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August 18, 2010
Fifty-one Campus Champions attended the National Science Foundation (NSF) TeraGrid's fifth annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., recently. Accounting for about 15 percent of attendees, the champions bring a wealth of experience to the program, including knowledge of TeraGrid systems and services, their local campus resources, and other cyberinfrastructures such as the Open Science Grid.
Pittsburgh provided the perfect backdrop for high performance computing (HPC) enthusiasts to connect professionally and socially. The presence of regional champions allowed the 100 student attendees to become acquainted with experts from their regional institutions, in addition to the 150 TeraGrid personnel and users who were also there. The first day of the four-day conference included a rich program of training, education, and networking opportunities for these ambassadors of cyberinfrastructure.
Among the attendees was TeraGrid's first Campus Champion, Vikram Gazula from the University of Kentucky, who joined in March 2008. Since then, the number of champions has grown to 91 from 69 institutions spanning the US from South Carolina to Hawaii and Alaska to Louisiana.
Craig Struble, a new campus champion from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc., said of his conference experience: "I learned more about the allocation process, various file transfer tools, the Globus toolkit, and TeraGrid's transition to XD. I met Daniel Ernst from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, and we began to discuss the possibility of expanding our Milwaukee area grid activities to include a broader area of Wisconsin. Most importantly, in preparation for a fall class, I was able to work with Preston Smith and Alex Younts from Purdue University to launch my first virtual machine on their cloud system, Wispy."
Campus Champions broaden participation in the use of TeraGrid by recruiting new users including under-represented groups in using HPC, data analysis, and storage resources. In addition to engaging new fields of research, champions acquaint users from geographic regions that have only recently become connected to high performance networks, for example some of the states included in the NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). There were more than 50 conference attendees from EPSCoR states this year -- many of whom have expressed an interest in their organizations joining the 25 incumbent EPSCoR Campus Champion institutions.
Jeff Pummill, campus champion at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, said "The greatest benefit of attending TeraGrid '10 was interacting with the TeraGrid people who help Champions help others push their computational efforts further, and in different directions. Everybody on the TeraGrid seems to want to jump in and help -- they are all very approachable."
David Stack, Campus Champion from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, enjoyed San Diego Supercomputer Center Director and TG'10 Conference Co-chair Richard Moore's presentation about TeraGrid's Transition to XD. "Although there will always be researchers at the cutting edge of technology, HPC is presently too difficult for most researchers to use. The majority just want to get their project done rather than spend time debugging parallel code. It is difficult to find enough qualified instructors to teach HPC to a new generation of students. Environments are needed that allow scientists to work at 'higher levels' than command line interfaces and Web portals. The gateways and portals that currently integrate resources within disciplines need to be integrated with each other. We also need long-term policies and commitments to levels of storage and services that extend beyond the funding of a single grant. In response to these concerns, it was good to hear that the extreme Digital (XD) suite of resources that will replace TeraGrid in 2011 will focus on the integration of resources, not the resources themselves."
The Campus Champions Program is led by Kay Hunt, customer service manager of the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Hunt also participates with TeraGrid's Education, Outreach, and Training (EOT) and External Relations (ER) working groups. "The Campus Champion program is an integral part of TeraGrid's success story. It is designed to expand and diversify TeraGrid's user base by recruiting local evangelists from campuses nationwide. Through this program, campus representatives serve as the local source of knowledge about high-performance computing opportunities and resources. This knowledge and assistance empowers campus-specific researchers, educators, and students to advance scientific discovery," said Hunt.
The Campus Champions program is driven by the needs of the campuses and their users. "Meetings such as TeraGrid '10 allow TeraGrid staff time to talk with the Champions to learn how we can better serve their needs," said Scott Lathrop, area director for education, outreach and training (EOT) for the TeraGrid. "It's also a great opportunity to let other campuses know that we welcome their participation to ensure that faculty and students on each campus know how to benefit from the breadth of local and national cyberinfrastructure resources," he added.
To learn more about TeraGrid and the Campus Champion program, visit www.teragrid.org/web/eot/campus_champions.
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