Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

June 26, 2008

PSC Wii project wins TeraGrid award

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) won the award for “Best Demonstration at TG08” during this year’s annual conference of the TeraGrid, the National Science Foundation’s program of cyberinfrastructure for U.S. science and education.

A PSC team of two scientists and a Pitt student received the award for “WiiMD,” a project that merges the video-game technology of the Nintendo Wii (pronounced “we”) with interactive supercomputing.

The PSC team demonstrated WiiMD with simulations that included “buckyball” (spherical fullerene carbon allotropes) bowling, in which people can impel a buckyball carbon molecule to smash a 10-pin formation of other buckyballs.

The judges, a panel of TeraGrid staff members from various sites, selected WiiMD from among 12 demonstrations submitted by research centers and universities around the country. Judges looked at how well the demonstrations “highlight the latest science advances, exciting gateway capabilities, new software approaches or the use of TeraGrid resources in education.”

To develop WiiMD, PSC scientists Shawn Brown, team leader, and Philip Blood and student intern Jordan Soyke adapted the Wii motion-sensing controller (the WiiMote) from Nintendo’s popular game product to control molecular dynamics (MD) simulations running on BigBen, PSC’s 4,000 processor, 21-teraflop Cray XT3 supercomputing system. The resulting technology ties the WiiMote to MD, which tracks forces among atoms in molecules as they move.

With initial implementation of WiiMD complete, the team now is developing a curriculum to use with the technology. New team member Marylou Kunkle, also a Pitt undergraduate, is adapting the Linux-based program to be compatible with other desktop platforms, such as Windows and Mac OS X, in order to allow the general public easier access to the application.

Leave a Reply