Six South African undergraduate students took first prize against 13 teams from around the world at a competition held at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany from 16 to 19 June 2019. This ia after they spent 4 days working on a selection of tests and applications to optimise and run their computer cluster to demonstrate the performance of their chosen design.

The team was made up of 4 University of Cape Town students and 2 University of the Witwatersrand students.

“It really is excellent national progress. We have demonstrated consistently that talent and skills abound in our country. These teams come from different universities and provinces – showing that this is now national DNA,” said Dr Happy Sithole, Acting Director of the CHPC and Manager of South Africa's National Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS).

Super team

The team that represented South Africa is reported to be one of the few to have been  made up of 50% men and 50% women. Stephan Schröder, Dillon Heald, Jehan Singh, Clara Stassen, Anita de Mello Koch and Kaamilah Dessai, under the supervision of team advisors  and computer engineers David Macleod and Matthew Cawood of the CSIR’s Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), took on 102 members of teams from the United Kingdom, United States of America, China, Taiwan, Spain, Switzerland, Estonia and Singapore.  The team took first place with the highest overall score for all the benchmarks they were given.

The CHPC holds the national round annually and sends different teams of undergraduate computer science and computer engineering students to participate in the international competition. Team South Africa has won the competition four times, in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019, and has taken second place twice, in 2015 and 2017. The team came third in 2018.

Winning formula

According to the team advisor and manager of the CHPC’s Advanced Computer Engineering Lab, David Macleod, the South African team’s winning formula is to have dedicated students and sponsors.

“Our sponsors are excellent and allowed the team to choose equipment without restriction or compromise. In turn the students put in a lot of time and effort before the competition and arrived at the competition well prepared,” said Macleod.

The CHPC is an initiative of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology and is one of the three pillars of South Africa’s cyberinfrastructure system. It is supported by the South African National Research Network for transportation of data and the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa for the management and curation of data. NICIS is managed by the CSIR.

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