Days Held

Monday–Wednesday, November 16–18, 2020

The Student Cluster Competition (SCC) was developed in 2007 to provide an immersive high performance computing experience to undergraduate and high school students. With sponsorship from hardware and software vendor partners, student teams design and build small clusters, learn scientific applications, apply optimization techniques for their chosen architectures, and compete in a nonstop, 48-hour challenge at the SC conference to complete a real-world scientific workload, showing off their HPC knowledge for conference attendees and judges.

Reproducibility Challenge

One of the applications presented to the student teams is the Reproducibility Challenge, in which students attempt to reproduce results from an accepted paper from the prior year’s Technical Program.

Students have the opportunity to interact directly with the paper’s authors as they attempt to reproduce specific results and conclusions from the paper. As part of this challenge, each student team writes a reproducibility report detailing their experience in reproducing the results from the paper. Authors of the most highly rated reproducibility reports may be invited to submit their reports to a reproducibility special issue.

Teams & Process

Teams are composed of six students, an advisor, and vendor partners. The advisor provides guidance and recommendations, the vendor provides the resources (hardware and software), and the students provide the skill and enthusiasm. Students work with their advisors to craft a proposal that describes the team, the suggested hardware, and their approach to the competition. The SCC committee reviews each proposal and provides comments for all submissions. The hardware requirements for team clusters are that they be able to run the applications and exercises of the competition and stay below the power budget stated in the competition’s rules.

Support Provided

Selected teams receive full conference registration for each team member and one advisor. Each team is also provided with three hotel rooms (two beds per room) for the students, plus one room (one bed per room) for the advisor. As the competition is part of the Students@SC program, students can also participate in Mentor–Protégé Matching and the Job Fair. Travel to the conference and per diem are not provided.


SCC Mystery Application

The Student Cluster Competition is looking for scientific applications from the HPC community that could be used as the SCC Mystery Application. If you have a scientific application that you think would be a great fit for the competition, please complete the form at the link below.

The application owner for the selected SCC Mystery Application will receive complimentary registration to SC20.


  • Each submission must list an application owner who will:
    • be responsible for answering questions from the SCC teams.
    • prepare test and input decks for the competition.
    • be available to serve as judge during SC20.
  • The application should not have export control restrictions.
  • The application must have updated documentation.
  • Submissions and selections must be kept confidential until the beginning of SC20 in Atlanta when the mystery application selected will be revealed.

Submissions will be accepted until June 19, 2020.

Submit an SCC Mystery Application


SCC Benchmarks & Applications

Three Benchmarks and Four Applications for SCC20



LINPACK Benchmark

The Linpack Benchmark is a measure of a computer’s floating-point rate of execution. It is determined by running a computer program that solves a dense system of linear equations. It is used by the TOP 500 as a tool to rank peak performance. The benchmark allows the user to scale the size of the problem and to optimize the software in order to achieve the best performance for a given machine. This performance does not reflect the overall performance of a given system, as no single number ever can. It does, however, reflect the performance of a dedicated system for solving a dense system of linear equations. Since the problem is very regular, the performance achieved is quite high, and the performance numbers give a good correction of peak performance.


HPCG Benchmark

The High Performance Conjugate Gradients (HPCG) Benchmark project is an effort to create a new metric for ranking HPC systems. HPCG is intended as a complement to the High Performance LINPACK (HPL) benchmark, currently used to rank the TOP500 computing systems. The computational and data access patterns of HPL are still representative of some important scalable applications, but not all. HPCG is designed to exercise computational and data access patterns that more closely match a different and broad set of important applications, and to give incentive to computer system designers to invest in capabilities that will have impact on the collective performance of these applications.


IO500 Benchmark

The IO500 benchmark is a benchmark suite for High-Performance IO. It harnesses existing and trusted open-source benchmarks such as IOR and MDTest and bundles execution rules and multiple workloads with the purpose to evaluate and analyze the storage devices for various IO patterns. The IO500 benchmark is designed to provide performance boundaries of the storage for HPC applications regarding data and metadata operations under what are commonly observed to be both easy and difficult IO patterns from multiple concurrent clients. Moreover, there is a phase that scans for previously-created files that match certain conditions using a (possibly file system-specific) parallel find utility to evaluate the speed of namespace traversal and file attribute retrieval. The final score that is used to rank submissions in the list is a combined score across all the executed benchmarks.

The SCC results will be included in a dedicated list that will be released during SC20.

IO500 Submission Rules




Parallel Computing with Climate Models
The Community Earth System Model (CESM) is a state-of-the-art climate model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It discretizes and parameterizes Earth system motion and processes (atmosphere, ocean, land, etc.) over tens of thousands of grid boxes, often using many parallel processors. Climate models like this one are used for understanding scenarios of how the Earth system might respond to change. Competition entrants will design and build a cluster that can run several self-contained test cases using CESM. The benchmark for this challenge will be the speed at which the test case can be completed, which includes reading input files, actual compute time, and writing output from the model.



GROMACS is a versatile package to perform molecular dynamics, i.e. simulate the Newtonian equations of motion for systems with hundreds to millions of particles. It is primarily designed for biochemical molecules like proteins, lipids and nucleic acids that have a lot of complicated bonded interactions, but since GROMACS is extremely fast at calculating the nonbonded interactions (that usually dominate simulations) many groups are also using it for research on non-biological systems, e.g. polymers. This year we are looking into the possibility of simulating problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mystery Application
At the start of the competition, teams will be given an application and datasets for a mystery application. Students will be expected to build, optimize and run this mystery application all at the competition.


Reproducibility Challenge
The SC20 Reproducibility Committee has selected the paper “MemXCT: Memory-Centric X-ray CT Reconstruction with Massive Parallelization” by Mert Hidayetoğlu, Tekin Biçer, Simon Garcia de Gonzalo, Bin Ren, Doğa Gürsoy, Rajkumar Kettimuthu, Ian T. Foster, and Wen-mei W. Hwu to serve as the Student Cluster Competition (SCC) benchmark for the Reproducibility Challenge this year. A team of reviewers selected the paper from 45 finalists based on the paper’s Artifact Descriptor (AD) and its suitability to the SCC. The authors and the Reproducibility Committee have been working to create a reproducible benchmark that builds on the paper’s results. At SC20, the 16 SCC teams will be asked to run the benchmark, replicating the findings from the original paper under different settings and with different datasets.

SCC Requirements & Regulations

Teams, Institutions/Vendors, & Hardware

SCC Team Requirements

  • A team is comprised of 6 undergraduate or high school students and one primary advisor.
  • All team members must be at least 18 years old by Monday, November 16, 2020.
  • All team members must be enrolled at an educational institution but MUST NOT have been granted an undergraduate degree before the start of the SCC.
  • A team may be composed of members from multiple educational institutions including combined high school and college students.
  • Advisors are required to be staff, faculty or graduate students of the team’s educational institution(s) or sponsoring HPC center.
  • Each team must have a sponsoring institution. In addition, it is highly recommended for an institution or HPC center to have a vendor partner to help offset costs for the event.


SCC Institution/Vendor Requirements

  • Institutions, sponsoring HPC centers and/or their vendor partners must provide their team’s cluster hardware and software. The system’s hardware and software must meet competition rules.
  • Institutions, sponsoring HPC centers and/or their vendor partners must provide funding for shipping costs, freight and show-floor handling costs, the cost of team transportation (airfare and/or ground transportation) to and from the event, and any other expenses that are not explicitly listed which their team may incur.
  • Vendor partners are encouraged to provide booth decorations (signage, swag and collateral material), and additional funding for team member’s per diem.
    Institutions and vendor partners should provide their team’s cluster hardware for practice and preparation, ideally for three (3) months or more prior to the competition.
  • Vendor partners should provide technical assistance to their team to ensure that the proposed cluster remains under the power budget for the competition.
    Vendors are encouraged to provide training and interact closely with their teams in designing the cluster, which will benefit the team and the vendor.


SCC Hardware Requirements

  • All hardware must be commercially available by the start of the competition.
  • No hardware in the competition system may be subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
  • All technical specifications of all hardware components should be available to the general public at competition start.
  • All performance results from the competition hardware must be able to be published without restriction.

SCC Logistics

Schedule & Hotel Accommodations

SCC Schedule

  • Orientation and Safety Briefing: Takes place on Saturday, November 14, 2020. Students must arrive in time to attend the afternoon safety briefing.
  • Competition Stages:
      • Benchmarking Stage: Takes place on Monday, November 16, 2020 once a team’s cluster has been fully configured and certified by the SCC committee.
      • Application Workload Stage: starts when the SC20 Exhibitor floor opens on Monday, November 16, 2020. This portion of the competition will run continuously for 48 hours and will conclude on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
  • System Tear-down and Wrap Up: Takes place on Thursday, November 19, 2020


SCC Hotel Accommodations

  • Teams must stay at the SC20 designated hotel for the SCC program for room and tax to be covered.
  • Accommodations include three double-bed rooms for the six student team members (three rooms with two beds – no additional accommodation, such as a cot, will be provided).
  • One single-bed room will be provided for the advisor (this room cannot be changed to a double bed room).
  • Students will be placed in the same room as students of the same gender.
  • If a team has an odd number of males and females, students maybe paired with other teams.
  • Special circumstances may be accommodated. Accepted teams should contact the SCC chairs as early as possible to discuss possible arrangements.
  • The advisor will be responsible for recommending room assignments.
  • SC20 will make the reservations at the hotel. Please do not contact the hotel directly.
  • Dates for SC20 supported hotel accommodations are:
    • US Domestic Teams: Check in Saturday November 14, 2020; Check out Friday November 20, 2020
    • International Teams: Check in Friday November 13, 2020; Check out Friday November 20, 2020
  • Teams must stay at the SC20 designated hotel for the SCC program for room and tax to be covered.
  • The hotel will require a credit card upon check-in to cover incidentals.
  • SC20 will not cover any other charges to the hotel room (incidentals), including but not limited to room service, movies, etc.

SCC Team Applications

Recommendations for Preparing Your SCC Team Application

  • Before submitting your SCC Team Application, please carefully review the SCC Rules section.
  • Team Applications will be reviewed by the SCC Committee following the rubric outlined below:
    • Strength of Team (5 points)
    • Strength of Hardware and Software Approach (5 points)
    • Strength of Vendor/Institution Relationship (5 points)
    • Strength of Diversity (5 points)
    • Team Preparation (5 points)
    • Teams that include institutions competing for the first time will receive 2.5 extra points. Cross-institutional teams are encouraged.
  • To assist you in preparing your application, please make sure that the responses for each section of the application address the following:
    • Strength of Team:
      • Motivation for participating in the competition
      • Outcome the team expects from the competition (e.g., how will HPC impact the team’s academic careers?)
    • Strength of Hardware and Software Approach:
      • Describe the hardware and software architecture in detail.
      • Explain why the software and hardware architecture will be successful.
      • Describe the strategy for running applications and/or optimization during the competition.
      • Explain why the architecture is well suited for the competition applications.
      • Describe how the team will manage the system’s administration and application workflow.
    • Strength of Vendor/Institution Relationship:
      • Will the vendor and/or institution provide hardware and fund equipment shipping costs as well as funds for other travel and travel-related expenses that are not covered by the competition?
      • What other support will the team receive from vendors and/or the institution?
        If reviewers have questions about the architecture, who can answer those questions from the vendor and team?
      • If the team is planning to use a new architecture that is not generally available, what is the backup plan if the new architecture is not released or available by the start of the competition?
    • Strength of Diversity:
      • Does the team include meaningful contributions by groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the country of the sponsoring institution?
      • What efforts made during the team selection process to approach under represented communities?
    • Team Preparation:
      • What courses are available and attended?
      • What HPC resources will be used to investigate the applications before vendor hardware arrives?
      • What is the team’s method for preparing for the competition?
      • How will your team utilize cloud resources during preparation and the competition?

SCC Rules

General Rules, Team Booth Access, System Hardware/Software, & Power Specifications

Violation of any rule may result in a team’s disqualification from the competition or a point penalization at the discretion of the SCC committee. Any unethical conduct not otherwise covered in these rules will also be penalized at the discretion of the SCC Committee.

The following violations will result in immediate disqualification:

  • Having anyone other than the 6 registered team members in the team’s booth during competition hours.
  • Any changes to hardware (including rebooting nodes) without first obtaining permission from the SCC committee.
  • Any communication between your cluster and a network other than the local SCinet network (except for the approved cloud networks).
  • Exceeding the 4,750-watt hard limit on PDU power draw.
  • Cheating of any kind.


A. General Competition Rules

  1. Safety First: Equipment configurations, booth layout, and booth occupancy are always subject to safety as first consideration. If a task cannot be done safely, then it is unacceptable. When in doubt, ask an SCC committee member or your SCC team liaison.
  2. Hands Off: No one is allowed to physically touch any equipment after the competition starts inclusive of the benchmarking portion of the competition on Monday morning. Exception: If an unsafe condition is encountered, anyone is allowed to power down the equipment. An SCC committee member must be contacted immediately after the event.
  3. Powered On at All Times: All equipment used for the benchmarking portion of the SCC must be used when running the competition applications (e.g., you cannot run the benchmarks on half the machine and then power up the whole system to run the competition applications).
  4. No Rebooting: No systems may be rebooted without explicit permission from the SCC committee.
  5. No Assistance from Non-team Members: Once the competition starts, student teams will not be allowed to receive assistance from anyone including their advisor.
  6. Stay Under Power: The power budget allowed for the S20 SCC is 4,500 watts. Point penalties will be assessed every time the monitoring system detects a power draw on the PDU that exceeds the allowed power budget. There is a hard limit of 4,750 watts. Exceeding this limit will result in disqualification.
  7. On Site Access Only: Teams will not be permitted to access their clusters from outside the local SCinet network.
  8. Code of Conduct: Teams must conduct themselves professionally and adhere to the SC20 Code of Conduct. Students must compete fairly and ethically.


B. Physical Access to Team Booth

  1. Only the 6 registered team members are allowed in the team booth once the competition starts.
  2. Only the 6 team members are allowed to touch anything inside the booth.
  3. No chairs are allowed near the perimeter of the booth.
  4. No screens other than the provided LCD display may be visible from outside the booth without SCC committee approval.


C. System Hardware

  1. All teams will be provided with one Power Distribution Unit (PDU) with a soft limit of 4,500 watts. The model of PDU the competition will use is: Geist MN02E1R1-10L138-3TL6A0H10-S.
  2. All teams will be provided with a large LCD display. Teams are encouraged to display information about their institution/team as well as visualizations but no competition output or terminal output should be displayed.
  3. Booths will be 10×10 feet and will be placed with the back to a solid wall or curtain. Team members, all hardware, and a SCC provided LCD display for the viewing public must fit into this space.
  4. The running hardware must not exceed the power limitation of 4,500 watts; this is especially important for teams who bring extra and/or spare hardware.
  5. Teams and/or their sponsoring institution or vendor partner are responsible for obtaining their cluster hardware and transporting it to the convention center.
  6. All teams must provide a single rack for the competition. The rack can not be larger than 42U.
  7. All computational hardware (processors, switch, storage, etc.) must fit into the rack and be displayed inside the rack during the competition. No competition hardware will be allowed on tables or pallets.
  8. An enclosure must be provided by the team and contain all competition hardware. No competition hardware will be allowed on tables or pallets.
  9. No extra cooling will be provided by the competition outside of the normal conference center operations.
  10. All competition hardware, including support systems, must be connected to SCC provided, metered PDUs. Competition hardware includes (but is not limited to): computing systems, network equipment, and cooling systems.
  11. All hardware must be commercially available by the start of the competition. Teams must display, for public view, a complete list of hardware and software used in the system. See “SCC hardware requirements” for more information.
  12. No changes to the physical configuration of the system are permitted after the start of the competition. Failed hardware may only be repaired or replaced with explicit permission from the SCC committee.
  13. Use of sleep states (no power off and no hibernation) is permitted as long as when all systems in the rack are powered on into their lowest running OS (non-sleep) state, they do not exceed the power limit.
  14. A network drop will be provided for outgoing connections only. Teams will NOT be permitted to access their clusters from outside the local SCinet network.
  15. Competition hardware may be connected via wired connections only – wireless access is not permitted.
  16. If any RF signals are detected emanating from your cluster your team will be disqualified.
  17. Free wireless access for team member’s laptops will be available throughout the convention center via SCinet.
  18. Accepted teams must submit a detailed Final Architecture Proposal by the deadline listed on the SC submissions website. Failure to submit this form by the deadline will result in an automatic disqualification. The detail in the Final Architecture Proposal should be sufficient for the judging panel to determine if all the applications will easily port to and run on the architecture proposed.


D. System Software

  1. Teams may choose any operating system and software stack that will run the applications and display visualizations to conference attendees.
  2. Teams may pre-load and test the applications and other software on their system.
  3. Teams may study and tune the open-source benchmarks and applications for their platforms. Any changes to application source code must be shared with the SCC committee.


E. Power Specifications

  1. All components associated with the system, and access to it, must be powered through the 208-volt range, 20-amp circuits provided by the Conference.
  2. Battery backup or UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems are prohibited during the competition.
  3. Equipment should be tuned to never exceed the 4,500-watt limit. Teams may need to tune hardware power consumption based on the power reported by the PDU power monitor. This can be read from the PDU’s LED readouts as well as over Ethernet via Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Teams will be penalized anytime more than 4,500-watts is registered on the PDU. Additional penalties may be applied if frequent blips or blips within a recognizable pattern are detected.
  4. Teams are subject to disqualification if they ever register 4,750-watts or more for any duration.
  5. Any damage caused by competition teams drawing power beyond the stated limits is the sole responsibility of the team.
  6. Other systems (such as personal laptops and monitors) may be powered from separate non-competition power sources provided by the conference.

Student Cluster Competition Applications

Applications are now open.

Submit your application

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