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high-performance computing ‘I thought it sounded like a cool idea and


I asked others to join,’ said Christopher Bross, who is in his sixth semester studying computational engineering. Once the team formed, they enlisted Andreas Schaefer as their advisor. ‘We mostly work independently and try to


do most stuff on our own, and go to Andreas when we need extra help,’ Bross said. ‘We researched our hardware and found our own sponsors.’ Schaefer said his goal as advisor is to let the


students independently solve as many issues as they can, but to be there as a mentor when they need guidance. ‘Allowing them to solve problems


independently is the only way to succeed – not only in the competition, but also in real life,’ Schaefer said. ‘My role is rather the one of a mentor, to help the team crack those nuts that seemed too hard for them, such as ‘Why is our InfiniBand still not working?’ or ‘What kind of nodes should we get?’ Mentoring an SCC team is definitely something I can recommend – it’s both a challenge and a learning experience.’ Te SC13 team decided to use GPUs and


partnered with Nvidia, along with others including the German integrator Megware and the Portland Group. Tere were some


difficulties in adapting the applications to run on GPUs in 2013, a lesson they will take account of this year. ‘We did a good job last year, but we’re going


to try to do better this year,’ Bross said. ‘I think we’re a good team and we’re coming back to win.’ However, Bross adds, the opportunity to


attend the SC conference is almost equally important. ‘It’s a great experience to be part of SC and


an opportunity to put the things that you learn at the university into practice,’ he said. ‘You also make great contacts, not just with the other students, but with industry and the rest of the HPC world.’


Counting up the benefits Te team also enjoyed other benefits. Tey were able to bring their system back to the university to use in their research, and one team member got an internship with Nvidia. Finally, Bross said, competing at SC helps raise the visibility of HPC among students at the university. At Purdue University in Indiana, Stephen


Harrell sees a similar benefit. Within the Computer Science Department, parallel programming competitions are better known


than HPC events, said Harrell, who has been bringing a team to SC since 2010. He’s also taken a Purdue team to ISC in Germany and the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge. ‘Ultimately, these challenges are a great way


to expose students to HPC,’ Harrell said, ‘and honestly, the students really enjoy it.’ Harrell said he does a little recruiting,


such as speaking at student chapter meetings of IEEE and Women in Computer Science, and relies a lot on word of mouth. He also co-teaches a class on HPC and scientific computing to coincide with the team’s preparation. ‘In selecting the team, interest and passion


are the number one things we look for,’ said Harrell. ‘We also want students who will be appreciative of the opportunities being afforded them.’ Like others, Harrell cites the fact that the


world’s HPC community meets at SC, and being in the competition provides students with lots of opportunities for making connections.


Jon Bashor, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is communications chair for the SC14 HPC Interconnections programme.


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