All photos by Mike Schropp of Total Geekdom
What do you do when your hobby is building computers, and you have a keen desire to build a highly energy efficient computer that can be utilized by supercomputers for computations for medical research? Oh, and you have a ton of Legos laying around? Well, for one computer geek, that created a perfect opportunity for making an energy efficient, but incredibly powerful PC out of, yes, Legos. We've written before about opportunities for helping out in scientific research by donating your computer during its down time. By downloading a simple program, you can allow researchers to access the computing power of your laptop or home PC and therefore speed up the time in which complicated computing can be completed. It basically turns a massive number of home PCs into a supercomputer of sorts. Well, Mike Schropp wanted to also contribute some PC computing power to IBM's World Community Grid project, but with some added punch. He decided his next tinkering project would be to build a PC that would be as energy efficient as possible, but still be a powerful resource for the WCG.
Gizmag reports, "The final DIY PC consists of three complete systems working as one in a single box made of LEGO bricks. Schropp used three quad-core Intel Core i7 2600K CPUs, three Asus P8P67 Micro ATX motherboards, three SSDs, a DDR3 memory for each system, as well as three coolers from Thermaltake and eight Aerocool fans. The DIY PC is powered by just a single Antec 1200 HCP power supply, which proves that Schropp was entirely successful in terms of energy efficiency."
And Schropp did this all while working within a few parameters: a $2,000 budget, a goal to hit 100,000 crunching points per day (a measurement of computational power in grid computing) and a goal to make the PC as energy efficient as possible. You can read about the research and planning Schropp put into utilizing parts he already had, and figuring out the most energy efficient power supply.
And of course he could cut down on his budget by utilizing a few resources he had laying around the house -- Legos. Schropp writes, "I've been addicted to Legos for longer than I can remember, so when the opportunity comes up to work on a new project of some sort the question that invariably arises is, 'Can I use Legos?'"
In all, the computer still utilizes a whole lot of energy for its computations. Schropp dishes on the Watts used for different components of the system and we're talking in the hundreds of Watts. But considering what it is accomplishing, its still fairly energy efficient. As Schropp notes, "In the end the most important thing to me though is that I feel like I'm doing more to help contribute to a good cause in humanitarian and medical research. I know it's just one system, but every little bit counts in finding cures and solutions."