Thinking inside the box

Senior computer science major Conner Ozenne ’23 took on the DIY challenge as a STAR research project.

“It was a great opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in computer science classes,” he says. “It also helped further my understanding of some foundational principles like networking and parallel computing.”

He had to think inside the box – the 14-by-14-by-16-inch transparent acrylic housing, to be exact – to fit all the components together as a cluster supercomputer.

“Initially, a lot of it was just calculations: How can we make this fit in the box?” Ozenne says.

He used the precision laser cutter in the Deason Innovation Gym campus makerspace to fabricate the airtight container.

“All of the sides were jagged puzzle pieces. If the cut was off by a millimeter, they wouldn’t fit together,” he says.

Ozenne also had to handle everything from budget management to supply-chain hiccups like finding the correct parts online. Resources didn’t always post accurate specifications, so there was a lot of returning and reordering.

“Another issue we had to figure out was how to power all these little computers at once without starting a fire, which is always a concern,” Ozenne says.