There was an excess of Raspberry Pis and a plentiful number of uses. That was reason enough for Eamonn Nugent '19 and Tristan Golden '19 to create the US Computer Hardware Club - a new club offering this year. "The idea to build a high performance compute cluster originated from several students requiring a large amount of computing resources, and no current feasible way to provide them. We decided to use the Pis to build King a supercomputer. By the end of the academic year, we hope to have the cluster up and running, providing compute resources for classes and students working on independent projects," said Eamonn.
According to RaspberryPi.com, the Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It is a capable little computer that can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word processing, browsing the Internet, and playing games.
Sue Heintz, Computer Science and Digital Applications Faculty, is the Club Adviser. "Tristan and Eamonn have had a desire to build a computer and this was the perfect opportunity. Tristan's father donated five old computers for the exercise of taking them apart and understanding how they work," said Ms. Heintz.
The Club worked with Mark Silence, Performing Arts Faculty, to design and build the case that will house the computer. "I've always been interested in computers, and spending time in school working with them is like a mini dream come true," said Eamonn. "Since I was young, I've been taking computers apart and playing with them. I enjoy the sheer logic involved, that no problem is unsolvable."
During a Club meeting in early December, students set up the circuit boards by installing a heat sink on each board. Next, they will mount the boards into the cases, install the operating system, and begin setting up the software. "Their goal is to move the completed computer to the science department so students can begin to do complicated computational chemistry problems," said Ms. Heintz. Ideally, the Club would like to develop classes around the cluster, teaching students how to use it properly, and have students utilize software installed to perform their own tasks.
"We hope to complete the compute cluster by the end of the year and with the unused computers, maybe we can make a laptop to give to students in need of computers," said Tristan. "Upon completion, the cluster will be christened Nebula, preferably without champagne," adds Eamonn.