Engineering at Nebraska, Spring 2008
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Schoor Center Transforms CSE Facilities

Schoor Center Transforms CSE Facilities

The UNL supercomputer known as Red has moved to a very appropriate new home: adjacent to Memorial Stadium. The other campus super computer, PrairieFire, joins it in a remodeled space that's a significant improvement over prior venues in the former Miller and Paine Building and Avery Hall. Moving in this past winter meant a different (but also very celebratory) kind of "tunnel walk"-with the machines, said Rich Sincovec, Henson Professor and Chair of Computer Science and Engineering.

Located under the stadium's south wing, the June and Paul Schorr III Center for Computer Science and Engineering was redesigned by Michael Penn with Sinclair Hille, architects. The work addressed the project's challenges with several energy efficient approaches:

  • screen louvers outside the building allow for varying light levels, and interior sensors control lighting and temperature based on occupancy;
  • substantial plumbing and power (formerly used by Husker football laundry) are repurposed to serve the computers' demanding cooling needs, with high-volume primary (campus chilled water) and backup (glycol) systems; and
  • 18-inch elevated floors and perforated ceilings in the room housing the supercomputers aid cooling (high-capacity central ventilation also helps air flow around the computers, placed back to back).

From the Schorr Center's flexible cluster workspaces to the generous offices, it's all been "done right," added David Swanson, director of the Research Computing Facility and research assistant professor with Computer Science and Engineering. Most importantly, future hardware additions can be readily accommodated. Swanson noted that nearly 800 processing cores are now co-located in the Schorr Center-and that number that will triple in summer 2008. Yet even now, with a 10-gigabit link to Internet2, "the campus can provide, as an example, for performing arts the high-definition broadcasts that were simply not possible here two years ago." Echoes of "the sea of Red" crowd noise resonate in the hum of the machine room, as the new (quieter) neighbors in the Schorr Center enjoy their upgraded surroundings. Excitement generated an open house preview in April, but watch for the center's official dedication this fall.