Blue Waters Press Release

Triangle Organization Helps Lead the Way for World's Largest Supercomputer

DURHAM, N.C. — April 20, 2009 — The world's largest and most powerful supercomputer is coming online in 2011, and a Triangle education and research organization is helping to lead the way.

Shodor, a Durham-based non-profit organization serving students and educators in the Triangle and nationwide, will manage a $1.3 million education program that will bring the brain power of this new supercomputer into college classrooms in the area and throughout the country.

The project is called "Blue Waters" and is led by the University of Illinois and its National Center for Supercomputing Applications in partnership with IBM. Shodor will help educate the next generation of users of the world's first sustained "petascale" computational system dedicated to open scientific research.

According to Dr. Robert M. Panoff, Shodor's executive director and one of the team members who helped prepare the successful supercomputer proposal that led to a $208 million grant from the National Science Foundation, this petascale computational system will be "about a million times faster" than the fastest desktop or laptop computers in today's world and about a thousand times faster than the quickest university computers used for research.

What makes it a petascale supercomputer?

Panoff explained, "For example, rather than waiting for three hours for a supercomputer to analyze data to track the projected path of a hurricane, a petascale supercomputer will have that information in about 10 seconds."

Shodor's leadership will serve to prepare the next generation of young scientists to use the new computing environment as they pursue careers in science, math, engineering and medicine.

"Shodor's involvement in this project will give college and high school students in the Triangle unique opportunities to contribute to the most important supercomputing education 'build out' of this era," Panoff said.

These students will work with Shodor scientists and educators to develop the new curriculum and computer models that will be used in classrooms across the U.S.

Shodor is nationally known for its effective use of computational tools in education to bring students into dynamic research opportunities. Its Web site,, is largely made of interactive math and science educational tools, and receives more than 3-million page views per month.

"Shodor's dedication to — and success in — improving education through computational techniques will be a very crucial part of the Blue Waters Project and the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation," said Dr. Thom Dunning, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Blue Waters project. "Shodor will lead our systematic program of curriculum development, faculty workshops and student internships for undergraduates."

Dunning added, "Tomorrow's researchers have to be comfortable with petascale thinking — not just petascale computing. Shodor will help ensure that."

Shodor's core $1.3 million funding from the NSF will be spread over three years and must focus on the national scale, so only a few local students will be able to participate in the project immediately. Shodor is now working to raise matching funds to extend this opportunity to many more students in the Triangle area through its apprenticeship and internship programs. To learn more about making contributions and how you can make a difference, contact Panoff at 919-530-1911 or e-mail him at

"As we celebrate the opportunity with Blue Waters, we want to ensure our Triangle youth-focused programs can take full advantage of this national project," Panoff said. "I am passionate about involving students in our work — we are not just about computation and machines. We're helping kids build their own future."

Shodor, a national resource for computational science education, serves local students and both educators and students nationwide. Its online tools such as Interactive (, the Computational Science Education Reference Desk, and a Pathway Portal of the National Science Digital Library, are used internationally to improve the teaching and learning of math and science subjects.

In addition to developing and deploying interactive models, simulations, and educational tools, Shodor serves students and educators directly through workshops and other hands-on experiences. Shodor offers innovative workshops helping faculty and teachers incorporate computational science into their own curricula or programs. This work is done primarily through its National Computational Science Institute in partnership with TeraGrid, NCSA and other NSF-funded initiatives.

For Triangle students from middle school though undergraduate levels of education, Shodor offers workshops, apprenticeships, internships and off-site programs that explore new approaches to math and science education through computational science.

On April 13, Shodor will begin a week-long spring break workshop for Triangle students called SUCCEED that allow sixth- to eighth-graders to investigate the world around them through hands-on and interactive computer simulations in scientific modeling, graphic design and Web design. Registration is also open for week-long (Monday through Friday) workshops this summer on a variety of topics for middle school and high school students.

Shodor is located in the Durham Center in the downtown area. The organization was founded by Panoff in 1994.

To arrange an interview with Panoff about the Blue Waters project - or to visit Shodor - contact Mary Paisley, Communications Coordinator, at 919-530-1911 (office) 919-452-5334 (mobile) or

Press Contact

Mary Paisley, Communications Coordinator, (919) 452-5334,