The Centre for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC) national team was part of 82 university students from 11 countries that spent a month working feverishly on a cluster located at the National Supercomputing Centre of Singapore to try to win the overall prize of the International Supercomputing Competition (ISC) 2020 Student Cluster Competition.
South Africa was participating for the seventh time in the competition and has made it to the podium each time, winning three times, coming second three times and third once.
The ISC Student Cluster Competition went virtual this year and ran from 1 June to 24 June 2020. As part of this year’s competition, the ISC organising committee joined the global fight against COVID-19, and the competition included applications that address education and applied learning towards accelerating bioscience research and discovery. The student teams were tasked with testing several applications that are used by scientists and researchers to find cures against the virus.
Team South Africa is made up of six undergraduate students from Wits University, the University of the Western Cape and the University of KwaZulu-Natal namely Guy Axelrod, Victoria Bench, Michael Beukman, Sivenathi Madlokazi, Mikhail Vink and Kalreen Govender as well as Stephanie Agenbag who was the reserve from the University of the Western Cape. The team proceeded to the international round after winning the national one held in December 2019 at the CHPC’s National Conference in Johannesburg. Team South Africa is one of the only teams made up of undergraduate students and is also one of the few that does not have the same participants twice. “For the students to spend almost a month on this competition shows a lot of dedication in itself. The novelty of the applications was geared towards drug discovery using HPC. Well done to the entire team, the mentors from the CHPC and the organisers who ensured that this year’s competition take place irrespective of the challenges the world faced.
The participation of the team for the whole month mimicked the actual challenge that NICIS is facing now which is to ensure that we provide HPC resources for COVID-19 combat efforts in the country, whilst simultaneously looking at addressing issues of connectivity to enhance on-line learning.”, said the Centre Manager of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastucture System.
The ISC Student Cluster Competition encourages international teams of university students to showcase their expertise in a friendly, yet spirited competition, that fosters critical skills, professional relationships, competitive spirit and lifelong comradery. Since 2011, ISC has focused on introducing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students to the world of possibilities that is High Performance Computing (HPC) – its leaders, opportunities and community, and helping develop critical skills that students will use long after completing their current studies. Each team comprised six students and up to two advisers, competes in the competition and takes part in the world’s oldest, and Europe’s premier, conference and networking event for the international HPC community.
Over the intense competition days, the teams demonstrate incredible capabilities to obtain the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications. In parallel to their day-to-day learnings, the students’ novel approaches and unique perspectives gained during the competition are integral to our own education – teaching us how HPC influences our world.