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Blue Waters Training, Education and Outreach Impact

by Scott Lathrop, Blue Waters Technical Program Manager for Education

The Blue Waters project has been and continues to support activities that engage faculty and students across the country and help them in pursuing computational science and engineering research and education.

Key partners with NCSA in these efforts include:

The Blue Waters training, education, and outreach team has been very active in raising awareness of computational science and engineering, the resources available from Blue Waters, and the challenges and opportunities for pursuing extreme scaling in all fields of study. The team has visited more than 60 campuses, giving presentations and conducting hands-on workshops to assist faculty, staff, and students in understanding how they can become involved and benefit from the National Science Foundation’s investments in cyberinfrastructure for research and education.

Blue Waters team members also have presented at many conferences and workshops and use a newsletter, the web, and social media to help keep the community informed.

The Great Lakes Consortium for Computational Science (GLCPC) and the Campus Champions Program together include more than 150 campuses. Through these efforts, Blue Waters is able to work directly with faculty, staff, and students at these institutions to raise local awareness of the resources and services available. These campuses include over 15 minority-serving institutions and more than 50 institutions in EPSCoR jurisdictions; this outreach helps ensure that we provide opportunities for everyone to become involved in research and education in computational science and engineering and extreme scaling. We welcome other campuses to join the Campus Champions Program to benefit from these opportunities.

In addition, researchers at GLCPC member institutions are able to apply for computing time on the Blue Waters system; the first GLCPC call for proposals recently closed, and selected projects will be announced early in 2013. In addition, 1 percent of the Blue Waters system will support innovative education projects from any academic institution. For more information about using Blue Waters for education, contact

Blue Waters training and education activities include interdisciplinary hands-on workshops to engage undergraduate and graduate students in learning about computational science and engineering tools, technologies and methods, which they can directly apply within their classroom activities and their research projects. The workshops are offered as live in-person events, as webinars, and via high-definition video onferencing to reach students across the country. The workshops have been and continue to be offered by NCSA, Shodor, and the Virtual School of Computational Science and Engineering.

Nearly 40 undergraduate students have been immersed in year-long research internships over the last three years to advance their learning and to further motivate them to pursue advanced studies and careers in these fields. The students have presented posters on their research at the SC Conferences, and a number of them have had papers published in the Journal of Computational Science Education.

Undergraduate faculty have been engaged in hands-on workshops to learn about computational science and engineering technologies, with an emphasis on incorporating these technologies within the curriculum. These workshops vary from one to two days to a full week working with experts in the field.

As a result of the work of many faculty across the country to invigorate their curriculum, 30 modules for teaching undergraduate students have been developed, reviewed, and used by others. These modules—covering topics such as Multithreading and Multiprocessing and Dynamic Programming with CUDA—are freely available online at Additional computational science and engineering training and education materials are available through the HPC University portal. We encourage the community to use these learning materials, provide feedback on how they can be improved, and to submit their own materials for use by the community.

The Shodor team welcomes opportunities to work with faculty, teachers, and students and welcomes the opportunity to visit your campus, school, or community organization to engage more students and faculty in learning about and pursuing computational science and engineering. For example, the Shodor team has provided significant content for the annual SC Conference Education Program for more than 10 years and helped co-sponsor week-long summer workshops to engage faculty in curricular development activities on campuses across the country.

Additionally, the Shodor team has worked closely with EPSCoR-funded projects to incorporate computational thinking into science, technology, engineering and mathematics undergraduate courses with targeted efforts in collaboration with project leaders in a number of regions including Nevada, Oklahoma, and Puerto Rico.

For the past five years, the Virtual School of Computational Science and Engineering (VSCSE), led by the University of Michigan and NCSA, has offered more than 10 week-long summer schools using high-definition video-conferencing to engage more than 2,000 graduate students at institutions across the country in learning about petascale and extreme scaling computing technologies, resources, and methods.

VSCSE topics offered to date have included:

  • Programming Heterogeneous Parallel Computing Systems
  • Science Cloud
  • Proven Algorithmic Techniques for Many-core Processors
  • Petascale Programming Environments and Tools
  • Big Data for Science

The sessions are all recorded, and the video and slides from these sessions are all freely available online for continued learning.

During 2013, the VSCSE will initiate a new effort to offer semester-long web-based courses on petascale and extreme scaling topics that will be accessible to undergraduate and graduate students across the country. Students will be provided with opportunities to earn graduate credit for participation in these courses. Additional information about the VSCSE is available at

Blue Waters and XSEDE offer an annual Extreme Scaling Workshop to address topics of common interest to researchers challenged with scaling their codes to the ever expanding array of computational systems afforded to the research community. The 6th annual workshop held in July 2012 brought together 45 researchers and professionals from academia, industry, and government to address algorithmic and applications challenges and solutions in large-scale computing systems with limited memory and I/O bandwidth. The slides from the workshop are available at

The Blue Waters project is committed to providing high quality training, education, and outreach resources and services. If you have questions or would like to work with the Blue Waters team please contact us at We welcome your suggestions for how we can best serve the needs of you, your colleagues, and your students to prepare current and future generations of computational innovators and leaders.

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