNabney, a sophomore at Morristown-Hamblen High School West.

"I kind of want to go into biology, marine biology. But I'm thinking about physics now that I've come here," McNabney said.

But ORNL wants to better prepare students, like McNabney. Tiny Titan makes it easier for students to understand how a supercomputer works.

"We see this as the way computer science education needs to go. Everything from your smart phone to your 3D television has a multi-core processor. So students who don't have parallel programming skills will be left out of 21st century engineering jobs," said Robert French with ORNL's National Center for Computational Sciences.

Samuel Cupp said he can see how the visuals make a difference, compared to looking at supercomputer which looks like a room full refrigerators.

"Just look at it and see the difference, versus, 'Well, there's a bunch of computers here and just trust me it runs faster.' It's a lot better when you can actually visualize the difference," Cupp said, a Maryville High School alumnus and mentor for the Governor's School for Computational Physics.

Tiny Titan costs about $1,000, compared to a multimillion dollar supercomputer. ORNL plans to put them in schools with a STEM or engineering focus.

According to French, they are hoping to partner with STEM School Chattanooga. However, it has the potential to be a part of the curriculum at schools all across the area.

Creators of Tiny Titan recently came back from Washington D.C. where they used it to talk with congressional staffers.

They started creating Tiny Titan in December 2013.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment