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St. Lawrence News

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Ed Harcourt, at left, teaching in one of the new computer lab spaces

When Associate Professor of Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics Ed Harcourt said he wanted his computer science students to "get their feet wet and their hands dirty," he wasn't kidding. The dozen students in the fall 2009 course High-Performance Linux Computing Systems, co-taught with Assistant Professor Richard Sharp, built 55 computers for three labs, from scratch, motherboards to monitors.

Harcourt explains that until the fall, the computer science program had no dedicated labs or computers. He wanted students to gain the experience of learning about the inner workings of the computers and the programming, as well as how to get them to network. So, the 12 students in the course "built the computers from scratch, installed the operating system, learned about the Free and Open Source Linux operating system, networked them and learned to program them." The result, Harcourt says, is that "We have three new labs (Bewkes 107, 109 and 144) with a total of 55 computers, plus three new offices for the three computer scientists (Harcourt, Sharp and Assistant Professor Lisa Torrey). I have never heard of students actually being able to build their own computers for their own labs. It was a unique experience for everyone."

The students, each of whom built at least three computers, were Geoffrey Baum, Bryan Ben-Haim, Douglas Denu, James Douglass, Christopher Fuerte, Susan Garnett, Simon Lynch, James Perconti, Steven Pogozelski, Joseph Rothrock, Thomas Whelan and Adrienne Woodworth.

The syllabus also included reading The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.

(Photos by University Photographer Tara Freeman)

More: Computer Science Web site

Posted: March 2, 2010


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