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Global Lineup Will Compete at SC’s First Virtual Student Cluster Competition


Like many events this year, the SC20 Student Cluster Competition has shifted to a virtual competition. While the pandemic forced the change, it did not curb the enthusiasm surrounding this popular event. For this virtual SCC, or “VSCC,” 17 teams from around the world will compete in a novel setting.

“This year’s Student Cluster Competition will be very different, as it will be 100 percent cloud based,” explained SC20 SCC Team Lead Verónica G. Melesse Vergara, from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“As the VSCC will be run on Microsoft Azure, the VSCC team is still working on updating the rules to make sure the new ones added apply to the cloud. The thought is to have students manage their cloud dollars instead of their power budget,” said VSCC Co-Chair Scott Michael, from Indiana University.

Meanwhile, Vergara added, “There are many new angles we can explore now that the competition is in the cloud. While we will no longer be able to use power as the main limiting factor, we plan to provide the teams with a cloud budget that they will need to learn to manage. I am looking forward to seeing how teams adapt to the cloud, how they prepare and learn about Microsoft Azure, and what mechanisms they come up with to optimize the applications for this new environment.”

“Holding the competition in the cloud also allows us to reach a much wider audience by providing access that before would only have been available to in-person participants,” she continued, “plus, the virtual format reduces cost barriers that have prohibited smaller institutions from applying to the SCC in the past. This will be a great opportunity for the teams to learn a whole set of extra skills in addition to HPC. Having experience in cloud environments will also provide students with an advantage when they start to enter the workforce.”

Meet the Teams

Among the selected participants there is one brand-new team, while some of the returning teams have added new members, sometimes from new educational institutions.

Clemson University, USA

Team Dabo’s Tech Support

Clemson University will be a first-time competitor, bringing Team Dabo’s Tech Support to the VSCC. Although individual members of the team have worked together in the past, the current group has not competed in HPC-related competitions. Dr. Jon Calhoun, the team’s advisor, explained that this submission represented Clemson’s third attempt at trying to compete in the SCC.

“We all felt that our applications kept getting stronger with every attempt, and, this year, our hard work paid off,” Calhoun said. “With all that is going on in the world and with the university due to COVID, competing at the VSCC gives the students a concrete goal that they can work toward.”

Most team members learned about the SCC via presentations at Clemson. Cavender Holt joined the team after first hearing about high-performance computing and the SCC in Calhoun’s data structures and algorithms course, in the spring 2019. The team was very pleased to learn that they were selected.

“I was very excited, especially after everything that has been going on, and after getting rejected last year,” said Griffin Dube.

Sarah Placke added, “I was thrilled after hearing the news because we reached our goal after working persistently in a field in which most of us were unfamiliar.”

Meanwhile, Sansriti Ranjan shared, “This summer after my internship got canceled, I felt a bit dejected as I was really looking forward to an experience and putting my skills into use. I decided to channel that energy into this opportunity in whatever way I could contribute. On knowing that we were finally selected, it gave me new energy, concrete hope, and something to look forward to building and embarking on this summer. We started with an expectation and ended with an experience that will be worth working for in the days to the competition.”

Dabo’s Tech Support team will have much to offer to this competition. VSCC is happy to welcome this new team and watch them in action.

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Germany

Team deFAUlt

Team deFAUlt of FAU has an extensive participation record at SCCs. They have qualified for multiple competitions in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Some of their biggest accomplishments were the LINPACK awards at ISC17 and ISC18. Dr. Johannes Hofmann, this year’s team mentor, is happy to present the team members.

“The current team members have all joined the team in April and do not have previous experience in HPC,“ he explained.

Hofmann said his team is “eager to apply the theory learned in lectures and gain practical knowledge in solving hardware optimization problems.” He noted they also are looking forward to pushing state-of-the-art technology to its limits while competing in an international context.

Twitter: @FAU_Germany
Twitter: @SCC_deFAUlt
Facebook: @fauenglish

Tsinghua University, China

Team Diablo

Returning from Tsinghua University, Team Diablo has an impressive track record as overall champions at SC18 and SC19. To date, they have won more than 10 championships in ASC, ISC, and SC competitions. All of the team members are students from Tsinghua University’s Computer Science and Technology department.

Team Diablo is looking forward to the VSCC. In addition to the competition, they “want to make friends with other teams, which will be a little challenging for this year’s virtual competition, and learn more about parallel computing.”

Twitter: @Tsinghua_Uni

Shanghai Tech University, China

Team GeekPie_HPC 

  • Zijun
  • Tianyuan
  • Kaiyuan
  • Yixuan
  • Yiwei
  • Longwen

The Shanghai Tech University team, GeekPie_HPC, is a student-led association that is participating in SCC for the second year in the row. Professor Shu Yin is GeekPie’s advisor, and the team already has named him “the greatest team advisor.” Per the team, they have been “collecting EECS-related (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) geeks in the School of Information and Science Technology (SIST) at Shanghai Tech.”

On GeekPie_HPC, each team member fills a precise role. Four of the team members, Zijun, Tianyuan, Kaiyuan, and Yixuan, are from Laboratory of I/O System and Data Science (L.I.O.N.) at SIST. They hold different roles in the lab, from parallel file systems to I/O optimization and scientific computing. Yiwei is another team member from System and Software Security lab, SIST, who focuses on symbolic execution. Longwen is part of the ACM-ICPC algorithm team, who already has won several silver awards in nationwide competition.

The team explained it is “growing steadily thanks to success at ASC18, ISC18, and SC19 student cluster competitions and the newcomer influx.” These new members are endowed with “courage, eagerness, and devotion.” The team noted it is especially grateful to the SIST and the university’s Library and Information Center for supporting them with comprehensive HPC resources.

With new energy injected into this vigorous team and more advanced HPC resources this year, GeekPie_HPC is seeking to become one of the most influential student supercomputing teams at SC20’s VSCC.

Facebook: @shanghaitech
Twitter: @ShanghaiTechUni

Wake Forest University, USA

Team Daemon Deacons

  • Sophia Fang
  • Paul Kefer
  • Robert Langefeld
  • Hao Tong
  • Eva Wu
  • Yixin Zhang

From Wake Forest University, the Daemon Deacons will be a third-time competitor in the SCC at SC20. Team Advisor Dr. Sam Cho shared that the team finished first in the Reproducibility Challenge last year, and are ready to improve in the other sections. This international “American” team has representatives from three different nations, and its team members can fluently speak German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. Two are veterans, including one who participated in two previous SCCs, and four are first-time competitors.

This team is diverse yet complimentary. Fang and Langefeld are both juniors. Fang is interested in biostatistics, while Langefeld favors clinical image analysis, machine learning, and molecular dynamics simulations. Wu, Kefer, Tong, and Zhang are all seniors. Wu is interested in language competence, computer vision, and statistical models. Kefer’s focus is artificial intelligence; Tong’s is biomedical informatics; and Zhang’s is algorithms, machine learning, and HPC. This team is motivated with a fun side: their team slogan is “Never Gonna Give You Up” (the Rick Astley song).

Twitter: @WakeForest
Instagram: @wfuniversity

University of Texas at Austin, USA

Team Cloud CloUT (members revealed at a later date)

The University of Texas at Austin is home to a returning team that won three overall SCC competitions at SC12, SC13, and SC14. Joe Garcia is the team Mentor.

“The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has supported teams from the University of Texas at this competition in previous years. This year our team, “Cloud CloUT,” finds itself with team members that are all first-time competitors,” Garcia explained, “The team is eager to participate in this year’s competition and the extra fun of the competition being completely virtual this year only adds to this excitement. As a team, we look forward to not only the challenges presented with the various applications, but the added bonus of running the apps in a cloud environment. The team hopes to learn much from this experience and enjoy the competition setting.”

Texas A&M University

Team Ag-Jag Cluster (TAMU)

Team Ag-Jag Cluster (TAMU-SA)

Team Ag-Jag Cluster, from Texas A&M University (TAMU), previously participated in the SCC at SC18. The team’s name represents the collaboration between TAMU (Aggies) and Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMU-SA) (Jaguars). They are a cross-institutional team participating together for the first time. The students from TAMU-SA are first-time participants and will be paired with TAMU students who have competed in prior SCCs. Dr. Lisa M. Perez (TAMU), the team advisor, with Co-Advisor Dr. Smriti Bhatt (TAMU-SA), are proud to present the team.

“Jonathan [Rosett] is looking forward to learning more and getting personal experience with HPC in general, as he doesn’t have prior experience in the HPC area of computing,” Perez said. “Shaina [Le] is looking forward to learning more about HPC infrastructure and to the experience overall. She typically doesn’t like competing, yet she finds herself in a lot of competitive situations. Since the competition venue is in the cloud this year, she is excited to see how the SC committee formats the competition accordingly and the challenges that will arise with it.

Perez added, “After hearing SC20 would appropriately be renamed VSCC20, Selina [Urias] is looking forward to the challenge of deploying our cluster in the Azure cloud, networking with experts, and researching applications CESM and GROMACS. She is interested to see how the GROMACS challenge can simulate current world issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Twitter: @AgJag_Cluster
Facebook: TAMUSACyber
Instagram: TAMUSACyber

University of California, San Diego, USA


  • Hongyi Pan
  • Xiaochen (Jacob) Li
  • Max Apodaca
  • Zihao Kong
  • Arunav Gupta
  • Vy Nguyen
  • Hungry Zou

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) team, also recognized by the unofficial icon “The Pink Flamingo,” is mentored by Dr. Mary Thomas. This is the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC)/UCSD’s first opportunity to sponsor an SCC team. Thomas said she is excited to bring a team to the SCC event, which includes six members and an alternate.

According to Thomas, this team has been carefully crafted. “The team was formed during the month of July 2020, and each member has distinct qualities that will enhance their role within the competition,” she noted.

Thomas explained that Li is eager to use his knowledge on parallel and quantum computing to determine optimal solutions to the competition’s applications. Apodaca has experience in computer architecture and has dabbled in cloud computing. Kong is focused on embedded system design, and his curiosity about a supercomputer’s architectural design motivated him to participate in the competition. Gupta has wanted to be part of an SCC team since he heard about the SCC from his friends at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Gupta hopes that his software development and cloud computing experience will help the team to be successful. Nguyen is interested in parallel Linux systems, while Zou has a background in systems, databases, and networks that he will use to help the team. Pan will function as a team alternate, who aspires to be a research scientist working in computational linguistics.

“The students on our team are self-motivated, technically competent, highly interested in HPC, and are looking forward to learning about HPC, playing in the cloud, and learning to work with each other as a team,” Thomas said. “The SCC opportunity is important because there is no undergraduate HPC-related program at UCSD, so this gives them an opportunity to develop key skills needed in the future.”

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • Pranshu Chaturvedi
  • Jonathan Nativ
  • Jialiang Xu
  • Nishant Sheikh
  • Freddy Zhang
  • Rittika Adhikari

The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC) SCC group includes undergraduate students who have been active participants in the SC SCC competitions for the last three years. The team is guided by three experienced mentors, Dr. Volodymyr Kindratenko, Chit Khin, and Yan Zhan (a past SCC competitor), as well as two advisors, Omri Mor and Simeng Liu, both also past SCC competitors.

Nativ, Chaturvedi, and Sheikh will provide their technical know-how as they were part of UIUC’s SCC team at SC19. Chaturvedi has a special interest in computational biology and applied machine learning, while Nativ’s focus is on the hardware and software of large-scale distributed and parallel systems. Sheikh is a freshman in the pre-engineering program and is interested in the application of distributed systems in interdisciplinary research. The three other members are new to the team. The VSCC will mark Zhang’s first experience with HPC, and he is excited to learn more, particularly about hardware systems and computer architecture. The VSCC will also be Adhikari’s first hands-on experience with HPC, and she is excited to learn more about the field, especially in distributed systems and general computer science. Xu, who is majoring in electrical engineering with a computer science minor, was an understudy for SC19 on the IO-500 benchmark application.

The diverse backgrounds of the UIUC team promise to make this challenge interesting to watch. Collectively, they team said they are looking forward to showcasing their skills, meeting other teams, and having fun.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Boston University, USA


  • Norman A. Toro Vega
  • Parker Van Roy 
  • Yujia Zhang
  • Po Hao Chen
  • Benjamin Li

Team BUHPC is a consortium of schools based in Massachusetts, that competed separately until they merged in 2012. Team Advisor Kurt Keville explained that Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) first appeared in the SCC at SC09, and Boston University at SC11. Since then, the schools, which also are university partners with the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC), have competed in six SCC, four ISCC, and two ASC events in China in some arrangement.

“We fielded a team in each track of the SC13 competition,” Keville said, “The six teammates this year are all Boston University students.”

Twitter: @BUHPC
GitHub: @BUHPC
Facebook: @bostonuHPC

Nanyang Technological University

Team Supernova 

  • Li Shenggui
  • Li Mengyang
  • Pang Jin Hui
  • Dong Yunxing
  • Aurelio Jethro Prahara
  • Tan Jia Qing

From Nanyang Technological University, Team Supernova is returning for the fourth year in a row, to the SC arena. Team Supernova won the overall championship in SC17 and ranked 2nd place overall in SC18. They broke the LINPACK benchmark record in SC17 and SC18. The team consists of members of different nationalities, and Prof. Francis Lee. is their supervisor.

Team Supernova is known to be very dynamic. They work together closely to deliver results and are eager to learn and explore different fields in high performance computing. They enjoy learning and growing through various challenges. Despite the virtual setting, they are eager to interact and make friends with all the other enthusiastic participants of the VSCC.

Twitter: @realntuhpc

Additional Teams

The following teams will be returning to participate in the SC20 VSCC as well.

Christine Baissac-Hayden
SC20 Students@SC Communications Liaison (Easy English 4 All)

Christine Baissac-Hayden created Easy English 4 All, which provides multilingual communication tools for clients from diverse backgrounds in the renewable energy, medical, defense, marine science, and film industries. Easy English 4 All provides English as a Second Language (ESL), French, Spanish and Japanese tutoring from certified native-speaking teachers and organizes international student exchanges with personalized objectives and goals.

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