Dec. 22 — Registration for the ASC19 Student Supercomputer Challenge has begun. Registered teams hail from top international institutes such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Hong Kong Baptist University, National Tsing Hua University, Nanyang Technological University, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, University of Warsaw and so on. The deadline of registration is January 7th after which the preliminary competition will begin.
According to the ASC Committee, this year’s challenge will continue to focus on cutting-edge technologies and the latest supercomputer applications to guide young students to broaden their horizon and solve major scientific problems with supercomputers. This has been ASC’s mission since its inception in 2012. ASC15 collaborated with SKA, the world’s largest radio array telescope project, on a challenge involving Gridding, the most complex computational process of SKA. ASC17 invited students to optimize MASNUM, marine science and numerical modeling, on the world’s then fastest supercomputer, the Sunway TaihuLight. ASC18 asked participants to a challenge for RELION, a critical application for the 2017 Nobel Prize-winning cryo-electron microscopy technology. In recent years, artificial intelligence applications have also become the “new normal” of the ASC Challenge, including the multi-core optimization of the speech recognition DNN from iFLYTEK in 2016, intelligent driving traffic forecast from Baidu in 2017, and machine reading comprehension from Microsoft in 2018. These problems cover the latest AI frameworks, algorithms and technical issues.
Jack Dongarra, the Chair of ASC Advisory Committee, an American University Distinguished Professor at the University of Tennessee, has described ASC as having “by far the most intense competition” of the student cluster contests he has witnessed. It not only boosts the development of supercomputers, but also guides students’ career development.
Many teachers and students attending previous challenges strongly agree on the significance of ASC for personal development. Cui Peng, the Captain of Qinghai University Team at ASC18, found his calling in supercomputing through participating in ASC. He has participated in ASC for three consecutive years since 2016, entered the final and won the First Prize this year. He believes that ASC is of great significance to undergraduates, because they can learn about hardware, software, system architecture and operating system, and put the culmination of this knowledge into practice. Meanwhile, he had gained a lot of cutting-edge expertise and developed his interest in doing research from the challenge. This experience played a very important role in his admission to the master’s program in Computer Sciences at Tsinghua University.
“I have learned a lot from ASC, mainly because the competition covers many spheres,” said Liu Siyuan, a student from Nanyang Technological University. “Participants need to know how to deploy Linux servers, allocate clusters, compile and optimize programs, optimize power consumption, and so on. When I joined ASC for the first time, I didn’t even know how to configure the InfiniBand. Through two years of competition and study, I learned a lot, which supplemented what I had learnt at school. In addition, by participating in the competition, I improved my ability to handle emergencies, and collaborating with peers is also rewarding.”
According to Mr. Alexander Ditter, a researcher of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) who had coached his students to participate in ASC17 and ASC18, it was an unforgettable experience for students to run workloads on the fastest supercomputer at that time, the Sunway TaihuLight. Moreover, he was able to attend the ASC organized “HPC Connection Workshop” with high-profile experts from the field. He and his students are returning for ASC19 and eagerly preparing for the new challenge.
ASC19 is split into three main phases. The first phase is registration and team set up from November 15, 2018 to January 7, 2019. Undergraduates register in group of five with one advisor. The second phase is a preliminary contest held from January to March 2019. Each team shall submit an optimization proposal for supercomputing applications as required. The ASC committee will select the top 20 teams. The third stage is the finals to be held at Dalian University of Technology from April 21 to 25. Based on the hardware platform provided by ASC, each of the 20 teams will design and build a supercomputing cluster that optimizes designated applications under 3000W.
ASC is sponsored and organized by China and supported by Asian, European and American experts and institutions. The main objectives of ASC are to encourage exchange and training of young supercomputer talents from different countries, improve supercomputer applications and R&D capacity, boost the development of supercomputing, and promote technical and industrial innovation.