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Parallel computing sculpture SeeMore named one of the top projects in the world

October 18, 2016

SeeMore sculpture
SeeMore on display at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

A Virginia Tech project created to educate and inspire computational thinking was named one of the top projects by the readers of The MagPi, a magazine dedicated to work using Raspberry Pis, affordable and accessible mini-computers originally designed to teach computer programming to people of all ages.

Featured in the number two spot on the magazine’s list of the best Raspberry Pi projects of all time – and the highest ranking university project on the list – SeeMore is a massive fusion of art and technology created  by two faculty members affiliated with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology – Sam Blanchard, an assistant professor of sculpture in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, and Kirk Cameron, a professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science.

Constructed using 256 Raspberry Pis – inexpensive single-board computers that are slightly larger than a credit card – SeeMore is part kinetic sculpture and part giant parallel computer that physically demonstrates conceptual elements of computer science, showing how a computer carries out many calculations simultaneously.

 “As far as we can tell, this sculpture also holds the record for the number of Raspberry Pis working together in parallel,” the magazine said of SeeMore in its October 2016 edition. “A lot of the parts were custom-made via CNC and laser etching, but the coolest thing about the piece was how the panels covering each Pi would move depending on how much computational power was being used.”

As a computation propagates and evolves across the surface of the living sculpture, it visually represents the architecture modern supercomputers use, helping people understand the abstract concepts involved. The sculpture moves as the individual computers process information, illustrating the concept of data flowing through the computers and demonstrating some of the more conceptual and invisible elements of computer science.

Learn more about how SeeMore was created:

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The Virginia Tech project was also chosen as an editor’s pick by the magazine, which is the official publication of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, an organization that works to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. The foundation recently celebrated selling its 10 millionth Raspberry Pi.

SeeMore was exhibited at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York and was also a featured project for Virginia Tech’s booth at the South by Southwest Trade Show in March. The project has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

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