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Grids for Kids gives next-generation IT an early start

Last week, the third in a growing series of Grids for Kids days was held at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, involving children aged ten to twelve in games, tours and interactive presentations that introduced grid computing as a tool for researchers in everything from high energy physics to climate studies and genomics.

“Grids for Kids gives children a crash course in grid computing,” explains co-organiser Anna Cook of the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project. “We introduce them to concepts such as middleware, parallel processing and supercomputing, and give them opportunities for hands-on learning. It was great to see the questions they came up with and the appetite with which they gathered information.”

Teacher Jackie Beaver from the Institut International de Lancy agrees. “Both the children and adults had a great time on Friday,” she says. “The students were a little overwhelmed by the amount of information they were receiving, but they continued to attempt to process it all, rather than shutting down, which shows they were really interested in everything going on.”

The Grids for Kids programme introduced the role of grid computing in processing data from the Large Hadron Collider—scheduled for startup this year. The children also toured the CERN Computer Centre and played computer games from that helped them to recognize the specific advantages of grid computing over personal and supercomputing, as well as challenging them to prioritise jobs on a hypothetical grid. The day also included a brief presentation on cyber security, including techniques for avoiding viruses and creating hack-resistant passwords.

“Grids for Kids is a tremendous opportunity for children to enter a world of new possibilities,” says Cook. “Having proven the success of the Grids for Kids model we now plan to expand this initiative to involve more schools and more countries and institutions.”

Previous Grids for Kids events have been held at CERN, Switzerland, and at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

Sarah Purcell | alfa
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