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SA students take top supercomputing honours

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Four students from Wits University and two students from Stellenbosch University emerged as the champions at the International Supercomputing Conference in Germany.

The students were participating in the event through the Centre for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC) Student Cluster Competition programme.

The team members from the Wits School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics are Craig Bester, Sabeehah Ismail, Andries Bingani and Avi Bank, supported by Professor Turgay Celik and mentored by Atif Muhammad. The Wits students were joined by Ashley Naúde and Leanne Johnson from Stellenbosch University.

The CHPC team advisors and mentors were CHPC engineers David Macleod and Matthew Cawood. Dell South Africa sponsored the team’s travel, accommodation and equipment. Mellanox sponsored the team’s high performance network interconnect.

The CHPC team beat 11 other teams from Germany, China, Singapore, Estonia, Spain and the USA to clinch the title.

Wits vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Adam Habib, adds: “We are extremely proud of our talented students who are at the cutting edge of technology. This global win demonstrates that the quality of our education is up there with the best in the world. We should also thank our partners – the Department of Science and Technology and the CSIR, as well as industry partners such as Dell and Intel for their contribution to the project. These kinds of innovative public-private partnerships will help us to move South Africa forward.”

The four Wits students, as the then Wits, team won the South African Centre for High Performance Computing Student Cluster Competition in December 2015. As the winners of the CHPC Student Cluster Competition their team formed the base of the CHPC’s ISC team. The judges chose two other competitors to bring the team up to the six members required for participation in the ISC competition.

The CHPC’s ISC team travelled to the Dell R&D headquarters and the Texas Advanced Computing Centre in Texas, US, in February 2016 and represented South Africa in the finals in Germany this week.

“The Faculty of Science is proud of the success of our students. The School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics has once again produced a winning team. We extend our congratulations to both the School and the students,” says Professor Ebrahim Mamoniat, deputy director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

The annual International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) attracts close to 3 000 attendees from nearly 60 countries, and host an exhibition with some 150 companies and research organisations to showcase the latest technologies and services.

The conference’s annual Student Cluster Competition is an opportunity to showcase student expertise and features small teams that compete to demonstrate the incredible capabilities of state-of- the-art high-performance cluster hardware and software.