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October 10, 2012 | Visitors will get more than one window into the world of high-performance computing at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center. In just a few days, the NWSC’s visitor center will open its doors to the public.
The new center's main draw—its enormous Yellowstone supercomputer—will be visible through a partially glassed-in wall. But visitors will also get a glimpse into the science and technology related to the NWSC’s work through explanatory panels and touchscreen kiosks.
“The visitor center is really for all members of the community,” says Marijke Unger (CISL). She’s spent much of the last few months overseeing its planning and installation. Marijke and colleagues kept in mind that the NWSC could get visitors ranging from seasoned computational scientists to first graders. “We’re setting it up to be user-friendly for school groups, with an emphasis on self-guided learning and exploration,” she says.
Built by Cheyenne-based Gizmojo, the visitor center includes five major structures, each with multimedia components:
Among the touchscreen highlights are a two-minute animation that explains numerical models with the help of a fictional “Dr. Tornado” and her friends (plus a flying cow, of course). There are also clips of NCAR and UW scientists explaining how Yellowstone works and how supercomputing at NWSC will shed light on many aspects of the Earth system.
Conveying the prowess of Yellowstone isn’t easy, but Marijke believes that one hands-on exhibit may go a long way in helping young visitors grasp the machine’s impressive speed. “It’ll measure how quickly you can swipe your hand across a sensor and then tell you how many calculations the supercomputer can do in that amount of time.”
Can't make the trip? The new NWSC website, launched this week, includes lots of information about the center and the Yellowstone system, plus many of the videos described above.