When Calvin computer science professor Joel Adams launched Calvin’s first parallel computing course in the late ’90s, the field was “an esoteric elective kind of thing.”Supercomputers, the main devices at the time to rely on parallel computing, were few and far between.

In 2005, however, computer processor developers started making multicore processors for the general market. This increasing need has led Adams to collaborate with several institutions in an effort to advance parallel computing (a type of computing architecture in which several processors execute or process an application or computation simultaneously) instruction.

This past fall, Adams—together with colleagues at U.S. Military Academy at West Point and St. Olaf College in Minnesota—received a $595,131 grant for the development of new parallel computing teaching tools.

While St. Olaf College is researching touch-based approaches and West Point is building an interactive online textbook, Adams and two student researchers will work this summer on building several tools to provide students learning parallel computing with direct audio and visual feedback.

“We’re looking for real-world analogies to parallel behavior so that we can create the equivalent of those analogies in software,” said Adams. “If you give students enough examples of how parallelism is used to solve problems, they start thinking and understanding the underlying patterns of parallel behavior.”