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18 December 2019
UWC students to vie for international computing competition

(Published - 18 December 2019)

UWC’s stature as a leader in the field of scientific computing infrastructure development took another positive step when two of its students were selected to a South African team that will do battle at an international computing competition.

Mikhail Vink has joined the team that will compete in the International Student Cluster Competition at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Germany next year, while Stephanie Agenbag has been named as a reserve. The two students were part of a UWC team called 2Nodes1Cup which included Driaan de Beste and Titania Strydom. They finished second at this year’s Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC) Student Cluster Challenge.

The competition gives undergraduate South African university students exposure to the High Performance Computing (HPC) Industry. This year teams built small HPC clusters, on the exhibition floor, from hardware provided by the CHPC and industrial partners.

Under the guidance of Eugene de Beste, a Systems Administrator at UWC’s South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), the University entered two teams that had vastly different cluster designs. 2Nodes1Cup had a more traditional cluster consisting of one controller machine and two powerful compute machines. The other team, SendNodes, opted for three compute machines, with one acting as a controller machine as well. 

According to De Beste, the competition was fierce, with other university teams also coming up with interesting designs, but in the end 2Nodes1Cup managed to place second overall, behind one of the teams from the University of Witwatersrand. The other team, SendNodes, took fifth place. They also bagged the “Best Team Spirit” category.

De Beste said UWC teams have done well in the competition in the past. They won the local competition in 2013 and in 2016, and took home the international competition in 2014 via CHPC.

Peter Van Heusden, a bioinformatics researcher at SANBI, congratulated the students and said their selection shows that SANBI and UWC are leaders in the field of scientific computing infrastructure development. “The success of our teams has been built on three things: Firstly, two decades of building high performance computing infrastructure for data science at UWC - an initiative started by Dr Winston Hide with the foundation of SANBI in 1996/1997 and continued by his successors, most recently Prof Alan Christoffels,” said Van Heusden.

“Secondly, excellent mentorship by Eugene de Beste, and last, but not least, the enthusiasm, hard work and talent of the students themselves. This competition has helped secure the relationship between the Center for High Performance Computing and UWC and led to significant donations of computing equipment (part of which was used to train this year's team).”

The International Student Cluster Competition is scheduled to take place at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt in June 2020.