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Students from Oakland’s Life Academy Get a Glimpse of Scientific Computing

June 3, 2016


NERSC's Jackie Scoggins (left) poses with students and teachers from Oakland's Life Academy as they visit the NERSC machine room.

Ten students and two teachers from Oakland’s Life Academy spent the morning of Friday, June 3, learning about what supercomputers are used for, what it takes to run a center like NERSC and the importance of high-speed networking. They also received a hands-on lesson in Arduino, an open source hardware and software program for controlling electronic devices.

The visit was arranged by Tokiwa Smith of BLEND, the Berkeley Lab Exploration of New Discoveries program managed by Berkeley Lab’s Workforce Development and Education. Life Academy is a small public high school in Oakland emphasizing health and bioscience studies.

Jackie Scoggins of NERSC’s Operations Technology Group led a tour of the machine room and gave a presentation on how the operations group supports the systems and the scientists who use them.

Kate Mace of ESnet’s Science Engagement Team gave a talk comparing “big data” on commercial apps to Big Data on research apps, pointing out how an entire day’s worth of Instagram posts is only as third as much data as that produced by one experiment at the ALS, and how networks underlie all data transfers.

James Welcher of IT’s Security Group and intern Arthur Frohlich led the hands-on Arduino demo in which the students needed to program their hardware and connect wires to the appropriate ports to light up an LED.

Cesar Martinez, a freshman, was the first to successfully complete the task. “It’s interesting to see what you can do with such a tiny computer like Arduino and also see how the big supercomputers are being used to support research in Switzerland. It was a really good experience.”

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery, and researchers increasingly rely on advances in computer science, mathematics, computational science, data science, and large-scale computing and networking to increase our understanding of ourselves, our planet, and our universe. Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences Area researches, develops, and deploys new foundations, tools, and technologies to meet these needs and to advance research across a broad range of scientific disciplines.

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.