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HPC 2013-14 | Education

relatively few computer science courses are, as yet, teaching the necessary skills and the skill set required successfully to run an HPC cluster, which embraces much more than just parallel programming. For the two US teams that entered the

competition this year, the impetus came from applied science rather than computer science departments. Doug Smith, the tutor for the Colorado team, is in the University’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. Stephen Harrell works in Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), which was one of the team sponsors, but teaches a class in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences with a faculty member there. According to Doug Smith, the HPC

course is very much an introductory class at the undergraduate level at Colorado. Industry has a need for HPC skills, he said, but it is a niche where the universities are lagging behind in providing the trained graduates. Te situation at Purdue was pretty similar, Stephen Harrell remarked: ‘You will not see parallel programming in the undergraduate classes beyond the basics – for example you would not get into PRI. I run the scientific computing class and, because of the Cluster Challenge, I see the need for a broader course.’ He cited, as an example, taking an Atom-based six-node platform and getting the students to compile an application to produce a weather forecast – ‘it is useful for the meteorology students to see how it is made, to know how it runs on a system.’ One point that both academics are agreed

upon is that HPC skills are very much in demand – all the US students participating in the cluster challenge are undergraduates and most of those who are about to complete their courses have already received firm offers of jobs. Recruiting companies included Cray, Microsoſt, Google, and Intel. ‘So it was not just HPC companies, but because of the students’ HPC experience they were hired,’ Doug Smith said. It is a similar situation for the team

from the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) – all had job interviews or applications pending. Although the EPCC is based in Scotland, not a single member of the team was British, let alone Scottish. Te UK’s government has recently made it much more expensive for British students to pursue university education beyond first degree level, and the EPCC course is an MSc in high-performance computing. Britain’s loss is clearly other countries’


“Britain’s loss is clearly other countries’ gain, as some 34 people from 17 different nationalities are enrolled on the course this year ”

gain, as some 34 people from 17 different nationalities are enrolled on the course this year. Paolo Martino leſt a permanent job in Italy to come to the UK to enrol on the course (and also, he said, to improve his English language skills though there seemed little scope for improvement). He hopes to go on to work in multicore systems architectures – something for which the MSc course was highly relevant. Don Browne, from Ireland, is looking to work in soſtware development aſter he has completed his dissertation – ‘not necessarily using HPC; these are skills you can apply elsewhere than in HPC.’ Swapnil Gaikwad, the Indian member of the team, shares the ambition of developing a career in soſtware development. But Nikolaos Koutsikos, from Greece, is looking forward to working in the UK on GPGPUs: ‘Tere are not so many people working on GPGPUs in the UK. I have tried to grow my expertise by taking this masters’ in HPC.’ Johan Carvajal-Godinez, tutor for the team from the Costa Rica Institute

of Technology, sees equipping young people in Costa Rica with expertise in high-performance computing as a way of contributing to the economic and social development of the country. Some 15 years ago, Intel opened a manufacturing plant in Costa Rica, which was followed some years later by one from HP. In response the local university started developing courses in high technology. Professor Carvajal-Godinez was working for Intel but saw the opportunity to go back and work on the HPC programme at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology’s School of Electronic Engineering – to take advantage of HPC to do science better and more cheaply. Unusually for a subject that is male-

dominated, the Costa Rican team featured two women students. Maria-Enid Moya- Ramirez is in the fourth year of a five-year course on mechatronic engineering – one of three women on the course. ‘I really like robotics, so I tried studying that. It’s a big opportunity but also a big risk,’ she said. ‘We are in a good way, but I still think that we need more technology in this country.’ She had hoped to apply her engineering skills to devising a cooling regime for their student cluster, thus increasing its energy efficiency and decreasing its power consumption. (All the clusters used in the competition had an upper limit of 3,000W power consumption.) Unfortunately, unlike the US and UK teams, the Costa Ricans did not get their hands on

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