Department of Computer Science

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Keith Bocian's Internship at White Sands Missile Range

I’m Keith, a Computer and Data Science student at Montana Tech. I was fortunate to land an internship at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) during the Summer of 2017. I found a place on craigslist, and got in my car with my dog and drove down to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The hiring process was somewhat delayed, so it wasn’t until around the middle of June that I was able to start work. Honestly, the pay was just okay, but the technology and experience of working at WSMR were terrific. Las Cruces also has great Mexican food, and is only 20-30 miles away from Hatch, New Mexico, which is famous for its green chile.

During this internship, myself and two other interns used Hadoop to develop a prototype replacement for a Monte Carlo simulation that was taking upwards of three weeks for Range Safety personnel to execute on their computers. The purpose of this simulation is to figure out where large debris fragments will fall after target and intercept vehicles collide during planned tests (often with a cool explosion), with the goal of avoiding damage to personnel and to equipment.

Because the simulation took so long, it introduced a considerable lead time to the White Sands Missile Range test planning process and resulted in some program tests being significantly delayed. At a presentation towards the end of our internship (see poster included alongside this posting), we were able to claim on the order of an 8-9x speed improvement, but additional code that I wrote following this presentation parallelized an additional element of the computational process, allowed for our simulation to run at approximately 20x the original simulation speed on the WSMR High Performance Computer. Our prototype demonstrated the potential to drastically decrease White Sand Missile Range's safety test planning lead time.

Overall the internship was a rewarding experience; we worked on a CENTOS platform, coding primarily in Java. WSMR staff were extremely knowledgeable and made themselves available to assist us when we had questions. It was also great to collaborate with other interns, sharing ideas in person and collaborating via git. I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to the WSMR team, to the Department of Defense High Performance Computing project, and especially to Rick Vinyard, our mentor on this project.

Parallelizing KDAT with Hadoop