The all-female team comprises two high schoolers and four college undergrads:
The team is being guided by Rebecca Hartman-Baker, acting group lead for NERSC's User Engagement Group. This is not her first time organizing a student cluster competition; when she was with iVEC in Australia she coached teams for the Student Cluster Competition at SC13 and SC14.
Since being assembled last fall, the team - which is scattered all over the U.S. and internationally this summer - has been meeting weekly via Zoom to come up to speed on the competition and cluster requirements. Fortunately they all knew each other previously, which helped facilitate the collaboration process, Rebecca Hartman-Baker said.
"All of them except one were interns at NERSC last year", she stated. "They know each other better than they know me or I know them. They are an awesome group of young ladies to work with."
Their camaraderie should serve them well during the three-day competition, where 12 teams will race against one another to demonstrate the best performance across a series of benchmarks and applications on a small supercomputer cluster that they designed and built. Each day the teams will run problem sets given to them by the competition, such as WRF, a well-known weather modelling application; SPLOTCh, a visualization programme for astronomy; and Graph500.
Each team member was assigned a specific role and an application to specialize in, Rebecca Hartman-Baker noted. For example, Elizabeth Wang and Ruoyun Zheng are practising to be the "mystery application" experts, compiling a number of codes to gain experience running whatever unknown codes the competition might throw at them. And the Graph500 experts had to write their own implementation of the benchmark's breadth-first search algorithm. They chose to write it in UPC - a Berkeley Lab product - and sought advice from local experts in optimizing their code.
"Everyone on the team knows a little bit about every part of the process, but each 'expert' has more in-depth knowledge about her chosen application", she stated. "The team will run the competition codes on their cluster during the competition and answer questions from judges testing their expertise."
Rebecca Hartman-Baker and the team worked closely with Intel and Cray to select and procure the parts they used to build their cluster. The vendors are also team sponsors, providing travel funding in addition to the hardware. The cluster arrived at NERSC in early May, and Rebecca Hartman-Baker and Steve Leak, an HPC consultant at NERSC, have been hard at work getting it up and running so the team could access it remotely and practise running their applications on it.
Grace M. Rodríguez Gomez, who is interested in working in computer graphics after she graduates next year, is excited but also a bit nervous about participating in her first Student Cluster Competition.
"This is a very good opportunity because it will be the first time for me competing in something like this, although I am a little concerned about setting up the cluster because I don't have much experience with that", she stated. "I did have some experience working with supercomputers at Berkeley Lab, so I thought this would be a good way to extend those skills and a great opportunity for me to learn more about computers and applications."
While an all-female Student Cluster Competition team is rare, it is not unprecedented, according to Rebecca Hartman-Baker; for example, at SC12 and SC13 there was an all-female team from the University of Pacific that was sponsored by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
"It is so fun working with young people, to see how much they learn and how smart they are", she stated. "I learn a lot too, every time."
For more on NERSC's first Student Cluster team, you can visit their web page.