I thought I would point you to some exciting work students are participating in over at Texas Advanced Computing Center.  TACC is mentoring several University of Texas at Austin students in the SC10 Student Cluster Competition to be held this November in New Orleans.  This is great work that the students are doing, and it is great to see involvement from TACC and support from the HPC community.  Here are some brief details of the SC10 challenge to build a system within the power constraints equivalent to only three coffee-makers!

The Student Cluster Competition (SCC) showcases the computational impact of clusters and open source software in the hands of motivated and sleep-deprived students under both a time and power constraint. Uh, no pressure…

During SC10, teams consisting of six students… will compete in real-time on the exhibit floor to run a workload of real-world applications on clusters of their own design while never exceeding the dictated power limit.

Prior to the competition, teams work with their advisor and vendor partners to design and build a cutting-edge commercially available small cluster constrained by the 26 amps available during the conference. Teams must also learn the four open source competition applications and are encouraged to enlist the help of domain specialists.”

It is exciting to see students motivated to work on some of the challenges we face in the industry.  I first met the two student leaders of this six-person group at SC09 in Portland last year. Phillip Verheyden and Loren Micheloni, both Computer Science students at UT, were making the rounds as student volunteers.  They stopped by the Dell booth to get help in answering some obscure HPC related questions for a scavenger hunt, and we had a long chat about their interests in Computer Science.  You could tell that these two were motivated individuals –- so I put them in touch with TACC to get going on the challenge.  This will probably not be the last time we see the faces of these UT students in Research Computing.  This is great stuff!

Micheloni and Verheyden learned about the Cluster Competition for the first time last year. “When Phillip and I saw the teams at SC09 working together and saw what they were doing, we both knew we wanted to start a team,” Micheloni said.

At the same time, TACC was looking for a team to coach for the challenge.  [They] enlisted team members as qualified and driven as themselves. Five of the team members are computer science majors with various backgrounds and specialties, and one member is an applied mathematics major.  These students have individual specializations in network topology, HPC visualization, low-level system design, and parallel programming; yet, their experience with HPC as a whole is limited.

And this is where the responsibility of the HPC industry comes in.  It is so important to mentor and sponsor the HPC researchers and leaders of tomorrow.

The team has a slight advantage—their access to TACC researchers and TACC technology. For example, the students received log-in accounts for Ranger, one of the largest academic supercomputers in the world. This allows them to run applications and benchmarks remotely. In addition, the team can bounce ideas off the professionals at the center and get credible feedback in return.

Hat’s off to the team at TACC for mentoring these students in their research. What a great opportunity they have given to these students!