Tower Shines Bright for Student Supercomputing Win

Tower Shines Bright for Student Cluster Competition Win

Many a sports fan hopes the UT Tower will glow orange after a game on the football field. But last night, the Tower was lit for another kind of win: A student team was crowned champion of a global supercomputing competition.

Team Texas took home the top prize at the 8th-annual Student Cluster Competition at the Supercomputing Conference in Denver. The 72-hour battle requires students to build, optimize, and run the most efficient predesigned cluster computing system, along with a couple surprise assignments, all with a strict power budget. Teams are then awarded points based on workload completion, benchmark performance, conference attendance, and interviews.

Junior biology major Eric Dawson was one of six student members of Team Texas, along with Jim Given, Reid McKenzie, Julian Michael, Suvamsh Shivaprasad, and Zachary Tschirchart. The team also includes three coaches from the Texas Advanced Computing Center and two former team members who acted as student advisors.

“The Supercomputing Conference is a collection of industries, academics, and research coming together to share ideas for high-performance computing,” Dawson says. “The competition is friendly. Everyone shows up with blood in their eyes, but by the end of the week we got to know the other eight teams.”

The teams worked constantly during the three-day competition, apart from taking occasional naps on the exhibit floor. But fatigue didn’t stop the Texas Team from reveling in its win. UT’s team walked away winners for the second year in a row, with a score of 67 points, 11 higher than second place.

“It’s cool to show that UT has a strong HPC program and it’s not just a fluke or super team,” Dawson says. “We’ll see about next year. I think we have Xs on our backs now.”

Next year’s Supercomputing Competition will be held in New Orleans. But until then, Dawson is still enjoying this year’s win.

“Turning the Tower orange is a crowning thing I’ve wanted to do since I got to UT,” Dawson says. “I got lots of pictures with my horns up in front of it.”

Photo courtesy Faith Singer-Villalobos.


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