A group made up of 6 South African undergraduate students took first prize against 13 other teams at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) held in Frankfurt, Germany from 16 to 19 June 2019. The victory came after the team worked on a selection of applications and tests over four days in order optimise and run their computer cluster to showcase the performance of their design.
The team was made up of 4 University of Cape Town students and 2 University of the Witwatersrand students who got the chance to go to Germany after beating nine other South African teams at the national round. The team was one of the few out of all the teams to be composed of 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women. The team was composed of Stephan Schröder, Jehan Singh, Anita de Mello Koch, Kaamilah Dessai, Dillon Heald and Clara Stassen. The students were supervised by team advisors and computer engineers, from the CSIR’s Centre for High-Performance Computing (CHPC), Matthew Cawood and David Macleod.
The South African team received support and sponsorship, including hardware and software training. Dell EMC, Mellanox, Nvidia and Intel were some of the companies who sponsored the team, with the total value of the team’s cluster amounting to R6 million. Team South Africa has won the international competition four times; in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019. Team South Africa has come second twice; in 2015 and 2017, and third in 2018. South Africa first entered this competition in 2012 when the CHPC staff attended ISC Germany and saw the potential of the Student Cluster Competition.
The Winning Formula
The South African team’s winning formula is to have dedicated students and sponsors, according to team advisor and manager of the CHPC’s Advanced Computer Engineering Lab, David Macleod. “Our sponsors are excellent and allowed the team to choose equipment without restriction or compromise. In turn, the students put in a lot of time and effort before the competition and arrived at the competition well prepared,” Macleod says. “It really is excellent national progress. We have demonstrated consistently that talent and skills abound in our country. These teams come from different universities and provinces – showing that this is now national DNA,” added Dr Happy Sithole, Acting Director of the CHPC and Manager of the National Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS).
The CHPC is an initiative of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology, and makes up one of the 3 pillars of South Africa’s cyberinfrastructure system. The CHPC is supported by the South African National Research Network for transportation of data, as well as the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa for the management and curation of data. The CSIR manages NICIS.
Edited by Kojo Essah
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