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As the use of parallel computers has increased in science and engineering, the need for undergraduate courses training students in the use of these tools has increased. Unfortunately, by the late 1980s, few faculty at the nation's college and universities had received the training necessary to develop adequate curricula in parallel computing because the software tools for first-generation machines were not yet available. The problem had become particularly acute in the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority institutions.

To stimulate the creation of parallel computing curricula at HBCUs and minority institutions, Argonne National Laboratory has hosted parallel computing workshops since 1992 for faculty from colleges and universities with significant enrollments of female and underrepresented minority students. The workshops introduce faculty to parallel machines and programming in a one-week workshop at Argonne; during the remainder of the semester, participants are given access to these machines through an Internet connection, during which time they work on examples and experiment with real applications. The knowledge the faculty gain from these workshops can then be used to prepare courses to train undergraduates in the use of parallel computing.

Participants in a recent parallel computing workshop at Argonne National laboratory. Since 1992, Argonne has offered courses for faculty from coleges and universities with significant enrollments of female and minority students.

The workshops have kept participants up to date with developing trends in the parallel computing industry. For instance, by mid-1992, the performance of shared-memory multiprocessors was surpassed by distributed-memory multicomputers, which had an increased potential for scalability and a predicted teraflop performance by 1995. In response to this situation, CRPC researchers at Argonne converted the workshops from a focus on a single computer architecture to a focus on program portability and architecture independence. A portable programming tool p4, developed at Argonne, was used to supplement this curricular shift. The p4 tool enables users to perform message passing on a network of workstations and distributed-memory multicomputers and to simulate message passing on a shared-memory multiprocessor. Participants, beginning with those in the August 1992 workshop, have written distributed-memory versions of computer assignments using p4. Argonne has also offered graduate-level classes that introduced some of the material in the faculty workshops at a more accelerated rate. These week-long classes have focused on program portability across diverse architectures, including the Sequent Symmetry S81 and BBN Butterfly TC2000 machines. Overall, the workshops have had a significant effect on the teaching of parallel computing at the undergraduate level. Faculty from more than 54 HBCUs have participated in the program since 1992. In turn, these faculty have offered approximately 20 courses each year, with total enrollments of 300 undergraduates a semester. Within three years, the program hopes to be reaching 1,000 new students each semester. The fifth week-long faculty workshop was held in January 1994 and a two-day workshop for local community college faculty on parallel methods and tools will be held in March 1994.

For more information on this program, contact Gail Pieper, Argonne National Laboratory, Mathematics and Computer Science Division, 9700 S. Cass Avenue, Argonne, IL 60439, 708-252-7222, 708-252-5986 (fax), pieper@mcs.anl.gov .

Source: "Bringing Parallel Computation to the College and University Classroom," Robert Sompolski, John Mateja, and Ewing Lusk, Argonne National Laboratory

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