The final computational event for the 2024 Winter Classic teams is courtesy of Google, a new mentor partner for 2024. The application? It’s been around for a while (33 years) and is widely used for biophysical molecular dynamics. You know it, you love it, it’s GROMACS.

(So why the steak picture? Hey, it’s protein and GROMACS does a great job of analyzing proteins. There are plenty of lipids in that that wonderful slab of meat, which can also be analyzed by GROMACS.)

My special guest commentator is Brent Gorda, back for another turn behind the 2024 Winter Classic Lens of Truth (not sure why I threw that in, but it has a nice ring to it, right?) As many of you might know, Brent has been a fixture in the industry for more than two decades, working for national labs, plus major companies, and start-ups alike.

After a little banter and some aimless hardware talk, we get down to cases and start revealing how this, the last challenge, went for our student teams.

The latter challenges are always difficult for the students. It’s a busy time of year for them with midterms and/or finals plus spring breaks happening at various times surrounding the last two competition modules. Oh, and the applications are more difficult as well.

Before this challenge, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are atop the leaderboard but only by a slim 26 point margin. They’re being pushed hard by their cross-campus rival TTU Matador rivals and by the UC Santa Cruz Not-So-Slow Slugs. The University of New Mexico Lobo and Roadrunner teams are also in medal reach.

So what happened with GROMACS? Turmoil. The Lobos, UC Santa Cruz, and the Channel Island Dolphins really helped themselves out by taking the top spots on this app. The Red Raiders, Roadrunners, and TTU Matadors? Not so much. Same with Fayetteville. Ouch.

But this is just one application, albeit an important one. Did it impact the overall team positions? Short answer:  yep.

Their 91.40 score on GROMACS vaulted UC Santa Cruz into a narrow seven point lead over the previous #1 TTU Red Raider team. The UNM Lobos used their 100 point win on GROMACS to move into third place overall, pushing past the TTU Matadors and the Fayetteville Parallel Pioneers.

Heading into the judges interview, which is worth 100 points, there are less than 20 points separating the top three teams and less than 50 points between the top five teams. Once again, we’re heading right down to the wire going into the last scoring event.

You’ll have to wait until Gala Awards Ceremony to see how it all worked out. Hold on to your hats, this is going to be an incredibly close competition yet again. Stay tuned for the dramatic finale.