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A Portable Cluster for Each Student. Dave Toth University of Mary Washington → Centre College dtoth@umw.edu → Dave.M.Toth@gmail.com → ???. Teaching Challenges. Hardware is expensive Expensive hardware is well defended ;) Labs are often in demand and sometimes closed

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a portable cluster for each student

A Portable Cluster for Each Student

Dave Toth

University of Mary Washington → Centre College

dtoth@umw.edu →Dave.M.Toth@gmail.com → ???

teaching challenges
Teaching Challenges
  • Hardware is expensive
  • Expensive hardware is well defended ;)
  • Labs are often in demand and sometimes closed
  • Many students procrastinate
  • Many students commute
  • Students step on each other when there’s limited hardware
  • I’m not a sys admin and I’m not fixing the server at 1 AM!
solutions
Solutions
  • Time slots for everybody during business hours – don’t be late!
  • Everybody lives on campus
  • Students can kick others out of labs
  • Dedicated hardware for the course
  • Everybody buys their own portable cluster!
inspiration
Inspiration

Microwulf [1] & LittleFe [2]

4 node, 8 core, 8 GB RAM 6 node, 12 core + GPU capability, 12 GB RAM

[1] http://www.calvin.edu/~adams/research/microwulf/photos/Microwulf-Pages/Image3.html

[2] http://littlefe.net/sites/all/modules/brilliant_gallery/image.php?imgp=L2dhbGxlcnkvMDA2LmpwZw==&imgw=1000&imgh=669

the candidates
The Candidates
  • Android TV boxes
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Merrii Hummingbird
  • Cubieboard2
  • ODROID U3
  • Intel NUC and other similar systems
minimum cost parts list
Minimum Cost Parts List

*

* bulk discount for 50 boards and no packaging

assembly
Assembly
  • Unbox all items.
  • Peel off protective paper from case.
  • Assemble case using provided standoffs
  • Flash image on 2 micro SD cards.

~ 11 minutes per card with class 4 cards

  • Insert cards.
  • Connect all cables.
  • Power on & boot!
drawbacks
Drawbacks
  • Doesn’t illustrate scalability by itself
    • I recommend XSEDE education grant
  • Never enough cores!
    • Working on other options (quad option, soon 8)
  • Still expensive
    • Distribute open source book with it (slight delay)
future work
Future Work
  • Get price down
  • Try for quad core (or 8-core)
  • Find board with GPU that supports CUDA or OpenCL
  • Benchmark different boards
  • Add more example programs to image file
  • Enhance documentation
  • Integrate boards into other courses (organization and operating systems)