On January 30, the opening ceremony of the 2018 ASC Supercomputer Challenge (ASC18) was held in Beijing. The event was attended by hundreds of spectators, including academicians from the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), heads of supercomputing centers, experts in supercomputing and AI, as well as professors and students from participating teams. The ceremony marks the formal start of a two-month competition that will see more than 300 teams of university students from across the world participate, with the top 20 competing in the final round at Nanchang University in May. At the ceremony, organizers explained this year’s challenges, including AI machine reading and comprehension and a Nobel Prize-winning application.
The AI challenge will give students the chance to tackle Answer Prediction for Search Query in natural language reading and comprehension, and is provided by Microsoft. Teams must create an AI answer prediction method and model based on massive amounts of data generated by real questions from search engines such as Bing or voice assistants such as Cortana, providing accurate answers to queries and facilitating the development of AI to better address the cognitive challenge.
ASC18 also includes a supercomputing application for cryo-electron microscopy, a newly-developed technology whose developers were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Allowing scientists to solve challenges in structural biology beyond the scope of traditional X-rays and crystallology, cryo-electron microscopy is based on RELION, a 3D reconstruction software. By including RELION among the challenges of this year’s ASC, the competition organizers aim to keep today’s computing students abreast of the latest cutting-edge developments in scientific discovery and spark their passion for exploring the unknown.
ASC will also host a two-day training camp to get participants up to speed for the competition. Supercomputing and AI experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Intel, and Inspur will lead sessions on designing and building supercomputer systems, the latest architectures of accelerated computing, AI application optimization and other related topics.
Initiated by China, the ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge is the world’s biggest student supercomputer competition. Since its launch, the ASC challenge has been held 7 times, supported by experts and institutions from across Asia, the US and Europe. Through promoting exchanges and furthering the development of talented young minds in the field of supercomputing around the world, the ASC aims to improve applications and R&D capabilities of supercomputing and accelerate technological and industrial innovation.
“ASC allows participating students to improve their knowledge and ability through practical application,” said Wang Endong, founder of the ASC, member of the CAE, and the chief scientist at Inspur. “This helps nurture well-rounded talents who have both the knowledge and skills for operating software and hardware. Such talents will be better able to play a role in the development of the AI industry.”
Li Bohu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that a deep integration of supercomputing and modeling simulation has become the third research method for understanding and transforming the world, following theoretical study and experimental research. Li anticipated that further integration and development of supercomputing and other expertise will revolutionize society, transform industries, and lead to major changes in how we live and work.
Deng Xiaohua, the vice president of Nanchang University and host of the final round of the ASC18, said that as one of China’s Project 211 institutions, a member of the high-level university project and a university focusing on building world-class disciplines, Nanchang University has always placed high importance on enhancing students’ ability to study and work with supercomputers. The university is dedicated to advancing innovations in scientific research, AI, and big data through supercomputing. As an international platform for supercomputing and the development of talented minds, ASC18 will greatly advance the development of new talents in Nanchang University and further international exchanges and cooperation.