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LittleFe 2015 Buildout Event

The LittleFe/BCCD project is pleased to announce that it has secured funding to support a significant 2015 Buildout program. This year's buildout will be held as a pre-symposium event at SIGCSE 2015.


Apply for a FREE LittleFe mini-cluster for your educational institution to use for teaching parallel programming, cluster computing, and Computational/Data Enabled Science and Engineering (CDESE) to your students and colleagues!

The LittleFe mini-cluster is provided as part of a hands-on buildout event, during which teams are guided through the process of building the LittleFe cluster from a kit of parts, installing the BCCD operating system, and using existing curriculum modules. Participants commit to using the unit in classes and outreach activities and developing new curriculum modules.

Applications are due January 20, 2015, at 20:00 US-ET; all team members should apply online here.

Applicants must commit to attending the buildout event. Applicant teams are only eligible to build and receive at most one LittleFe unit. Applicant teams must consist of at least two and no more than three individuals, at least one of whom must be a faculty member at the institution.

About LittleFe

LittleFe is a portable mini-cluster which is small enough to fit in a suitcase, is light enough to easily move between classrooms, and travels as standard checked baggage to conferences and workshops (a waterproof, wheeled shipping case is included, and all together the package weighs less than 50 pounds). The 2015 buildout will feature v4d LittleFe units; this design utilizes quad-core Intel® Celeron™ processors with Intel Gen7 Graphics chipsets, which support OpenCL programming.

LittleFe's primary focus is turnkey classroom demonstrations of, and exercises in, High Performance Computing (HPC), parallel programming, and Computational/Data Enabled Science and Engineering (CDESE). LittleFe supports shared memory, distributed memory, and GPGPU parallelism.

LittleFe's secondary focus is as a production HPC resource for small institutions that are not yet able to afford or support a full scale cluster; in fact, LittleFe can be used as a gateway to and development platform for full scale HPC resources such as XSEDE.

The LittleFe/BCCD project has successfully hosted 5 buildouts in the past at various conferences and workshops to significantly positive reception. As an illustrative example, following a buildout at SIGCSE 2013, one participant remarked,

“I want to thank you for the wonderful experience of building, taking home, and using LittleFe. You were such a tremendous help! LittleFe made it home safe and sound and is now connected to our CS network. Students in HPC were so excited about seeing the computer and have already turned in an assignment where they plotted speedup versus number of processes for a numerical integration problem. The system works great. And to think, I’ve now used a screw driver!”

About the Application Process

The LittleFe/BCCD project is now accepting applications for our 2015 Buildout. Successful applicants will receive a free LittleFe unit, which they will assemble and test as part of the pre-symposium event at SIGCSE 2015.

LittleFe buildout applicants and their institutions will need to commit in writing to using these units in their courses and to developing and sharing new parallel computing, HPC, and/or CDESE curriculum modules for the LittleFe/BCCD platform. The format for these modules is described here. This commitment and others are made as part of the application process; see the FAQ item, "What are the application requirements?" below.

Applicants will be selected based on criteria of likelihood of success, reach (in terms of classes/students that will be taught, especially to minority and underserved populations), thoughtfulness (how well the applicants thought through their ideas and how carefully they presented them), opportunities for outreach, need for cycles (whether an award of LittleFe will be redundant considering resources already available to the institution), and overall quality of application.

LittleFe buildout applicants are encouraged to attend the SIGCSE 2015 symposium (not just the pre-symposium event), and preference will be given to applicants who can commit to attending the symposium (registration information is available here).

Applications are due January 20, 2015, at 20:00 US-ET; all team members should apply online here.

Notifications of acceptance or wait-list will be sent on January 21, 2015, at which point teams will have until January 26, 2015, to confirm. Accepted teams who do not confirm by this date will lose their spots to teams on the waiting list.

About the Buildout

The 2015 LittleFe buildout will be held on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, as a pre-symposium event at the SIGCSE 2015 symposium. It will be an all-day event, 8:15am to 5:30pm, with a 15-minute morning break, 90-minute break for lunch, and 15-minute afternoon break. Please note that neither lunch nor refreshments will be provided during the event.

The buildout will consist of participant teams assembling their LittleFe unit from a kit; installing the Bootable Cluster CD (BCCD) software on it; learning about the curriculum modules available for teaching parallel programming, HPC and CDESE; and learning how to develop new curriculum modules for the LittleFe/BCCD platform.

Participants who cannot attend the LittleFe Buildout Event will automatically void their team's (and their teammates’) application, unless a mutually agreed upon replacement is found in a timely manner.

Finally, buildout participants will be required to complete National Computational Science Institute (NCSI) surveys about their experiences with the buildout on the day of the buildout, along with subsequent surveys evaluating the utility of the curriculum modules produced. These surveys are crucial for us to obtain the funding that allows us to provide LittleFe units at no cost.

The buildout is supported by the National Science Foundation (grant number 1347089); the Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.; the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE); and Earlham College.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is eligible to apply?

    Faculty and students from educational institutions in the USA (including not only states but also territories and other jurisdictions) are eligible to apply.

    Applications should be from teams of two people, either two collaborating faculty members, not necessarily at the same institution, or one faculty member and one student (undergraduate or graduate) at the same institution. Three-person teams can also be accommodated, provided one of the participants is a faculty member.

    Faculty members should currently be teaching courses either that already have parallel programming, HPC and/or CDESE content incorporated, or into which they would like to integrate such content.

    Eligible courses must be at the undergraduate level. Graduate courses are not eligible, even if those courses accept undergraduates under special circumstances. (Courses that are "slashlisted" as both graduate and undergraduate in the same term, even if under different course numbers, are eligible.)

    Students should commit to being involved with learning, peer-teaching, and/or outreach activities involving the LittleFe unit.
    All team members must be at least 18 years old at the time of the event. For legal, liability and cost reasons, we cannot accept minors into the 2015 LittleFe buildout program.

    All team members must have an unrestricted ability to travel within the continental USA (and to/from the continental USA if necessary).

  • What hardware will the 2015 LittleFes have?

    The 2015 buildout will feature v4d LittleFe units; this design utilizes quad-core Intel® Celeron™ J1900 processors with Intel Gen7 Graphics chipsets which support OpenCL programming.

  • What are the application requirements?

    All team members must complete the application.

    The team must submit a letter, on institutional letterhead and signed by the appropriate university official authorized to make such commitments, enumerating and committing the institution and your team to the terms listed below under "What do I have to do in return for being selected?" A template letter of commitment is available in PDF, doc, and docx formats.

  • What do successful applicants receive?

    All accepted teams will receive:
    (1) A free LittleFe unit (version v4d).
    (2) Ongoing free support for LittleFe and the BCCD.
    (3) Ongoing free support for curriculum development for the LittleFe/BCCD platform.

  • What do I have to do in return for being selected?

    (1) Sign a video/audio release form (or choose to opt out), so that we can include your image and voice in a recording of the buildout session, and that we make available publicly (for example, as streaming video posted on the LittleFe website).
    (2) Cover the costs for your team to attend the buildout and ship your LittleFe unit back to your institution (typically an extra bag charge from the airline, probably $15-50). Limited matching funds for travel are available as part of the XSEDE education program. To request travel assistance, please send an email to Steve Gordon (sgordon at osc dot edu).
    (3) Use the LittleFe unit in your classes.
    (4) Develop and publish at least one parallel programming, HPC and/or CDESE curriculum module for the LittleFe/BCCD platform. These will be submitted to the LittleFe/BCCD team and curated at, the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD), and HPC University. The modules should follow the format described here.
    (5) Submit brief reports 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, and 36 months after receiving your LittleFe unit, detailing the classes in which you have used your LittleFe unit, the curriculum module(s) that you have used, the curriculum module(s) that you have developed and published, and any publications or outreach activities that have resulted from your participation in the buildout.
    (6) Provide the materials for the curriculum module(s) that you have developed to the LittleFe/BCCD team.
    (7) Participate in evaluation surveys conducted by the LittleFe/BCCD team.
    (8) Acknowledge NSF grant number 1347089 in any products (publications, posters, reports, curriculum modules) and activities based on the use or related to the received LittleFe.
    (9) Consider submitting publications to the Journal of Computational Science Education (JOCSE).

  • What if I don't follow through and complete those items?

    If your reports do not illustrate how you have met the requirements, or if you do not submit reports, then we will require you to return your LittleFe unit. This decision will be made at the sole discretion of the LittleFe/BCCD team.

    You (and/or your institution) will be solely responsible for the cost of shipping to return the LittleFe unit to the LittleFe/BCCD team.

  • How do I apply?

    All team members should apply online here.

  • Can I just apply for a fully assembled LittleFe unit and not participate in the buildout?


For more information, contact the LittleFe Developers mailing list (littlefe-developers at littlefe dot net).