Perform community outreach

Outreach is a conduit through which other goals are reached. Examples include integrating education and research, broadening participation, and developing the future workforce. Enhancing outreach activities increases NCAR’s connection with our university community, students, interns, and future employees at all levels.

The goals to manage our outreach programs include: stewardship of public exhibit areas; teaching the public about the importance of and careers in HPC; and performing outreach at regional, national, and international levels.

Stewardship of public exhibit areas

In FY2018 CISL renewed its commitment to maximizing the impact of the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) as a teaching and public outreach vehicle. Students and the public were educated and inspired by the NWSC facilities, computers, and science. Nearly 340 students in 27 school groups visited the center in FY2018. The center also received 36 non-school groups with a total of more than 645 members. The NWSC hosted 1,840 total visitors in FY2018 and a total of 11,490 since opening in 2012.

NWSC visitors
Visitors at the 2018 NWSC Super Science Saturday event participate in a computer programming workshop.

On August 18, 2018, the NWSC hosted its first Super Science Saturday. Nearly 270 attendees enjoyed the Visitor Center, facility tours, and educational activities. Students from the University of Wyoming facilitated activities that included robot races and various Raspberry Pi demonstrations. CISL demonstrated its Meteo-AR and HPC-TV applications, and members of the UCAR Science Education staff provided various hands-on science discovery activities. Community presentations included a Weather Balloon launch by Vaisala, robots with the University of Wyoming, and a Storm Presentation by Skywarn. Microsoft provided an hour of coding presentation and food for the event.

CISL’s Outreach, Diversity, and Education group developed and maintains the NWSC public visitor area. This educational exhibit informs K-12 students and the public about how high-performance computing supports and advances scientific research and discoveries. In FY2018, CISL’s student visitor support strategy included providing a docent, science talks, interactive demonstrations of parallelism using a Raspberry Pi power wall, robots, and newly developed Lego activities. CISL collaborates in this effort with staff at the University of Wyoming, the Laramie County Library System, and UCAR Education and Outreach.

This year CISL also updated murals on the second floor of the Mesa Laboratory from the classic Moon Rise images to modern visualizations created by CISL staff.

These efforts are supported by NSF Core funds, with supplemental funding supplied by other sources as appropriate. The NWSC Visitor Center was financed using NWSC construction funds from the NSF and the University of Wyoming, and it is maintained using NSF Core funds.

Raspberry Pi workshops

In partnership with a University of Wyoming professor and four students, CISL staff returned to Miami Dade College and taught a second iteration of a Raspberry Pi workshop to faculty members. The FY2018 workshop built on the 2017 curriculum by expanding lessons to feature more advanced topics such as parallel computing; building and programming internet of things (IOT) devices; and programming the Arduino microcontroller.

Raspberry Pi workshop participants
University of Wyoming students teaching faculty at the 2018 Raspberry Pi workshop at East Los Angeles College in California.

Following the workshop, multiple faculty participants indicated through an anonymous survey that they plan to create new IOT and embedded programming classes. The workshop enabled some faculty members to become confident enough in their knowledge that they plan to develop their own tutorials and modules on the Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards for students ranging from the middle-school level to students enrolled at Miami Dade College.

CISL staff also conducted a workshop for faculty at East Los Angeles College with three University of Wyoming students. The workshop was modeled after the 2017 Miami Dade workshop. Following the workshop, faculty participants expressed interest in developing Raspberry Pi weather sensors to expand the network of weather observation stations across their campus to help students obtain data for research projects.

The activities with Miami Dade College and East Los Angeles College stem from prior collaborations and connections with CISL staff. They were funded through NSF base funds and a mini-grant from NCAR Education and Outreach.

Outreach at conferences, workshops, and events

CISL conducts outreach in a variety of mission-appropriate venues, such as the Symposium on Computing at Minority Institutions; the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing; the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium; and the IEEE Supercomputing Conference. CISL staff described NCAR research careers, encouraged faculty members to nominate students for NCAR programs, and distributed information about internship opportunities and professional development programs including UCAR Community Programs’ Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) and CISL’s Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science.

CISL staff at the Wyoming State Science Fair
CISL staff demonstrated science activities to students at the Wyoming State Science Fair at the University of Wyoming.

CISL also participated in regional and national events In FY2018, including the Wyoming State Science Fair at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. CISL and UCAR Science Education supplied four volunteers as judges, presented four awards for top junior and senior computational and Earth system science projects, and presented atmospheric science demonstrations. CISL’s outreach efforts are part of the NWSC partnership with the state, university, and business community of Wyoming. CISL encourages students to embark on careers in computational science and engineering, and our efforts at this venue demonstrate our long-term commitments to outreach, workforce development, and broadening participation in the sciences. CISL also collaborated with UCAR Human Resources to provide a webinar for Wyoming state educators on careers and educational opportunities in computational science.

CISL staff also ran demonstrations at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., in April 2018. The event attracted more than 370,000 people and included exhibits on everything from robotics to medicine, space science, health, computers, aviation, and geoscience. Staff members participated in a booth highlighting the Meteo-AR application and presented CISL’s WRF on Raspberry-Pi demos in the UCAR Outreach booth.

CISL outreach staff also attended the SC17 Conference, which brought together in Denver more 11,000 members of the international HPC community. CISL hosted a vendor booth to encourage other scientists and conference attendees to network with staff and learn about applications of HPC resources to climate research, as well as NCAR research opportunities for students and early-career scientists. The booth featured talks by CISL scientists and interns, demonstrations of novel education technologies, and information about NCAR and UCAR. CISL again staffed a table at the Supercomputing Student Job Fair, talking to students and job seekers about educational, internship, and employment opportunities.