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Grant Builds High-Tech Miner Computer


Grant Builds High-Tech Miner Computer


The Distributed Computing Lab (DCL) stands as just one of many labs on the campus of The University of Texas at El Paso offering the kind of hands-on education conducive to real-world job experience.

As part of a $1.27 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the DCL will continue to take its students to the edge of technology as they prepare for the jobs that await them beyond graduation.

"Our students are continually breaking new ground in research and technology," said Patricia Nava, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Our work in the lab has spanned the period of several years, and has required the utmost dedication of those involved."

The DCL was established some 15 years ago, centered on a student-designed, student-constructed processing unit known as the "Beowulf Cluster." The machine is a grouping of commercial and personal-sized processing units networked into a local area network (LAN), allowing high-performance parallel computing from inexpensive personal computer hardware.

According to Nava, much of the cluster is designed to run a number of programs with speeds unmatched by a simple PC. Many of the units look like individual personal computing systems, but with the processing capabilities exceeding home machines by many times their capacity.

Doctoral student Damien Valle said that the applications to cluster technology are limitless, covering a broad area of disciplines from analyzing biological statistics to gauging the current money market.

"A machine as fast as it can work with pinpoint accuracy and in real time," Valle said. "With the speed of the cluster, we can program it to analyze millions of lines of code in just seconds."

According to Nava, this level of research offers rigorous hands-on experience, benefitting the students as they strive to achieve beyond graduation.

"Nearly every major computing company from around the globe is looking for students with the kind of crucial experience we offer here at the University," she said. "Working closely with equipment like the 'Beowulf' allows each of our students to grow technologically as well as academically."

The grant has played an important part in building UTEP, as it approaches its centennial celebration, to becoming the first national research university serving a 21st century student demographic.

"Expanding research opportunities at UTEP is critical to the University's efforts to achieve Tier One status," said Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas. "This funding will provide El Paso-area students with greater research opportunities that will enhance their undergraduate learning experience and also help them pursue careers in high-demand fields."

For more information on the Beowulf Cluster or the DCL, call 915-747-6199.


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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