Purdue's supercomputer, construction projects get green light

Purdue’s Board of Trustees on Friday approved a contract for a new supercomputer project that will keep the university on the cutting edge of research supercomputing power.

Trustees, meeting on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, also approved moving forward with two construction projects on the West Lafayette campus, including the new Innovation Design Center; a resolution for Purdue University Calumet to purchase a portion of Dowling Park from the city of Hammond; and a contract for the purchase of compressors for aircraft engine research.

The newest supercomputer will be named "Rice" in honor of John R. Rice, Purdue's W. Brooks Fortune Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Computer Science. The five-year contract with HP is estimated at $3.7 million, and the overall project has a total cost of $4.6 million.

The Rice supercomputer will be one of four Purdue supercomputers.

"This continues our strong tradition of installing a new supercomputer on campus each year," said Gerry McCartney, Purdue's system CIO, vice president for information technology and Oesterle Professor of Technology. "More importantly, this machine, Rice, will enable us to fully support the new faculty on campus who are part of the Purdue Moves initiatives."

The purchase will be split into two parts: general purpose high-performance computing, which is often used by a variety of researchers on campus, especially engineering faculty members, and a second cluster with additional memory resources and faster access to data storage. The latter will be important for life science research, especially for researchers involved in drug discovery and plant science, two areas included in the university’s Purdue Moves initiatives.

Purdue is purchasing supercomputer components from HP, Intel, Mellanox Technologies and Cisco.

Trustees also approved moving forward to plan, finance, construct and award a construction contract for the Innovation Design Center, another piece of Purdue Moves. The estimated project budget of $18.5 million will come from gift funds and a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant.

When complete, the center, which will be located at Third and Russell streets, will serve as a student project facility to provide a hands-on environment to encourage collaboration, creativity and the development of teamwork, and problem-solving and leadership skills. Projects will vary from short term to multiyear “create-design-build-display” activities. The West Lafayette center will have 28,800 gross square feet and will support students in the colleges of Engineering and Technology.

Trustees also granted approval to plan, finance, construct and award a construction contract for a project to replace and repair utility tunnels throughout the Centennial Mall and Central Drive areas, along with associated sitescaping after the tunnel work.

Construction on more than 1,000 linear feet of tunnel infrastructure, which dates to roughly the 1920s, is slated to occur during construction of the Active Learning Center. The project, with an estimated budget of $14.6 million, will be funded through university central and infrastructure reserves.

The board approved a resolution for Purdue University Calumet to purchase a section of Dowling Park from the city of Hammond. Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon proposed the university purchase approximately 15 acres of the park to support university athletic programs, which currently have no outdoor facilities for athletic or intramural activities.

Dowling Park is located just over a mile from campus and features all-weather synthetic fields for baseball, softball and soccer, each designed specifically for collegiate competition. The site also has tennis courts, spectator seating, a concession stand, restrooms and a service building.

Keon said the city has offered to sell the specified area and all improvements for $3.5 million, plus limited consideration for the city’s uses of the park over a 20-year period and the value associated with university management of the facility.

Trustees also approved a $2.95 million contract with Florida Turbine Technologies to provide two new compressor rigs at the West Lafayette campus. The compressors will be compatible with and increase the capabilities of work in the lab of Nicole Key, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. The rigs will be used to help analyze and assess performance of high-pressure compressors in aircraft engines.

The project is being funded by Rolls-Royce as sponsored research grants, which are in the process of being finalized. The grants would include funding for the equipment as well as resources to support faculty, graduate student support, travel and miscellaneous supplies, which, in total is expected to be in excess of $4.7 million. 

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