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 Everything You Always Wanted To Know About
Parallel Computation But Were Afraid To Ask

(Teacher's Version)

produced by

The Center for Research on Parallel Computation

What is the Center for Research
on Parallel Computation?

The Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC) is a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center established in 1989 to make massively parallel computing systems as usable as conventional supercomputing systems are today.

What is parallel computing?

Parallel computing takes hundreds and even thousands of microprocessors (the "brains" behind computers) and makes them work in parallel on a single computing task. These microprocessors can be linked together in a single computer or can be housed separately in computers that are linked together on a network.

The advantage of parallel computing over traditional, single-processor computing is that it can tackle problems more quickly and with greater power. For example, a problem that would take 1,000 years to solve on a hand-held calculator takes only one second on a parallel computer.

Why should my students
prepare for a future in
parallel computing?

Whether or not they ultimately enter the field of computer science, many of your students are likely to be part of an industry, profession, or endeavor that benefits from parallel computing. With the use of these powerful computers, engineers and scientists can design products such as airplanes, cars, electronic components, and pharmaceuticals. Parallel computers are also used to improve processes like oil reservoir management, toxic waste cleanup, airline scheduling, mutual fund management, and video-on-demand. Scientists are probing important problems in chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and physics through detailed models generated by parallel computers.

How can I help prepare my
students for parallel computing?

First, your students need to master basic math skills and enjoy using math to solve problems. To use parallel computation, they should have a grasp of algebra, set theory, and logic. To be able to apply parallel computation to science and engineering problems, your students need to know calculus. If they want to combine graphics and virtual reality with parallel processing, they will need to understand geometry and trigonometry.

Students should also be exposed to current computer technologies and keep up with them as they develop. Finally, your students must be able to communicate effectively with others. For this, a mastery of communication arts skills such as grammar and speech is essential.

How is the CRPC involved in
education efforts?

One of the primary CRPC initiatives has been to help train a new generation of scientists and engineers who are familiar with both scientific problem-solving and parallel computation. The CRPC provides innovative educational outreach programs at its sites nationwide to encourage more students, particularly underrepresented minorities and women, to pursue coursework and careers in computational science and engineering. These educational outreach programs train students and teachers from kindergarten through adult education.

More Information

For information about CRPC educational outreach programs, visit, or contact Danny Powell at, 713-348-6011, or 713-348-5136 (fax); or Theresa Chatman,, (713) 348-5180, (713) 348-5136 fax. Our mailing address is Rice University, CRPC - MS 41, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005.

[Online Educational Resources - CRPC Educational Outreach Page - CRPC Home Page]