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Kennedy High School Students Spend ‘Amazing’ Day Learning about Berkeley Lab Computing

April 27, 2017


Margie Wylie (left) of the CS Communications Group describes the Wang Hall seismic floor to students from the Kennedy High School IT Academy. LBNL photo by Marilyn Chung.

Twenty students and three faculty members from Kennedy High School in Richmond spent the morning of April 26 looking, listening and learning about the breadth of computing at Berkeley Lab, from desktop machines to supercomputers.

The students are enrolled in the high school’s IT Academy, which includes classes on computer design, networking and web design, and integrates those subjects with classes in English, history and science.

“It was amazing,” said Jaime, a junior, of the tour of the NERSC supercomputer room. “I never thought it would be so big. I never saw anything like that before.”

Jaime was also impressed by the seismic flooring under the machine room and surprised by the sticky floor mats used to keep dirt from being tracked into the machine room.

In addition to the tour, the group heard an overview of the lab and the role of computing and networking in supporting science by Computing Sciences Deputy Jonathan Carter and heard a short presentation by Jose Sierra, a graduate of the IT Academy who now works in the Computing Sciences desktop support group. Sierra urged the students to take advantage of opportunities like the visit to learn more and meet people who may be able to help them in the future.

Another Kennedy graduate, Tammy Campbell of the IT Division’s Workstation Support Group, also encouraged the students to continue their education after high school and to keep on top of changes in how technology is used, no matter what career they pursue. In the long term, she said, they will benefit both financially and personally.


Kennedy High School Junior Jaime said the NERSC machine room was "Amazing ... I never thought it would be so big. I never saw anything like that before.” Photo by Marilyn Chung, Berkeley Lab.

Bobby Zavieh walked students through the group's work area where computers are repaired and updated. Anita Newkirk of the workstation group demonstrated an iPad tiling project and showed how the display could be remotely controlled with her phone.

“I didn’t know you could control an iPad with an iPhone,” said Angel, also a junior in the academy. “I also liked to see how the supercomputers work and support all kinds of science. It was amazing.”

The students also showed keen interest in project by IT’s Jimmy Mai to analyze the energy use with an eye toward improving the efficiency of gaming systems, which can consume eight times as much power as a desktop PC.

Over lunch. Soledad Adelana Toledano gave an overview of cybersecurity, including suggestions on how students can protect themselves.

LaRue Moore, the lead teacher for the IT Academy who accompanied the students, called the trip "one of the most important study trips for the students in ITA’s Information System Design and Management class" and allowed them to see how the fields of science and technology come together in practical ways and gained a better understanding of the amount of data being processed after seeing the Cray supercomputers.

"Students who are interested in network support were able to see the types of tasks the career would entail from the persons that actually do the job," Moore added. "The inspirational discussions about professionalism, documentation of workflow, and teamwork reinforced the elements of our class curriculum in practical, powerful, and positive ways."

The visit, organized by Computing Sciences Communications, was the latest in a string of outreach activities between Computing Sciences and the Kennedy High IT Academy dating back to 2010.

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery. 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.