Six-year old James Cox, dad Professor Simon Cox and other engineers at the University of Southampton have built a low-cost 'supercomputer' using nothing more than humble Lego blocks and 64 Raspberry Pi single-board computers.
Since the Raspberry Pi comes with no on-board hard drive, the team - led by Simon Cox, who taught his son to program on the Pi during the summer - equipped each Pi with a 16Gb SD card to bringing the total storage capacity up to over 1Tb. With 256Mb of memory on each of the credit card-sized Linux machines, the cluster boasts total RAM of around 16Gb.
“As soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers, we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer,” said Professor Cox. “The team wants to see this low-cost system as a starting point to inspire and enable students to apply high-performance computing and data handling to tackle complex engineering and scientific challenges as part of our on-going outreach activities.”
The cluster of Pi's sit one atop another on stacks of Lego, runs off a standard mains socket and cost the team a total of £2,500. The 'Iridis Pi' – named after Southampton's Iridis supercomputer – uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to allow the Pi's to communicate. The supercomputer's first task? To calculate the value of Pi.
Download the steps to build a Raspberry Pi supercomputer here.