Alongside the annual Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) conference, which took place in Cape Town from 2 to 6 December 2018, the Student Cluster Competition and the Student Cyber-Security Challenge provided a platform for South African students to showcase their skills in building supercomputers and preventing cybercrimes.


The theme of this year's conference, "Transforming the future through high performance computing (HPC) and transforming HPC for the future", saw the participation of women in HPC encouraged by the introduction of an award for the best female student at the Student Cluster Challenge.


The award in this new category, sponsored by Intel, went to Ms Mapule Madzena, a student at the University of the Free State, who received a prize of R64 500.


At the Student Cluster Competition, 10 teams of students from various universities in the country battled it out to build small high performance computing clusters on the exhibition floor – using hardware provided by CHPC and its industrial partners – and raced to demonstrate the best performance across a series of benchmarks and applications.


Six students were selected to fly the South African flag at the next International Student Cluster competition in Germany.  Stefan Schröder, Dillon Heald, Jehan Singh and Clara Stassen (from the University of Cape Town) and Anita de Mello Koch and Kaamilah Desai (from the University of the Witwatersrand) will compete with counterparts from 11 countries in June next year.


The cybersecurity challenge provides a platform for students to compete in real time and come up with ideas that could protect South Africa from cybercrime. The University of Pretoria came first, followed by Stellenbosch University. The winning team will also compete at an international competition.


The CHPC is a Department of Science and Technology (DST) initiative managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).


Speaking at the conference, DST Chief Director: Emerging Research Areas and Infrastructure, Dr Daniel Adams, said that the event played an important role in developing the skills needed in the country.


"The DST is committed to supporting human capital development.  This CHPC intervention is a great platform to stimulate the pipeline," he said.


CHPC Director, Dr Happy Sithole, was impressed with the calibre of students who participated.


"I am very proud of the kind of innovation displayed by the students," he said.  "I believe that they will represent us well on the international stage. This sort of competition is critical in equipping future generations with cyberinfrastructure and supercomputing experience, and exposing science, technology, engineering and mathematics students to an array of opportunities."


Over the years, South Africa has performed well at the International Student Cluster competition in Germany, winning it in 2013, 2014 and 2016, and placing second in 2015 and 2017. In June this year the SA team came third.


Dr Sithole was also pleased with the progress made in building a strong high performance computing community in the country.


"This year, our focus was on the transformation of both the use and development of cyberinfrastructure, which will help industry, academics and governments across the continent. Looking back to our first engagements advocating for financial support to build a strong high performance computing community in South Africa, we can be proud of the significant growth achieved."


Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.



Veronica Mohapeloa

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