Leveraging HUBzero to Enable STEM Education for High School Students

By Jeanette M Sperhac

CCR -- University at Buffalo



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The Eric Pitman Annual Summer Workshop in Computational Science has been held at the Center for Computational Research (CCR) at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, since 1999. The workshop introduces high school students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through the application of computing to current STEM-related problems, and is offered to high school students who have completed at least their freshman year; no prior knowledge of computing is assumed. Past workshops explored computational chemistry, visualization, bioinformatics, and research in the life sciences. In addition to lectures and hands-on computational exercises, students tour working labs that perform genome sequencing, protein crystallography, and medical research. The two-week workshop culminates in a computational project involving a real scientific dataset, followed by student presentations.

In past workshops, students spent a substantial percentage of time learning the basics of a command line interface in order to prepare and submit jobs to CCR's computers. In 2013, we leveraged the HUBzero platform deployed at CCR (hpc2.org) to avoid the complexities of the Center's operating environment and instead allow greater focus on computational science. Students learned to perform calculations, write functions, and visualize datasets using the R statistical language. They then employed their new skills to explore a protein crystallization dataset and evaluate the performance of an automated classifier.

Students completed all coursework on hpc2.org, using the RStudio integrated development environment (IDE) within a tool container, and exploited RStudio's integration with GitHub to provide access to source files, examples, and datasets. WebDAV was used to export graphics created on hpc2.org onto local workstations. The students will retain access to the computing environment even after the workshop's conclusion.


Jeanette Sperhac is a Scientific Programmer at the University at Buffalo's Center for Computational Research (CCR). She holds an S.B. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, an M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Colorado, and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University at Buffalo. Jeanette has worked as a software engineer and DBA in both academia and industry.

Jeanette supports a number of software engineering and web application projects at CCR, including hpc2.org, a HUBzero instance implemented for the partnership between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NYSERNet, and the University at Buffalo.

In 2013, she used RStudio running on the hpc2.org HUBzero instance to support CCR's annual Eric Pitman Workshop in Computational Science. She developed, taught, and supported the course, which took 12 high school students on a whirlwind tour of scientific computing, data analysis and visualization, and basic statistics, using the R language.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Jeanette M Sperhac (2013), "Leveraging HUBzero to Enable STEM Education for High School Students," https://help.hubzero.org/resources/1018.

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Purdue University


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