Multicore computing is like baking a cake!

August 31, 2009

Students from Science Al!ve attended a workshop conducted by Dr. Alexandra Fedorova and her team who showed them how multi-processors work in computers.

This fun and interactive workshop demonstrated how multi-processors increase the speed of computers, but if not used efficiently, several cores working in parallel could slow each other down.

To understand why it is difficult to make multicore processors work efficiently in computers, two students were asked to simultaneously follow a recipe (algorithm) of baking a cake step by step. They soon realized that even though there are two people (processing cores) allotted to bake the cake; it's not efficient if the recipe (algorithm) allows the bakers (processing cores) to compete for tools and ingredients (processing resources). The workshop thus, demonstrated the significance of computer programming and designing algorithms in making computers work faster and better.

Other interactive demos included the famous 'peanut butter and jam sandwich demo', 'making better video games' and 'making intelligent robots' conducted by the Autonomy Lab. The excited students learnt “lots of stuff about computers” and "how video games are created".

Dr. Fedorova, who recently received the Google Research Award, was approached by Science Alive Tech Camp instructor, Arsalan Hassan who wanted his students to understand the complexities involved in making computers work. "These students are growing up with computers, but they don't realize how computers work. Through the workshop, they learnt some of the problems researchers face when designing robots, video games and computer processors in a kid-friendly way'", said Hassan.

Dr. Fedorova took on this opportunity to show little kids "how much fun computing science can be and that it is not as boring as it's made out to be." She was fascinated by the students' responses and joked that she and her team would love to have these students join their lab and work with them!

Every year, Science Al!ve camps co-ordinate mentorship events with professors from SFU, UBC and other institutions across the lower Mainland, to provide an opportunity for students to explore different careers in the fields of science and technology. Dr. Fedorova and her team, along with the Autonomy Lab, did an excellent job of giving these young kids a glimpse into the kind of research undertaken at SFU Computing Science —  inspiring them and whetting their appetite for more.

Written by Salima Vastani

View More Images