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Engineers build supercomputer with Lego bricks, credit-card sized computers

September 15, 2012 7:10am
Who would have thought a bunch of puny credit-card sized computers and Lego bricks could be combined to build a supercomputer?
 
Computational Engineers at the University of Southampton did just that, making a supercomputer from 64 Raspberry Pi computers and Lego bricks.
 
“As soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer. We installed and built all of the necessary software on the Pi starting from a standard Debian Wheezy system image and we have published a guide so you can build your own supercomputer,” team leader Professor Simon Cox said.
 
Other members of the team included Richard Boardman, Andy Everett, Steven Johnston, Gereon Kaiping, Neil O’Brien, Mark Scott and Oz Parchment - and Cox’s son James, 6.
 
It was six-year-old James who provided "specialist support" on Lego and system testing, the university said in a news release.
 
The racking was built using Lego bricks, as designed by Simon and James. James tested the Raspberry Pi by programming it using free computer programming software Python and Scratch over the summer.
 
The machine, named “Iridis-Pi” after the University’s Iridis supercomputer, runs off a single 13 Amp mains socket and uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet.
 
It has 64 processors and 1 terabyte of memory provided by 16Gb SD cards for each Raspberry Pi.
 
Professor Cox uses the free plug-in ‘Python Tools for Visual Studio’ to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.
 
The whole system cost under £2,500, excluding switches.
 
“The team wants to see this low-cost system as a starting point to inspire and enable students to apply high-performance computing and data handling to tackle complex engineering and scientific challenges as part of our on-going outreach activities,” Cox said.
 
For his part, James said the Raspberry Pi was "great fun and it is amazing that I can hold it in my hand and write computer programs or play games on it.” — ELR, GMA News

(If you want to build a Raspberry Pi Supercomputer yourself see: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~sjc/raspberrypi).
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