Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reflecting on the Ghana Grid School

As I sit in the final day of the African School for Fundamental Physics and its Applications (ASP) at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana I can't help but reflect on the grid portion of course and my interactions with the students and my fellow instructors.

On arrival in Accra, Ghana I met up with some long time OSG and DOSAR VO collaborators Horst Severini from Oklahoma University and Scot Kronenfeld from the University of Wisconsin Madison. I was also introduced to a few new colleagues that would be joining us during the Grid School, Julia Gray from CERN and Stony Brook University and Pat Skubic from Oklahoma University. After a short flight from Accra to Kumasi we spent several days configuring the machines in the classroom to act as a Condor cluster and working through the lessons one final time trying to find any final adjustments to the course material. We were joined by a few other well known OSG faces at the end of the weekend, Dick Greenwood from Louisiana Tech and Jae Yu from the University of Texas Arlington completing the instructional staff.

We were able to make our first visit to the classroom on Friday evening and found a modern computer classroom with reliable, though not necessarily robust network. After a few hours of tweaking the machines in the classroom we were confident the school was ready to begin on Monday morning.

The weekend consisted of a bit of free time, we did some shopping and we visited the woodworking village Ahwaii on the outskirts on Kumasi Saturday and held a session with ASP students on Sunday where each US school represented talked with students about graduate student opportunities.

Monday brought the start of class and much to my surprise a long time friend, and former South Padre Grid School (2004) roommate, Addy Tettah who was in attendance to help with instruction. The lectures by Scot introducing Condor and HTC concepts were excellent, but the hands on exercises were a challenge, mostly due to the students being unfamiliar with UNIX navigation.

Addy and Rob renewing a long time friendship.

It was my turn Tuesday, recapping day one and introducing the students to the Open Science Grid, BLAST, DHTC and Glide-Ins. Hands on exercises went much faster, mostly due to the students quickly grasping basic UNIX. Horst took the afternoon session to introduce storage and SRM. Real science concepts such as BLAST seemed to excite and energize the learning process. I left day two both elated and exhausted.

This morning we are back to physics and examples based on the ROOT software. Time is flying and we have the afternoon scheduled to talk with students about their experience and answer any questions they have for us.

It's been a whirlwind trip, but I'm honored to have been a part of ASP 2012 and am very proud of all the hard working students. Seeing the increase in knowledge and understanding in such a short time is extremely rewarding. I've greatly enjoyed my time in Ghana and working with collaborators and future grid users has been gratifying and the extra bonus of renewing an acquaintance after several long years on his home turf, this has turned into an unforgettable experience I will treasure for a very long time. I look forward to hearing from these students as they begin their scientific careers and to return for the next Grid School, no matter where it happens to be held.
Students and Instructors of the ASP2012 Grid School.

Rob Quick
OSG Operations Area Coordinator
Indiana University