The National Science and Technology Council (NSCT) nurtures talented individuals in science and technology fields at all stages, and putting down roots in scientific education is crucial to supporting the development of cutting-edge high-tech industries in Taiwan. NARLabs' National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC), following NSCT policy, supports local students learning high-performance computing (HPC) with its Taiwania supercomputers and works with local universities to train the next generation of HPC experts in Taiwan.
In November, a team of six students led by Professor Chou Chi-Yuan (Jerry) from the Department of Computer Science at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) won first place overall in the Student Cluster Competition (SCC) in the United States, the largest international supercomputing competition.
The SC Conference is the world's foremost stage for high-speed computing, and the Student Cluster Competition is the most prestigious event for students worldwide to compete in supercomputer integration and programming. Teams must assemble a supercomputer, including hardware and software, and use it to solve four application problems in under 56 hours and within a power consumption limit of 3,000 watts. The NTHU team won first place overall, defeating nine strong teams from countries including the United States, Germany, Switzerland, and Singapore.
When NTHU was announced as the winner, Professor Chou couldn't help but cheer ecstatically with his team, as this year happened to be the one most filled with setbacks for NTHU in over 10 years. One setback was that team captain Mou Chan-yu was involved in a car accident which almost forced him to drop out. However, he decided to endure the pain and stay in the competition, inspiring the team. Additionally, a few hours before the competition, it was suddenly discovered that the team's hardware was damaged in transit and was unusable. Therefore, their computer configuration and competition strategy had to be adjusted at the last moment. Fortunately, the students were able to make use of their skills to assess the situation decisively and correctly, minimizing the impact of the issue.
After starting the competition, the system was still unstable, and the four application problems were more difficult than expected. In the end, the key to victory lied in their success with two of the problems, one of which was a fluid mechanics simulation that required deep theoretical knowledge. Team member Ting Hsu-tzu, who was in charge of solving this problem, had been rigorously studying cross-disciplinary topics and sought guidance from members of NCHC before the competition, and was therefore able to solve the problem successfully. The second question was a mystery question that was only announced on the spot. Team member Kuo Pin-i, who was responsible for this question, was the youngest and least experienced student on the team, but also the fastest and most serious learner. Kuo and team captain Mou worked together to solve it, and even received high praise from the judges on their work.
The most cautious and level team members were Chang Fu-chiang and Huang En-ming, who not only completed their own tasks, but also coordinated the team and checked over the results, allowing the team to perform consistently well. Meanwhile, the heart of the team was Wu Pang-ning, whose cheer helped the team relax and enjoy the competition despite the tense atmosphere, breaking the stereotype of the Asian team as a "silent" one and attracting the attention of the judges and the other teams.
Professor Chou said that their victory cannot only be attributed to the students' dedication and hard work, but also to the support of organizations including NCHC, which shared programming expertise and accelerator cards; QCT, which sponsored the competition machines and covered travel expenses; NTHU, which pROVided the training venue and assistance in all aspects; and most importantly, the student coaches, including this year's student coach, Tsai Kuo-kuang, as well as former participants. Without their experience and enthusiastic guidance, this year's achievement would not have been possible. The victory belongs to everyone involved.
NCHC Director General Chang Chau-Lyan, who also attended the SC22 Conference, stated that HPC is the basis for the development of modern science and an indicator of national strength. This achievement is the result of the long-standing efforts of Taiwan's academic and research communities in the field, which not only demonstrates the strength of Taiwan's technological talent, but also allows Taiwan to leave a mark of honor in the computing world.
In this year's High Performance Application Competition (HiPAC) held by NCHC, NTHU's new teams under the guidance of Professor Chou also won first and third place, respectively. In the future, NCHC will continue to pROVide students with opportunities to use supercomputers and try out various possible acceleration technologies and parallel processing methods through educational training, competitions, and resource support so that they can maintain their fascination for HPC technology, building up Taiwan's national strength.