Using Inexpensive Microclusters and Accessible Materials for Cost-Effective Parallel and Distributed Computing Education

With parallel and distributed computing (PDC) now in the core CS curriculum, CS educators are building new pedagogical tools to teach their students about this cutting-edge area of computing. In this paper, we present an innovative approach we call microclusters - personal, portable Beowulf clusters - that provide students with hands-on PDC learning experiences. We present several different microclusters, each built using a different combination of single board computers (SBCs) as its compute nodes, including various ODROID models, Nvidia's Jetson TK1, Adapteva's Parallella, and the Raspberry Pi. We explore different ways that CS educators are using these systems in their teaching, and describe specific courses in which CS educators have used microclusters. Finally, we present an overview of sources of free PDC pedagogical materials that can be used with microclusters.