Student Cluster Competition Success Story: Meiru Hao

scc team supernova
(From left to right) Youlin Shen, Xinye Zhang (Vice Captain), Bian Wu, Weiliang Heng, Meiru Hao (Captain), Liu Cao

Meiru Hao Shines Like a ‘Supernova’ During the SC18 Student Cluster Competition

As a member of Team Supernova, Meiru Hao, a fourth-year student from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, helped her team shine—even when they were faced with failing servers during the SC18 Student Cluster Competition. Despite the drama, the team came in second place, a move that Meiru credits to their overall preparation. SC18 marked her school’s ninth cluster competition (other NTU teams won the Overall Championship and LINPACK awards at SC17). Meiru’s team also received a silver medal at ISC18 in Frankfurt, Germany.


Creating Team Supernova

Student Cluster Teams are composed of six students, at least one advisor and vendor partners. Advisors offer guidance and recommendations, vendors provide hardware and software resources and students bring their skill and enthusiasm. Teams like Supernova are selected via a reviewed proposal process. While 14 students were part of the overall Supernova team, Meiru was one of the six chosen to actually attend the event in person.

我们提前半年选拔参赛队员, she explained.
(“Students are chosen at least six months before the competition,” she explained.)

(“We are selected by our knowledge in HPC and if we know the basis of Linux systems.”)

(“Based on that, our team chooses the candidates they feel are best suited to go to the competition.”)

(“Our professors help us with the logistics side of things and help us maintain relationship with vendors.”)

(“When we choose the six students, we make sure that we have experienced members, some focused on system and the other on software. They also take charge in mentoring the team.”)

(“We then add new members to make sure that we can pass the knowledge on from year to year.”)


Hardware, Travel, & Registration Support

For the event, NTU bought the Supernova team four Supermicro servers, and Dell donated four servers. For Meiru, this meant they could maintain servers all year round and…

(“…know their systems and prepare a lot before the competition.”)

At the competition, NVIDIA provided every team with eight GPU cards, while Meiru’s team also borrowed cards from NVIDIA AI Tech Center. The Supernova team also has a solid relationship with the National Supercomputing Centre Singapore.

Traveling from Singapore to SC18 in Dallas, the Supernova team was thankful for the financial help they received from the conference. Typically, travel costs to compete at the cluster competition are not provided. For SC18, selected teams also received full conference registration and accommodations for each team member and one advisor.


Meiru & Team Power Through a Challenge

As noted, Meiru and Team Supernova had to power through quite a challenge after their servers stopped working.

比赛开场5小时左右,第一次断电后发现有一台服务器不能工作了,(我们总共有两台服务器. 比赛规定用3000w电,我们现在只能用1500w. 失去了一半的算力也只能用一半的功耗。
(“Five hours after the competition started one server went down after the first power cut, so instead of having 3 kilowatts, we only had 1.5 kilowatts”), Meiru said.

我们怀疑是内存有问题,这次用的内存和服务器不是一个牌子,可能不兼容吧. 之前从来没遇到过这个问题。
(“We suspected that the memory configuration was wrong. We used memory of a different brand than the brand of our server, and they must have had incompatibilities. This had never happened to us before.”)

Although only half of their machines were working by the competition’s end, Team Supernova placed second.


Value in Participating & Relationship Building

More than their competitive success, Meiru recognized the value of the event for interacting with other teams to build relationships with universities and meet people from the industry.

(“My biggest takeaway from this competition is that I found plenty of possibilities in HPC career path, which helps me to set a realistic goal.”)

(“Our team connected well with the team from Tsinghua University based in China,” she said. “They won the competition. One of their team members came to visit us in Singapore last month, and we took him to the National Supercomputing Centre Singapore.”)

Meiru also ran into the same judge she met at the SC17 competition, Kathleen Shoga, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

(“She recognized me from the past year, and we spoke of internship opportunities in the USA.”)


Meiru Mentors Team Supernova for SC19

Because Meiru is expected to graduate in December right after SC19, she may not be able to attend the conference or the cluster competition this year. Still, she will remain on as a mentor to the team, just as previous seniors have mentored her. Unlike its namesake, Team Supernova is poised to maintain a promising and bright future and will remain a group to watch for at SC19.


Opportunities Await for Students at SC

Inspired by Meiru’s story? Learn how you can apply to participate in the Student Cluster Competition and the many other opportunities available to students through the Students@SC program.


Christine Baissac-Hayden, SC19 Students@SC Communications Liaison (Easy English 4 All)

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Christine Baissac-Hayden created Easy English 4 All, which provides multilingual communication tools for clients from diverse backgrounds in the renewable energy, medical, defense, marine science, and film industries. Easy English 4 All provides English as a Second Language (ESL), French, Spanish and Japanese tutoring from certified native-speaking teachers and organizes international student exchanges with personalized objectives and goals.

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