The Irresistible Appeal of the ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge

February 11, 2019

The ASC 2019 Student Supercomputer Challenge is underway, with more than 300 teams from around the world will tackle challenges on CESM, the Community Earth System Model for studying climate change; SR, single image super-resolution; and HPL and HPCG, internationally accepted HPC benchmarks in the next two months.

The annual ASC was first held in 2012 and has since attracted over 7,000 college students from all over the world. These students met ASC in the most energetic and creative times of their lives, constantly challenging themselves and feeling the magic of supercomputing. Supercomputing competition is full of mystery in the eyes of ordinary people, but in the students’ eyes, the extremely complex codes are like the notes from a musician’s fingertips, and clumsy servers are the most powerful weapons to interpret the mysteries of the world. What has drawn these students to join in this competition? Let’s hear what the participants described below from their experience, and discover the enduring appeal of the world’s largest student supercomputer event.

For Marcin Mielniczuk from the University of Warsaw, the ASC Challenge has been a major event in his life. He even likes to start learning Chinese because of the competition. “I can definitely say that participating in the ASC Challenge has changed my life. It’s a very unique experience to compete on the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputers.”

Alexander Ditter, the advisor of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg team, has participated in the ASC17 and ASC18 competitions with his students. “The ASC competition brings us a new experience, and we were impressed by the organization, support the venue selection, and the team and I am very happy with the previous competitions.” He said, “It’s professional and friendly, with the exchange and extension of knowledge and cultural expansion. We are currently preparing for the new contest in 2019.” In particular, what impressed him most was the unique experience of ASC17. “One of the highlights in the competition was the workload that the student teams actually got to run on the supercomputer – the Sunway ThaihuLight, this allows all students to add a bright touch to their resumes, as not too many college students can claim to have received allocations and run workloads on the world’s fastest supercomputers.”

Shaina D. Le of Texas A&M University noted that although her team did not win the competition, they witnessed each other’s strengths and weaknesses under authentic contest conditions and met a group of enterprising people – from two eager to strengthen their English language skills through volunteering with the competition; to the students from some of the top universities in their respective countries, to doctoral candidates and high-performance computing experts at the forefronts of the fields. “We were immersed in a unique culture for a brief time but the impression it left was fantastic and everlasting.” She added, “Competitions often imply opposition and rivalry, yet I felt the overall goal of this competition to work as a collective in determining solutions beneficial to all.”

The Shanghai University of Science and Technology team, which won the runner-up and e Prize Winner in its first time at the finals, was undoubtedly the most impressive “dark horse” of ASC18. Team leader Xie Zhiqiang used the word “fruitful” to describe the whole experience. He said, “This is not only about the result, but also about the difficulties we face in challenging of high-performance computing and the solutions we designed. More importantly, our team enjoyed the whole contest and cooperated well with each other. At the same time, we have gained friendship with the outstanding students from many other universities.”

Feng Guanyu fromTsinghua University said, “We have participated in the ASC Supercomputer Challenge for many years. The experience of these competitions is very precious. It is a process of continuous learning, mutual complementation and improvement with team members.” The Tsinghua University team so far is the only one in the world that has been honored championships in all three major student supercomputer challenges: SC, ISC and ASC.

Cui Peng, the team leader of the Qinghai University team, has participated in the ASC Challenge for three consecutive years. He believes that “the ASC is very meaningful for college students, because we can learn a lot, from the hardware to software, from system structure to operating system, and apply theoretical knowledge during the competition. We can definitely benefit from it.” The Qinghai University team won the third prize in its first year and the second prize in it’s the second year. At ASC18, the team achieved a major breakthrough by winning the first prize and moving to the finals. Along the way, the team experienced numerous difficulties but still enjoyed the challenge.

Perhaps everyone participating in the ASC Challenge has their own unique views. But it is this unique experience that attracts thousands of college students every year to be obsessed with this challenge, harvesting knowledge, growth and surprise. Learn more ASC at www.asc-events.org/

 

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