Storage Informer
Storage Informer

What’s in a name? That which we call a contest, by any other name would succeed as gloriously.

by on Jun.27, 2009, under Storage

What’s in a name? That which we call a contest, by any other name would succeed as gloriously.

We just successfully wrote and ran a student contest for TeraGrid °•09. It was an exhausting satisfying experience. The questions we came up with are at http://wiki.sc-education.org/index.php/Tg09-student-contest. We had nine fascinating diverse teams ranging from an all high school team through an all grad school one, with many interesting permutations and combinations of high school, college and grad school students forming the other teams.

In a previous blog-post, we ended up talking about diversity of problem solving ability. Check out the diversity of the competing students: http://contracosta.edu/cs/tg09studentCompetition.jpg. An even greater diversity is seen in the pictures of all the students attending TG09 at http://contracosta.edu/cs/tg09Students.jpg: age, color of skin, color of shirt, hues of enthusiasm and ideas. Heady stuff, that. My team from Contra Costa College also competed: http://contracosta.edu/cs/tg09CCCstudentTeam.JPG. I am very proud of them and told them so. They asked if that meant they had scored well in the 9 hour-long contest in which they&aposd competed the previous day. I told them we hadn&apost started the grading, which due to busy hours, would ultimately not complete till late into the night preceding the awards ceremony. They we&aposre still confusing grades/awards with recognition of their outstanding dedicated effort. We have a lot more time to get that one straight.

The Clemson team was coached by Brian Dean, an enlightened teacher, in many interesting respects, including a clever way of generating a flash animation of narrated class notes. He also leads the USA Computing Olympiad. Coincidentally, I&aposd been brainstorming with Alejandro Queiruga from CMU, a name not only resonant with that of Alonso Quijano, but also a young look-alike, complete with a wonderfully developed productive madness. I know it was productive because he suggested a number of interesting follow-on competitions for us to consider. The one that caught my attention was embedded systems programming. Boy did this catch my attention. What a clever way to return to the non-bloated (memory/disk/executable) days of computing, where performance counted. A jaunt playing games and watching movie clips with a few other students till 3am, led us Alejandro and I to the refinement of the cell processor being a great basis for the contest. It is a gloriously difficult programming environment including heterogeneous processors using a non-standard OS. Perfect. When I pitched it to Brian the next day he correctly noted that it would make things almost impossible for the competing high school students, which actually what attracted me in the first place. I have a lot of experience assigning problems to students a working professional would correctly identify as difficult to impossible. The trick is to give the students no clue of that, including the unnecessary burden that it can&apost be done. It frees them to more easily solve the problem.

I am hoping we can work out a compromise for I think helping students gain a working hands-on knowledge of squeezing cycles from reluctant silicon is not only great fun, but worthwhile life skills for a CS professional.

By the way, Alejandro, here are the words as I remember hearing them in a theater in San Francisco when I was roughly your age, words Wasserman put in Cervantes mouth I suggested you memorize: "I have lived for over forty years, and I have seen life as it is: pain, misery, hunger, cruelty beyond belief. I have heard the singing from taverns and the moans from bundles of filth on the street. I have been a soldier and seen my comrades fall in battle, or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I have held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing; no glory, no gallant last words, only their eyes filled with confusion, whimpering the question: &aposWhy?&apos. I do not believe they asked why they were dying, but why they had lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all to see life as it is, and not as it should be!"

So readers, what do you think would be a good basis for a computing oriented contest? I&aposll bet you don&apost come up with Alejandro°¶s other very clever idea. I&aposll leave it for his elaboration, should he choose to grace this blog.

May we all heed Cervantes&apos words, avoiding any unnecessary sanity, while crafting life as it should be. I won&apost contest that while seeking to build a contest around it.

URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/IntelBlogs/~3/DlRIRE7uyYA/

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