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Grant Gives Student Opportunity To Build Computer, Gain Latest Insight

October 11, 2011
Merrimack College computer science major Jillian Jakubowicz and Assistant Professor Dr. David Toth, Computer Science Department, will represent Merrimack College in the upcoming Education Program Supercomputing Conference in Seattle, Washington this November

They are recipients of a grant from the LittleFe Project with support from The Educational Alliance for a Parallel Future and The Supercomputing Steering Committee.  Jillian will be showing off her computing skills by competing in the buildout session for the LittleFe project.

LittleFe (little iron) is a portable mini-cluster system that contains multiple processors but is small enough to fit into a shipping case, which makes it portable from classroom to classroom.  At the conference, Jillian will assemble her LittleFe unit from a kit, and install the Bootable Cluster CD (BCCD) software on it.  Dr. Toth will be by her side in case she needs assistance.  Jillian will also attend sessions about the introductory parallel computing techniques.  
“With multi-core CPUs being the standard on today’s computers, we need software engineers who can write software to efficiently and effectively use the multiple cores to solve big problems in science, math, and engineering,” said Dr. Toth.  “Jillian will get her first exposure to this at the conference.”  
Dr. Toth had to choose from the many students who expressed interest.  Jillian, a junior from Clinton, Massachusetts, was particularly interested in the hands-on experience of building the system and has shown outstanding programming ability.  “She is the person I thought would benefit the most from the experience of building the system, learning about parallel computing, and getting exposed to the computational science that can be done with the system,” said Dr. Toth.
As a result of participation in this buildout session, the LittleFe unit that Jillian builds, becomes the property of Merrimack College, along with ongoing free support and curriculum development support.  Dr. Toth will use the LittleFe in his Parallel Computing course, a course which Jillian will most likely be taking in a future semester, as she joins other Merrimack students in their exposure to the newest wave in computing.

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