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 for managing our outreach programs include: stewardship of public exhibit areas; teaching the public about the importance of and careers in HPC; and reaching out at regional, national, and international levels.

Stewardship of public exhibit areas

CISL’s Outreach, Diversity, and Education group developed and maintains the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (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 FY2019 CISL continued its commitment to maximizing the impact of the NWSC as a teaching and public outreach vehicle. Students and the public were educated and inspired by the NWSC facilities, computers, and science. More than 650 students in 27 school groups visited the center. Nearly 900 other individuals from 39 non-school groups also visited. The NWSC hosted a total of 2,468 visitors in FY2019 – and a total of 13,937 since the center opened in 2012. In FY2019, CISL’s visitor support strategy included providing a docent, science talks, interactive demonstrations of parallelism using a Raspberry Pi power wall, robots, and other hands-on science activities. CISL collaborates in this effort with staff at the University of Wyoming and NCAR Education and Outreach.

NWSC hosted a Kids Code event for 16 students in grades 6-12 on April 13. Students used Raspberry Pis to perform physical computing tasks such as running sensors. They also used Python to make the Raspberry Pis play music.

Super Science Saturday
Visitors at the 2019 NWSC Super Science Saturday event collect ping-pong balls after the ping-pong ball explosion activity.

On August 17, the NWSC hosted its second Super Science Saturday. More than 400 attendees enjoyed the Visitor Center, facility tours, and educational activities. Students from the University of Wyoming facilitated activities that included robot races and drone activities. CISL demonstrated its Pi-eyenne miniature supercomputer, and personnel from the UCAR Center for Science Education presented the Science Wizards program and a ping-pong ball explosion. NCAR staff presented workshops including Robotics 101: Cozmo! and Kid Scientists & Data Collectors. Community presentations included a Forecasting Severe Weather presentation by NOAA staff, STEM activities provided by Starbase Academy, and demos from the Laramie County Amateur Radio Emergency Service / Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. 

Technical outreach 

CISL continues to build technical outreach capabilities through the development of innovative applications and resources. In FY2019, CISL staff continued distribution of the Meteo-AR and VR applications, which now have more than 13,000 combined downloads, and the HPC-TV application, which had nearly 2,000 unique page views. CISL demonstrated these apps as well as its Pi-eyenne miniature supercomputer at various venues including the IEEE/ACM SC18 conference, the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, and the Association of Computer/Information Sciences and Engineering Departments at Minority Institutions Symposium on Computing at Minority Institutions. CISL outreach staff also presented about NCAR high-performance computing and demonstrated its applications at the JeffCon tech conference for Jefferson County (Colorado) high school students and at several events with the Boulder Public Library.

A grant from NCAR Education and Outreach funded CISL’s efforts to run the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model on a Raspberry Pi located within 3D printed weather stations. These weather stations will be an end-to-end teaching tool to help students understand the instruments scientists use to collect data, interpret data, and communicate results. CISL staff developed a scaled-down WRF model with a graphical user interface to facilitate learning. Staff are also simplifying the COMET 3D printed weather stations and developing educational modules for classroom use. 

CISL’s Visualization Services and Research group operates the VisLab, a center for visual computing, educational activities, and remote collaboration efforts. It serves as a virtual window on NCAR science to communicate NCAR’s scientific achievements – and CISL’s role in supporting them – through the use of visualizations in a theater-style, high-resolution presentation format. The VisLab’s main display and audiovisual systems were upgraded in FY2019, including the addition of a 16’x7’ tiled video display wall with 7680x3240 screen resolution.

The VisLab collaborates with NCAR researchers to create engaging digital media for publication and to help foster the transfer of knowledge and interest in the atmospheric and related sciences. Additionally, its advanced collaboration environment helps promote geographically distributed research and communication while minimizing the need for travel by teams collaborating on cross-institutional projects. The VisLab also provides demonstrations to K-12 audiences that help educate and inspire young people about Earth system sciences. In FY2019, the VisLab supported approximately 120 meetings and demos to users and visitors, including federal and state government staffers, corporate and research representatives, university students, and members of the National Science Board. Visualizations created this fiscal year were highlighted in Dr. Warren Washington’s Tyler Prize acceptance speech; included in a PBS NewsHour wildfire science documentary; featured on highly popular websites like Mashable; won honorable mention at the 2018 IEEE Vs SciVis Contest; and appeared on the cover of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

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 Symposium; and the IEEE/ACM 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’s Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science program and CISL’s Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science.

Celebration of Diversity in Computing
CISL staff and former interns staffed a booth at the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.

CISL also conducts outreach efforts as part of the NWSC partnership with the Wyoming state, university, and business communities. This includes annual support of the Wyoming State Science Fair at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. CISL and the UCAR Center for Science Education supplied six volunteers as judges, presented four awards for top junior and senior computational and Earth system science projects, and presented atmospheric science demonstrations. CISL also collaborated with NCAR Education and Outreach to conduct a webinar to inform University of Wyoming students about NCAR and UCAR internship opportunities.

In FY2019 CISL outreach staff also attended the SC18 Conference, which brought together in Dallas more than 12,000 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 and about 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.

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.