Supercomputing skills bags a win

2019-07-30 06:01
The team that represented South Africa at the International Supercomputing Conference.

The team that represented South Africa at the International Supercomputing Conference.

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A team of University of Cape Town (UCT) students that took part in the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany last month won the competition.

The team was made up of four UCT students and two from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Their win comes after four days of working on a selection of tests and applications to optimise and run their computer cluster to demonstrate the performance of their chosen design. The competition took place from Sunday 16 to Wednesday 19 June.

The team made up of Stefan Schröder, Dillon Heald, Jehan Singh, Clara Stassen, Anita de Mello Koch and Kaamilah Desai, under the supervision of team advisors and computer engineers David Macleod and Matthew Cawood of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), took on 102 members. The 13 teams competing for the first prize were from countries around the world

Macleod says their trip to Germany went well and he is happy the team won.

When People’s Post asked him about the lessons they took out from the competition, Macleod says: “The basic lesson is that to win you need to have good students, good equipment and then prepare well in advance. It is easy to say that you want good people, good tools and plenty of time to prepare but to get all three is very difficult. We had all three this year.”

The team received several sponsorships for this competition including hardware, software and training. The total value of the SA team’s cluster was about R6m and comprised sponsorships from Dell EMC, Intel, Nvidia and Mellanox.

Despite the team coming out top, the competition was not an easy one. “The competition is always stiff. Many of the teams put a lot of time, effort and money into the competition, to have a chance at winning you also have to. Our primary goal is to expose as many students as possible to High Performance Computing (HPC) early enough in their careers so that they can easily change their focus to HPC if they want to. As a result of this goal our team is completely new every year and the students in the team are typically younger and less experienced than the students on other teams,” he says. According to Macleod, the SA team’s winning formula is to have dedicated students and sponsors. “Our sponsors are excellent and allowed the team to choose equipment without restriction or compromise. In turn, the students put in a lot of time and effort before the competition and arrived at the competition well prepared,” he says.

Now, they are already preparing for the next round. “We have started the process for selecting the team for ISC’20. In the first week of July we hosted the Selection Round for the CHPC’19 Student Cluster Competition. CHPC’20 will be hosted a the CHPC Conference in December,” he says.V For more info visit


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