Beowulf Mini-Supercomputer Network with Access Grid Project

Maui Community College in Maui, Hawaii has developed a mini-supercomputer which is a cluster of several personal computers. This is for training students for maintenance of a large supercomputer of the University of New Mexico in Maui Island. This mini-supercomputer is a kind of poor-man’s approach, yet performing special jobs spilled over from the large supercomputer center, e.g., processing of surveillance photo of rain-forest in Amazon, disaster prevention, etc.

This proposed joint project is to extend the network of such mini-supercomputers around the US to various overseas countries (e.g., Amazon region of Brazil, African countries, etc.) along with the Access Grid Project <> via broadband Internet.

This is a way we also envisioned almost three decades ago, i.e., a global neural computer network for the Globally Collaborative Environmental Peace Gaming with the use of globally distributed computer simulation system.

In 1981, Dr. Utsumi coined the term "Global Neural Computer Network" in which each participating game player, with his/her own desktop computer, database and sub-model, would correspond to a neuron, router to a synapses, and Internet to nerves of global brain.

For the realization of this gaming, we would like to have each of the member universities of our GUS/UNESCO/UNITWIN Networking Chair Program equipped with such mini-supercomputer.

Such mini-supercomputer can also be used by researchers in even developing countries to perform joint collaborative researches on various subjects, e.g., micro-biology, meteorology, chemical molecular study, DNA analysis, 3D human anatomy, design of space shuttle (a NASA project for training high school students around the world), etc.

In a sense, our GUS/UNESCO/UNITWIN Networking Chair project is to construct global scale knowledge forum with advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT), i.e., with the use of massive parallel processors of globally distributed and yet interconnected mini-supercomputers through global neural computer network.

NSF High Performance Computing Technology Project

A consortium of four community colleges, each serving a geographically defined region, together with seven affiliate supercomputer sites and business partners, will constitute a National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education Center of Excellence for High Performance Computing (HPC) (1) technology. The National Center will partner with business and industry to develop skill set standards and competencies needed for certifying HPC technicians and for developing an articulated Associate Degree program in HPC technology. The Regional Education and Training Centers (RETCs), established at each community college, will develop curriculum in HPC Technology that will articulate with four-year college information science, computer science, and high performance computing technology programs and will include the establishment of 2 + 2 agreements (see Note below) with regional high schools Tech Prep Programs.

Maui Community College, as lead institution, formed a consortium with Wake Technical Community College, Pellissippi State Technical Community College, and Contra Costa College, each chosen because of the diversity of student populations, partnerships with HPC sites and regional business and industry, and potential four-year college affiliations.

An NSF planning-grant (award 0101643) supported a nation-wide survey that revealed

“within the next 2 to 5 years, a) 71% of surveyed business and industry will utilize high performance computing, b) PC-cluster use will grow by 9% and there will be a distinct shift offsetting the balance between PC-cluster and supercomputer use in favor of PC-clusters and c) industry will continue to struggle to recruit, train and/or retain HPC employees. Based on survey findings and employment projections, the number of HPC positions for which associate degree holders will be eligible will be 164,397--at minimum--by 2008.” (2) Industry researchers concur; “the Beowulf concept (PC-Cluster) is an empowering force. It wrests high-level computing away from the privileged few and makes low-cost parallel-processing systems available to those with modest resources. Research groups, high schools, colleges or small businesses can build or buy their own Beowulf clusters, realizing the promise of a supercomputer in every basement.” (3)

The National Center administrator will be responsible for (a) creating and administering a web-based certification examination for technical personnel, (b) overseeing curriculum development and teaching methodologies, (c) developing strategies for recruitment, retention and placement; (d) creating a national repository of PC-cluster software, curricula and training materials for HPC technician educational programs; (e) providing professional development activities for college faculty, secondary teachers and business professionals; (f) developing and providing a consortium communications infrastructure; and (g) supervising dissemination, evaluation and reporting activities.

RETC directors will be accountable for (a) developing curriculum and learner centered teaching methodologies, (b) training business, industry and secondary teachers in PC-cluster construction, management and use; (c) providing professional development activities; (d) developing and coordinating professional internship programs at HPC sites and business for college faculty and secondary teachers; (e) coordinating student internship programs; (f) assisting with program graduate placement and (g) developing four-year college articulation agreements and local high school 2 + 2 agreements.

“2 + 2 agreements” is the agreements between community colleges and high schools that allows students to take community college courses during the junior and senior year and get credit both at high school and at college.


(1) High Performance Computing refers to multi-processor computers performing complex computational operations with a particular focus on clusters. Each college in the consortium has at least one partner High Performance Computing facility, hereafter is referred to as an HPC site.


(3) (Scientific American, August 2001 Issue)


G. Robert (Bob) Converse
Project Director/Principal Investigator
National Science Foundation
Advanced Technology Education Project
Maui Community College
310 Ka'a Humanu Ave.
Kahului, Hawaii 96732
Tel: +1-808-984 3447
Fax: +1-808-244 0862