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“Team Youdubs” wins international supercomputing competition

“Team Youdubs” wins international supercomputing competition

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) congratulates the South African supercomputing Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) team comprising of UWC’s “Team Youdubs” – Nicole Thomas, Eugene de Beste, Warren Jacobus and Saeed Natha – together with two others Ellen Nxala (Fort Hare University) and Pieter Malan (Stellenbosch University), for proudly representing South Africa and clinching the number one spot at the fiercely contested Annual International Student Cluster (ISC) competition yesterday in Leipzig, Germany.

Team Youdubs had won the South African national Student Cluster Competition, which enabled them to compete at this international event.

“UWC is exceptionally proud of the students and this result. The fact that our students are able to compete and win at an international level further proves the high quality level of education offered at UWC,” says Prof Brian O’Connell, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of UWC.

At this year’s competition, 11 national teams from around the world competed against each other to measure application performance which included keeping within a power budget of 3kW.

During the competition teams had to assemble, test and tune their computer cluster machines illustrating their know-how and innovation capabilities. A computer cluster is a set of loosely connected or tightly connected computers that work together so that in many respects they can be viewed as a single system.

It was a challenging yet exciting experience and the team encountered stiff competition as they raced to correctly complete the greatest number of application runs in a straight 48 hours. The judging criteria included workload completed, cluster design and bench-marking – how swiftly and accurately they could work through a set of real-world scientific applications.

Students from the University of Science and Technology, China took second place; third place went to students from Tsingua University (also China); and the University of Edinburgh, UK (EPCC) team took the award for highest LINPACK with an impressive 10.14 teraflops.

Team SA has been driven by David Macleod and Nick Thorne from the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), and the team was also supported Peter van Heusden, a Senior Software Developer based at UWC. Van Heusden says that while he did not go to Germany with the team, they kept in contact on a daily basis.

Van Heusden says that with regard to South African computational science, we're always fighting being the 'data providers' – whether it is in astrophysics or in bioinformatics, there is this idea that the data comes from Africa, the analysis from the US and Europe. Assisting the students with this competition has been his contribution towards changing that, and illustrating that SA has some great scientific minds.

He elaborates further on our local talent: “The teams from China have had tremendous preparation for this competition. We're not just winning by chance: the individual qualities of the students involved have contributed a lot. Besides the Team Youdubs students, the other two members – Ellen Nxala and Pieter Malan – came to the competition in Cape Town last year having received very little support. Team Youdubs took these two new members and integrated them into a winning combination – now that is leadership! I just hope that going forward we can create more opportunities for young people to do what happened in Leipzig: give them the tools and support and let them shine!”