Through the magic of video and Zoom, we’ve reached out to five Winter Classic Invitational cluster competition teams for our trademark up close and personal interviews.

Our associate Jessi Lanum has given us Cliff Notes for each interview, along with some teasers, but check out the videos to get a feel for just how good these students are. As someone who has conducted interviews of nearly every cluster competition team over the last decade (covering more than 30 events), I’m very impressed with how these students handle themselves, their knowledge, and their motivation to make the most of this opportunity.

Now let’s meet the first five teams out of our field of ten….

Claflin University

With two team members transplanted to South Carolina from Nepal, the Claflin team laughs at what others consider mountains. All three team members have computing backgrounds, and are excited to be part of the competition. They were all connected to Winter Classic by the same professor, who doubled as two of the team members’ thesis advisor, clearly with an eye for the best talent. With a focus on networking possibilities for the future, if you’re looking for cool, confident students to join the future of the HPC workforce, this team interview is for you. Team mentors HPE and Intel are going to have a good time with this team.

Florida A&M University

FAMU starts out strong, sporting military leadership. One team member is a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. who in addition to getting his Masters in Computer Science at FAMU, teaches naval engineering and naval weapons systems at the university. Another impressive competitor for FAMU is a Masters student who additionally works to support Verizon’s 5G infrastructure efforts. This team interview has a surprising twist, as one of the competitors talks about how he has competed in an HPC competition before, but not in the way you would think…Suffice to say that the FAMU experience with mentor Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be much better than their first experience way back in 2010.

Tennessee State University

This team sports experience working with Google in the past, building applications for children with Autism, and jump starting careers to graduate school. This well rounded team has an extensive technical background and makes it clear each team member loves to learn new, challenging materials. Each team member has many project and internship experiences to pull from to demonstrate this love for new computing experiences, and they do not hesitate to make it known that their desire to expand their skills will take them far. Aiding them on their journey will be their team mentors from Dell, AMD, BioTeam and the HPC Advisory Council.

UC Santa Cruz

With backgrounds in computer science and computer engineering, all team members have a vast array of computer skills in their toolbox. Between compilers, GPU systems, and optimizing workloads, this team has the baseline to be strong competitors in the Winter Classic. UC Santa Cruz brings previous familiarity with HPC through a Lawrence Livermore internship, which will definitely bring an edge. Watch this team interview for an impressive variety of team members, all with impressive skills to bring to the table. Google is the mentor for the UC Santa Cruz team.

University of the Virgin Islands

This is the first team to represent a U.S. territory in any student cluster competition. For first-timers, this team is anything but unprepared, with two team members working towards degrees in physics with a focus in astronomy, and among all of them include minors in math and computational science. This team brings experience in parallel computing and data science, with skills in MPI programming, guaranteed to help them succeed. Breadth, depth, and a whole lot of relevant HPC experience, this team is not one to miss. LLNL is also the mentor for Team Virgin Islands.

We hope you enjoyed meeting these great students. Next up we’ll look at the other five teams in the competition and see what makes them tick. Stay tuned!