New MSOE Supercomputer Aims To Help Milwaukee With Artificial Intelligence

Sep 13, 2019

Computer power and artificial intelligence technology are officially ramping up in Milwaukee — that's with Friday’s opening of the Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. A specially-designed supercomputer in the building will be able to help local businesses and community groups with data projects.

Supercomputers have many connected processors and are very fast and powerful. There are several supercomputers in Southeastern Wisconsin, but MSOE says it's new machine is the first local one designed specifically for AI.

Dr. Derek Riley, program director of MSOE's Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Derek Riley, the program director of MSOE's Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, says examples of  AI are close by. "The cell phones we carry around in our pockets have natural language processing. So, when you ask Google a question or Siri a question, that's AI."

He says MSOE's supercomputer will allow students to work on bigger AI projects without having to resort to the cloud — expensive, off-site data centers managed by Google and others. 

"By having this on-site, our students can actually learn in an environment where they can experiment and fail. And through experiment and failure, they can discover what leads to success," Riley explains.

MSOE's new machine isn't cheap, he points out, but MSOE Regent and alumnus Dr. Dwight Diercks and his wife Dian have donated $34 million for the computational science hall.  

Riley says the Milwaukee community will benefit from the gift. "We currently work with many community members and companies in the area on software development projects. Having this computer is going to allow us to actually branch out and focus on more-focused AI development projects."

Dr. Olga Imas, of MSOE, adjusts an Anatomage Table in the Dierks Computational Science Hall. The device offers digital images of cadavers.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

AI isn't the only hot technology topic that will be taught in MSOE's new building. On another floor, Software Engineering Professor Walter Schilling will teach cyber security in a lab that has a computer network separate from the rest of campus.   

Schilling says there's a huge demand for graduates with a cyber security background. "Right now, basically, you can't watch the news or read the newspaper without seeing some sort of cyber attack going on.  That's what we're training students to try and defend against in this particular room," he says.

MSOE is far from the only institution of higher learning going even bigger on computers. UW-Madison recently announced a new School of Computing, Data and Information Sciences, while saying that computer sciences has become its most popular undergraduate major.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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