USTC students impress at supercomputing contest
“Our goal is to tap the potential of every student through teamwork and demonstrate our concentration, self-confidence and enthusiasm in the world’s top contest for high performance computing,” said professor An Hong from the University of Science and Technology of China.
As coach of the USTC-Sugon team, An has achieved even more than she expected.
During the 29th International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany, the USTC team of six young students won second place in the Student Cluster Challenge, a real-time international contest held by the HPC Advisory Council.
The team was awarded and recognized in front of thousands of HPC luminaries on the main conference keynote stage on June 24.
ISC is an annual conference and is one of the world’s premier events in high performance computing. The conference connects experts from academic institutes and engineers from enterprises to share updated perspectives and innovative products.
The SCC is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their cluster hardware and software capabilities in a friendly and fun competition.
“This exciting challenge is an excellent educational opportunity for students around the world to showcase their knowledge and skill sets and to engage with leading commercial vendors,” said Gilad Shainer, chairman of the HPC Advisory Council.
“The contest is designed to introduce the next generation of students to the international high-performance computing community.”
The USTC-Sugon team was sponsored by Chinese computing powerhouse Dawning Information Industry Co Ltd. The company, knows as Sugon for short, which means dawning in Chinese, is a leading high-tech company supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China’s top scientific research body.
The team made
its SCC debut in Salt Lake City, in the United States, in November 2012, when it won the second overall prize and gained the highest LINPACK score.
The second batch of team members was organized in October 2013, and in February this year the team entered into the formal training stage.
Among the six students, He Songtao, Li Guangpu, Chen Zhongxia, Hu Yunbin and Ma Lu are junior students from the School of Computer Science and Technology of USTC. Zhu Shengjing, the youngest team member, is a sophomore from the School of the Gifted Young, the first of its kind in China established in 1978 in order to give kids an earlier start at college.
The students were under great pressure as they had to pass all courses in the curriculum as well as take part in high-intensity training for the contest.
For the challenge, each team was required to build a small cluster with a 3120-watt power limit and demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks, including the renowned LINPACK and applications including Quantum ESPRESSO, Open FOAM and GADGET.
To run the applications smoothly, team members needed precise knowledge of all the applications to design and build the most suitable super computer.
“The reading code part was not so hard for us, while understanding the physical and mathematical models in these applications appear to be the real challenge,” said Zhu Shengjing.
During the training stage before the contest, experts from USTC and CAS helped the students understand the mechanisms of the applications.
“These applications would be much harder to understand without the physics and chemical knowledge that I studied in my freshman year,” said Zhu, who also attributed their success to the courses at the School of Computer Science and Technology.
“The courses not only emphasize the ability to code, but also the ability to connect the computer performance to hardware.”
The students left people at the contest deep impressions with their excellent performance. Li Guangpu was a very good example.
Li submitted a result after a quick 11-second calculation on the team’s own-designed supercomputer during the 20-minute-long competition for Open FOAM, a widely used software in scientific research.
The speed shocked the judges and Li explained he optimized the code to reduce redundant computation.
“What a good observation!” remarked one of the judges after re-examining the result.
“The result demonstrates China’s remarkable achievements in supercomputing education and research,” said An after the contest. Qiu Zengwei from the USTC News Center also contributed to the story.
The USTC-Sugon, a team consisting of six students and a coach, won the second prize at the 2014 Student Cluster Challenge during the 29th International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany.