• October 2014
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Tech Companies Hope to Introduce Coding to 100 Million Students

The Wall Street Journal (08/10/14) Jeff Elder

The CEOs of two dozen major tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, will announce their support on Wednesday for a project by nonprofit Code.org that seeks to introduce computer science to 100 million students worldwide. The companies will promote Code.org’s Hour of Code campaign, which encourages students to explore computer coding through hour-long online tutorials. The support will take the form of encouraging their employees to try out Hour of Code tutorials and encourage students to do the same during Computer Science Education Week this December. The companies also will encourage their employees to contribute to an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that seeks to raise $5 million to help train teachers in providing computer science education. The effort is an attempt to help encourage broader participation in computer science among women and minority communities as well as to meet anticipated growing demand for workers with computer science skills. ACM and CSTA are major partners in Code.org. Other companies supporting Hour of Code include Disney, Dropbox, Eventbrite, GoDaddy, Salesforce.com, Target, Yelp, and Zillow. “Some of these companies are competitors,” says Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi. “We represent a nice, safe place for them to channel their efforts.”


NIH Makes $32 Million in Awards to Mine Big Data

Science Insider (09/10/14) Jocelyn Kaiser; Emily Underwood

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced $32 million in new awards that will support research designed to make it easier to analyze and use biological data sets. The awards are part of NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, which was launched last year to help foster efforts to make it easier for researchers to manipulate and make sense of large data sets such as those found in the study of genomics, proteins, and medical imaging. The awards will grant $2 million to $3 million a year over four years to 11 “centers of excellence” researching everything from modeling cell signaling in cancer to ways of integrating data gathered from wearable sensors worn by health study volunteers. One of the programs is a global brain data-collection effort called ENIGMA, which is studying DNA data to see if genetic causes can be found for psychiatric disorders. Another program being funded through BD2K is a data discovery coordination effort being run by the University of California, San Diego, which is working with eight other institutions to develop methods to make it easier for researchers to search for and use scientific data. NIH plans to commit $656 million to the BD2K initiative by 2020.


The Exascale Revolution

HPC Wire (10/23/14) Tiffany Trader

Experts are coming to a consensus that the shift from the petascale to the exascale supercomputing eras is going to be more challenging than many previously anticipated. At the recent Argonne National Laboratory Training Program in Extreme Scale Computing, Pete Beckman, director of Argonne’s Exascale Technology and Computing Institute, highlighted some of the possible problems. One major concern is power and the costs associated with it. Although supercomputers have been getting more energy-efficient, Beckman uses the example of the most recent generations of IBM supercomputers to demonstrate a 5x trajectory of energy efficiency gains that would still have an exascale system requiring 64 megawatts of power, which could cost tens of millions of dollars a year. These cost concerns are prompting many countries to pursue exascale computing on an international scale, forming multinational partnerships to share the massive costs. The U.S. and Japan recently entered such an agreement, and Europe is looking to join them. However, China is proceeding on its own, largely on the strength of its own native technology. Beckman also addressed challenges relating to memory and resilience and the need to update software to be able to make use of exascale resources.