Grid computing is all about bringing together distributed resources, data and people, so it's fitting that one of the first undergraduate courses in Grid computing would also be distributed. Since fall semester 2004, 75 students across North Carolina have learned about Grid computing with the help of faculty from several institutions and the North Carolina Research and Education Network.
“This course brings state of the art computing into the undergraduate curriculum,” said Barry Wilkinson from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “In this class the NCREN wasn't just used to transmit lectures; it was also used to create a Grid infrastructure for the students.”
Wilkinson, along with UNC Wilmington faculty member Clayton Ferner and a team of six faculty and students, led development for the course, which is funded by the UNC Office of the President and the National Science Foundation. Students learn about grids from the bottom up, studying technology first and applications later. Lectures are transmitted from UNC Charlotte to 12 institutions, and students complete a series of five assignments to learn how to set up and use a grid.
“We start them off with an assignment in Web services, next they generate a Grid service and contact it, then they submit jobs to the Globus Resource Allocation Manager (GRAM), use a scheduler and a workflow editor,” explained Ferner. “The goal is to train students who will one day support or implement research on grids.”
Wilkinson and Ferner found developing the new course a challenge. The summer of 2004 was spent setting up the first class Grid based on Globus Toolkit 3.2, developing the lengthy course assignments and creating hundreds of PowerPoint slides from which to lecture. This past summer was spent updating the grid and assignments to GT4. They also integrated some of their own Grid research into the curriculum, using the GridNexus workflow editor developed at UNC Wilmington.
“This is not a course regularly taught at any level,” said Wilkinson. “There was no textbook to follow, and so we've created all the material from scratch. The class has been an enabler for the students — several of the students from 2004 and 2005 have continued on in Grid research after the end of class.”
Learn more at the Web site, www.cs.uncc.edu/~abw/ITCS4010F05/.
** This article originally appeared in Science Grid This Week (www.interactions.org/sgtw/). SGTW is produced at Fermilab and jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.