Are High School Whiz Kids Ready to "Think Parallel?"


Can 15 technical high school students solve complex parallel programming challenges, typically reserved for advanced university courses? A three-day boot-camp hosted by theIntel® Academic Community and the Brooklyn Technical High Schoolwith industry experts and executives will put top programming students in New York City to the challenge through real-life experiences and interactive exercises.  32-core server technology will be provided by IBM and networking by BLADE Network Technologies.

Jeffrey M. Birnbaum, Managing Director, Global Head of Platform Solutions at Bank of America, has spent a considerable time exploring and implementing lock-free and parallel programming techniques for low latency high throughput messaging systems used in financial services applications, and knows there are not enough skilled programmers to meet industry demand. As a participant on the US Council on Competitiveness High Performance Computing Initiative, he noted the U.S. is falling behind in computer programming education, impacting U.S. competitiveness in the technology sector. Upon reading Threading Building Blocks by James Reinders, the idea of developers needing to change their mental approach to ‘think parallel’ resonated with Jeffrey. Shortly thereafter, he met with a talented high school student interested in software development who took an immediate interest to parallel programming concepts. From this, Jeffrey had the idea to introduce complex parallel programming techniques  -- typically reserved for advanced college or graduate coursework -- to high school students.

"If students start thinking parallel when they are first introduced to software development, it opens the door to new creative solutions that more experienced programmers might not attempt. In essence, the student minds have not been spoiled by old serial programming methodologies and experimentation when multi-core multi-socket systems did not exist," says Mr. Birnbaum.  “We are at the beginning of a new age in programming where the exploitation of advanced multi socket multicore systems to solve new and interesting problems requires developers who combine a "think parallel" mindset with the skill to execute."

Parallel processing is the simultaneous execution of the same task (split up and specially adapted) on multiple processors in order to obtain faster results. The parallel nature can come from a single machine with multiple processors or multiple machines connected together to form a cluster. Intel, IBM and BLADE have teamed up to demonstrate the power of parallel processing through single computers with multiple processors – or cores.  Parallel processing is used in a wide variety of applications, including space exploration, calculating business risk, molecular modeling, weather forecasting, galaxy modeling, oil and gas operations, evaluating financial derivatives, designing wireless networks, and in games.

Mr. Birnbaum asked Intel for help in implementing his vision.

Bob Chesebrough, Senior Course Architect with the Intel Academic Community built a collaborative team, with Jeffrey M. Birnbaum, and Randy Asher, Principal of the Brooklyn Technical High School and Vice President of theNational Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Math, Science & Technology to implement the clubhouse with top technical high school students in New York.

The 3-day boot-camp kicks off with interactive exercises using real world experiences (such as standing in lines at a store) to introduce students to parallel programming concepts including race conditions and for loops (see video guide to these challenges). Each day, students will also be given a Parallel Programming Puzzle to ponder, and discuss a real-world software developer solution the following day.

Instruction for the boot camp is being provided by Intel engineers and executives, using the latest software development tools, including Intel® Parallel Studio; and concludes with Jeffrey M. Birnbaum presenting on advanced lock-free programming techniques showcasing database applications running on a 32-core server system on loan from IBM, with high-performance Ethernet connectivity provided byBLADE Network Technologies.BLADE is hosting the servers in its world-class data center networking lab in Silicon Valley.

The curriculum is adapted from undergraduate and graduate materials created by the Intel Academic Community currently being implemented by professors at 1350 universities in 72 countries. This is the first time the curriculum has been adapted to the high school level.

“The coursework for this bootcamp is very challenging. We are giving the students exposure to real industry challenges, to plant the seed on how to approach programming in the future,” says Jeffrey M. Birnbaum.

Today’s high performance desktop computers are empowering a new generation of developers to employ parallel processing to solve complex problems without the need for multi-million dollar supercomputers or having to divide tasks across PC clusters. The confluence of lower cost, high performance computers and networks is a paradigm change in parallel processing engineering.

Fifteen students were hand selected by Randy Asher, Principal of the Brooklyn Technical High School -- the largest technical high School in the US -- based on the student's software programming focus and high achievement at the school. An additional student from Hunter Science High School will participate, as well as 6 selected teachers.

"There is a high level of enthusiasm and excitement from students who are participating in the Clubhouse. They are hungry for this type of training to give them a competitive advantage over their peers and a jump start at new programming techniques and developer tools. Our hope is these students will challenge university professors and old software development methodologies by developing scalable coding techniques and breakthrough parallel patterns," says Randy Asher.

Agenda Highlights:
7/21: Introducing Parallel Programming, Recognizing Parallelism, Open MP, Puzzle du Jour
7/22: Threading Building Blocks, Thread Correctness, Thread Performance, Puzzle du Jour
7/23: Game Threading, Jeffrey M. Birnbaum presentation on lock-free programming and Big Iron Demo

  • Randy Asher - Principal, Brooklyn Technical High School
  • Jeffrey M. Birnbaum - Managing Director, Global Head of Platform Solutions, Bank of America
  • James Reinders - Chief Evangelist + Director of Marketing & Sales Development at Intel, Twitter: @JamesReinders, James' Blog
  • Scott Apeland - Director, Intel Developer Zone, Scott's Blog
  • Bob Chesebrough - Senior Course Architect, Intel Academic Community, Bob's Blog
  • David Mackay, Ph.D. - Manager, Consulting and Technical Support Performance, Analysis and Threading, David's Blog
  • Amit Jindal - Intel Application Engineer
  • Brad Werth - Intel Application Engineer, Brad's bio
Following the boot-camp, the students are invited to participate in the Intel Thread Like Wildfire development contest to continue testing their knowledge and understanding of parallel programming, based upon Intel's Smoke Demo code sample. The high school students who participate in the Thread Like Wildfire contest will be eligible for netbook awards in addition to the regular contest prizes.

Based on the success of the boot camp pilot, the Intel Academic Community and Randy Asher will determine best practices for teaching high school student's parallel programming, and the potential of expanding the curriculum to other technical high schools and magnet schools through National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Math, Science & Technology. Hopefully, by offering an accessible course of study to High School computer science teachers Intel, IBM and BLADE Network Technologies be able to help expand the pipeline of future software developers who can "Think Parallel."

Each year Intel invests USD 100 million to help teachers teach, students learn and universities around the world innovate-particularly in the areas of math, science and technology. Intel believes students everywhere deserve to have the tools needed to become the next generation of innovators.  To learn more, go to



Watch the Teach Parallel! interview with Randy Asher and Jeffrey M. Birnbaum recorded live from Clubhouse Parallel Universe.  Watch other Teach Parallel videos here.


    To understand race conditions and other parallel programming challenges, watch this 14 minute video from Intel’s Dr. Clay Breshears:


    Three Things You Must Teach Video Series --  Part I: Recognizing Parallelism:



    More Academic Videos /en-us/videos/category/academic/1/1/