Two students from Stellenbosch University have been chosen for the South African team that will race to build a connected system of computers at the International Student Cluster Competition in June this year. The competition will be hosted at the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Germany.
Phillip Goosen and Lydia de Lange were chosen to be part of the South African Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) team in December last year, after battling it out against their fellow students in the National Student Cluster Competition.
The other members of the South African team are Mishka Mohamed, Kyle Jordaan, Tyrone de Ruiters and Liam Doult, all from the University of the Western Cape.
The competition aims to promote the use of High Performance Computing (HPC) and "installing and configuring a cluster on which they will run benchmarks", said Charl Moller, who acted as mentor to the Stellenbosch University team (AutoMaties) during the National Student Cluster Competition. A 'cluster' is a set of connected computers that work together as a single system.
"The teams are judged on their system's performance and efficiency, and their knowledge of their system," said Moller. "They are presented with sealed boxes on day 1 and have to have a fully working, tested and benchmarked system after three days."
"The international competition will present some new challenges as we have to design our cluster with power usage limits in mind," said Goosen.
The CHPC has won the top prize in the ISC Student Cluster Competition last year, as well as in 2013 and 2014, and took second place in 2015. The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, congratulated this year's team and wished them success in the next level of the competition.
"With South Africa having come first three out of the four times the country has competed in this international competition, there is naturally some pressure on the team, but I am confident that the CHPC will once more provide excellent support to our team, and that we will be proud of the outcome. We are very happy to see our investment in e-infrastructure programmes yielding such exceptional results, and are excited about the promise they hold for the future," said Pandor.
"I've always wanted to understand the inner workings of a computer, how ones and zeros translated into what we see on our screens. I'm very excited, this is an amazing opportunity to learn even more," De Lange said of the challenges ahead. "We're not nearly ready for the international level, there is still a lot of preparation to be done, but the idea isn't daunting, it's exciting!"
"My experiences at the University did aid me in obtaining the skills required to perform well at the competition," said Goosen. "In my first year of studies I joined our faculty's robotics club which inspired me to learn more about optimising software performance. I feel honoured that I can represent our University."
Goosen also thanked Moller, who was "instrumental in answering our questions when we struggled" during the National Student Cluster Competition. Moller works with HPC systems in the University's IT division.