SC21’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

By Oliver Peckham

November 19, 2021

SC21 may have been the first major supercomputing conference to return to in-person activities, but not everything returned to the live menu: the Student Cluster Competition – held virtually at ISC 2020, SC20 and ISC 2021 – was again held virtually at SC21. Nevertheless, Students@SC Chair Jay Lofstead took the physical stage at SC21 on Thursday to announce the winners of SC21’s remaining awards, including the two winning teams from this conference’s Student Cluster Competition.

Launched in 2007, the Student Cluster Competition typically involves high school and undergraduate student teams building real computing clusters on the show floors of conferences and frantically racing to complete a series of tasks and workloads on those systems before the end of the conference.

This time, it’s in the cloud to allow for remote participation. For the first time, the students were asked to compete using dual cloud platforms: Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud. Over the course of the 48-hour challenge, the six-student teams (assisted by an advisor) were tasked with prioritizing and utilizing a budget on Azure and optimizing for and utilizing specific hardware on Oracle, then running a set of benchmarks and real-world scientific workloads.

The Microsoft Azure challenges included benchmarking, Quantum ESPRESSO and a mystery application. The Oracle Cloud challenges included Cardioid and a “reproducibility challenge,” during which students attempted to reproduce results from an accepted paper from the SC20 technical program.

Ten teams participated in the SC21 Student Cluster Competition: Boston University/Boston College/the University of Massachusetts, Lowell; Clemson University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; Jinan University; Peking University; ShanghaiTech University, the Southern University of Science and Technology; Tsinghua University; the University of California, San Diego; and Wake Forest University.

The competition awarded two prizes: one to the team with the highest Linpack benchmark, and another to the overall winners. “The overall Student Cluster Competition winner was determined based on a combined score for correctly completed workloads, benchmark performance, and demonstrated understanding of architecture and performance through profiling and analysis, interviews and their poster presentation,” Lofstead explained at the ceremony.

The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) team took home the Linpack award. The team, which included Tongzhou Gu, Yiqi Zhang, Tong Yuan, Botian Xu, Yingwei Zheng and Bingzhen Wang, was advised by Jing Fan.

The overall prize, meanwhile, went to veteran champion Tsinghua University, with this year’s team advised by Jidong Zhai and including students Mingshu Zhai, Zeyu Song, Kaiyuan Rong, Yanyu Ren, Yuxi Zhu and Juncheng Cao.

At the virtual ISC 2021 this year, Tsinghua University returned to its dominance of the student cluster competitions – and at SC21, it reinforced that trend. Across SC, ISC and ASC, this is now the university’s twelfth gold medal, which it holds alongside four silver medals and three bronze medals. The university also holds two Linpack awards, one of which was earned at ISC 2021.

To learn more about the teams or the competition, visit the SC21 Student Cluster Competition page here.

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