Twelve teams from Historically Black and Hispanic universities are taking their first steps into HPC in the 2022 Winter Classic Student Cluster Competition. They ran the gauntlet of LINPACK and HPCG in their first challenge, running the workloads on HPE clusters and receiving HPE mentoring. Next up, they had a pop quiz covering HPC history, technology, and current events. This week (3/7), they face the NASA NAS Parallel challenge.

The competition will continue through early April as teams work with more mentor organizations (Oak Ridge National Lab and AWS) and challenges (the dreaded judges interviews) on a week on, week off, cadence.

So who are these students? What are their hopes and dreams? Do they want to join us in the HPC industry? Also, do they want to take Addison and me up on our offer of free snacks? All of these questions and more, are answered in our “Meet the Teams” videos. They’re well worth watching.

Team Prairie View:  Prairie View was the first team to sign up for the 2021 Winter Classic and I really appreciated them taking the chance on a new competition, it means a lot to me. The team this year is a combination of two holdovers from the team last year accompanied by two new competitors. One thing you’ll notice about the Prairie View team is that they all have some connection to cyber security. This is because Prairie View is the home to SECURE – a nationally recognized cybersecurity research center. Right now the team is in the upper-middle of the pack, having posted fifth place numbers for all of the modules so far. They’re in position to make a move on the leaders – there are still 400 competition points out there for the taking.


Cal State Fullerton:  This is a new team to student cluster competition. It’s a small team with only three members, but two of the three are seniors in CS plus a graduate student. We spend some time talking surfing with Conner, billing notices with Josh, and the Montanna fireworks scene with Dalton. The team got a bit of a slow start on LINPACK and HPCG, they were able to run the two benchmarks, but ran out clock when it came time to optimize. However, they pulled a fourth-place finish on the HPC Pop Quiz, adding more than 93 points to their overall score. They’re off the pace in ninth place overall, but there’s still a lot of clustering to be done. The team needs to take one module at a time, leave everything on the field, and stay hungry while digging deep, and going out there and just having fun. That’s five sports cliches in one sentence, a personal best for me, I definitely came to play in this article.


Cal State Channel Islands – Don’t Panic:  When we catch up with the team, just after their LINPACK/HPCG module, the team is under stress, but hasn’t panicked. They were definitive on that – there has been no panic. A couple of the team members are majoring in “Mechatronics” which is a combination of robotics, CS, and electronic engineering all devoted to making smarter things. When I first heard it, I thought it was that Lego stuff that you could program. Turns out that was something different. The team achieved good scores on all the tasks so far, nabbing them eighth place overall. In the video, we interview the whole team, which was a lot of fun, and advise one of their members on how to best declare his double major. A couple of other high points:  1) One student said he needs to see some more complexity in physics….2) Another said that he wasn’t sure HPC was for him because “ seems like something for smart people….”


Cal State Channel Islands – Ekhos Engineers:  First, the team name is based on their school mascot, a dolphin, and it’s echolocation capabilities. They have five members, including one who is competing while physically located in the UK. A mix of juniors and seniors, most have some computer science background, but none have had much exposure with HPC, so this is a baptism by fire. The team turned in good results on both LINPACK and HPCG, earning a seventh-place spot overall. Better yet, they’re slightly ahead of their chief rival, the CSCI Don’t Panic team, but only by a handful of percentage points. The team is looking forward to the NASA module, which is taking place the week of 3/7.


Fayetteville State University:  Newbies to the student cluster competition game, this is a four-person team that hasn’t had any previous experience with HPC but are eager to learn. Fayetteville has the youngest competitor, with one of their students being senior in high school. They also have an armed forces veteran from Fort Bragg competing after 15 years in the military. The team finished the initial HPL/HPCG benchmarks but didn’t have the time and optimization expertise to put up upper echelon scores. Our special HPC Seal Team Six, the folks from BioTeam, are parachuting in to help Fayetteville develop their HPC optimization chops.


Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University:  FAMU competed in the first Winter Classic event last year and have one returning player this year. The team leader, Kawika, was the foundation of the 2021 team and is a time management ninja, as you’ll see from the video. Other than Kawika’s limited exposure to HPC last year, the rest of the team is new to the field. FAMU has put in the work and notched some pretty scores so far in the competition. They’re currently sitting in third place overall, just a handful of points behind the second place Texas Tech Red Raider team. FAMU has also set the world record in terms of the number of jobs submitted in the first two challenges with more than 2,000 HPL jobs and more than 4,500 HPCG jobs. Great use of scripting.

Morehouse College:  We interviewed Team Morehouse but had a technical problem with the footage which made it unusable. We fired a portion of our technical staff over this issue. We weren’t able to make our schedules mesh so we could re-record the episode, so I’ll try to pull up a bit of what we talked about via my ADD riddled memory. This is the first cluster competition team with identical twins – or, as we call them, “a closely coupled human cluster.” The team wasn’t happy with their initial performance in the competition and vowed to make a furious comeback. They did ok on the Pop Quiz and put some points on the big board, but their real chance to make a run is with the currently in process NASA module. We’ll see what happens, but the team is absolutely serious about over-performing the rest of the way.

Spelman – Morehouse College:  This team is a blend of Morehouse College and Spelman College students and all are first time competitors. They’re also new to HPC, like the majority of students in the competition. The team had a rough start, only delivering a result on LINPACK. They ran out of time on HPCG and optimizing LINPACK. During the video interview, I kid the team about not starting early enough, despite my advice in previous calls – which is fun because I really like being right and am not shy about rubbing it in. According to the team, they’re poised for a furious comeback. They’ve already made a start on that by posting an 89% score on the HPC Pop Quiz.


Tennessee State University:  This is the second Winter Classic competition for the team from Nashville, and, damn, what a second showing. In their first outing in 2021, the team seemed lost and barely together. But this year? They’re leading the field with a comfortable cushion. They did it on the strength of their monster HPCG score, which was 31% higher than their nearest competitor. But they’ve protected that lead by posting the second best LINPACK and the third best HPC Pop Quiz scores. Only three students strong, this is the team to beat so far in the competition. Take a look at the video and learn how they’ve honed their HPC chops and using them to slice and dice their way towards the Overall Championship.


Texas Tech University – Team Matador: Texas Tech is a first time entrant into the Winter Classic cluster competitions and, as is typical for Texas, they’re going big with two teams – the Matadors and the Red Raiders. Throughout the call, I do my best to stir up a bitter rivalry between the two teams. The Matadors grabbed fourth place in both LINPACK and HPCG, which is when we recorded this interview. Right now, a disappointing result on the HPC Pop Quiz set them back, hopefully temporarily, to sixth place overall – four slits behind their chief rivals the Red Raiders. We finish out our conversation with Team Matador with some Texas food talk, Bucky’s chat, and the promise of free snacks for their team meetings.


Texas Tech University – Team Red Raider: We had some vexing audio issues during our talk with Team Red Raider. In response, we fired the rest of our technical staff and sent the TTU teams a better mic so this doesn’t happen again. of our technical staff and the acquisition of a better mic for use with the Texas Tech teams. The Red Raiders are a science hungry bunch with three of the four sporting double or triple majors and the fourth a Ph.D. student. At the time of filming, the Red Raiders were sitting pretty in third place and had already won the Highest LINPACK award. But their second place HPC Pop Quiz score landed them squarely in second position overall. We also got a chance to stir the pot between them and the TTU Matador team and try to build up some bad blood. Keep an eye on this….


University of Texas El Paso – Team Itzmana:  This is the second appearance for UTEP Team Itzmansa, named after the Mayan god of wisdom. Last year, Team Itzamna was the very definition of ‘plucky.’ Attrition took the team down to two members approaching the final competition week when it’s all on the line. But the duo didn’t quit and ended up doing quite well. In our 2022 competition, Team Itzamna posted a third best LINPACK number and a sixth place HPCG – not bad at all – and that put them in sixth place overall. But they’ve flipped the script by posting the best HPC Pop Quiz score, adding 100 points to their score, and rocketing two slots into fourth place. Definitely a team to contend with…


Next up we’ll have some sponsors providing guest commentary, we’ll results from the NASA module, and just plenty more stuff. Stay tuned…..

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