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This article was published 11/3/2019 (348 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Sisler High School student has been putting machines to good use in the fight against cancer.
Dylan Bucci, a Grade 10 student, has been donating his computing skills and power to the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto. He configured many Dell servers to communicate with IBM’s volunteer program called the World Community Grid and provide processing power to Krembil which is working on a research project to map cancer markers.
Krembil sends Bucci several small files containing data which needs to be processed, and he needs to make sure that all the computers stay up and running, checking for any issues. He has been the systems administrator for the project for more than a month.
Bucci said working on the project and donating his skills to cancer research hits close to home.
"Some really close family friends passed away of cancer. Some of it could’ve been prevented if they were caught earlier, so trying to catch cancer before it becomes a real problem is what (Krembil) is trying to do, and that’s what I really want to help out with," he said. "If cancer is going to stay around, let’s make it less lethal."
Sisler’s Cyber Academy is currently ranked second in the world among secondary schools that donate computing power to research centres and ranked in the top seven Canadian donators.
The 11 servers Bucci is working on have all been donated to Sisler, and the school’s network and cybersecurity teacher, Robert Esposito, said they are mighty. Bucci is directing 90 per cent of the processing power they have in the school toward cancer research and has done approximately 14 years’ worth of research in a month.
In the Grade 9 program, Sisler gives its computing students a taste of how they can give back to the community through a small project. They can choose to support cancer research, climate change research, Zika virus research, do a basic installation on their own machines in a virtual environment, and make presentations to their classmates.
Bucci just took that idea to a higher level and his work is being graded as his final assignment.
"The amount of processing power he has been providing is on an enterprise level. The amount of processing power that’s there could run a major business and could run hundreds of machines," Esposito said.
"We teach students to build computers, manage them, secure them, and ultimately administer them. And the really neat thing is that Dylan has been able to showcase all these skill sets and bring them into a project such as the cancer research project.
"He has done everything from setting them up to install the operating systems and now system administering the entire operation, while also providing back to the community his processing power."
Esposito added he was surprised to see how fast Bucci was able to set up the servers.
"I was thinking this would take us a few months at least, between classes and during lunch and after-school work, but Dylan just put in the time and was very focused and did research at home and we put it up and running in just a few weeks," he said.
"The future goal is to educate other students on the current project and how they can donate their computing power to the same cause."
Bucci wasn’t expecting so much attention from the public but said he is proud of the work he’s accomplished. His father, Michael, has been running a program SETI@home that uses internet-connected computers in search of extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and was a significant influence in getting Bucci involved in the research project.
"It not only helps me, but it also helps everyone else, and that’s what I want to do, I just want to help out. I know that it’s something that hits close to home for everybody. I’m planning on helping out with these servers until I graduate and even a little bit longer, and I’m hoping to find someone who is willing to help continue this project," he continued.
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti is the community journalist for The Times. Email her at email@example.com