Computational Engineers at the University of Southampton have built a supercomputer from 64 Raspberry Pi computers and Lego. The team, led by Professor Simon Cox, consisted of Richard Boardman, Andy Everett, Steven Johnston, Gereon Kaiping, Neil O'Brien, Mark Scott and Oz Parchment, along with six year old James Cox, who provided specialist support on Lego and system testing.
Prof Cox said: "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. We installed and built all of the necessary software on the Pi, starting from a standard Debian Wheezy system image, and we have published a guide so you can build your own supercomputer." The racking was built using Lego with a design developed by Simon and James, who has also been testing the Raspberry Pi by programming it using free computer programming software Python and Scratch over the summer. The machine, named 'Iridis-Pi' after the University's Iridis supercomputer, runs off a 13A socket and uses the Message Passing Interface (MPI) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet. The system, which cost less than £2500 (excluding switches), has 64 processors and 1Tbyte of memory – each Raspberry Pi has a 16Gbyte SD card. Prof Cox added: "The first test we ran: well, obviously we calculated Pi on the Raspberry Pi using MPI, a well known first test for any new supercomputer. "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 outreach activities." James Cox noted: "The Raspberry Pi is great fun and it is amazing that I can hold it in my hand and write computer programs or play games on it."