Student Cluster Competition
Wake Forest University
- What is the name of your team and why did you choose it?
Our team name is the "Daemon Deacons", a play on our university's mascot, the "Demon Deacons". Our university mascot's origin dates back to a football game vs. Trinity (later named Duke University) when we defeated them. The newspaper editor recognized the team "devilish" play and fighting spirit, and the name stuck. In computing, a daemon is a process that works in the background and carries out critical processes. The origin of that name came from a Maxwell's Demon in a physical chemistry thought experiment where an imaginary supernatural being works in the background sorting molecules to defy entropy.
This is our first time at the Student Cluster Competition, and we feel like underdogs against more well-established teams. While we may not get the same level of attention as the other teams, we have a strong "devilish" fighting spirit, which we believe will end up defying expectations and surprise everyone by defeating them.
- Why do you think your team will have an edge in the event (what's your secret sauce)?
One of our secret sauces is preparation. Even though this is our first time at the event, we have invested a lot of time and resources to make sure that we have the strongest possible team. We attended SC17 to observe the Student Cluster Competition and interview the participants as they were competing. We met with vendors (Cisco, Mellanox, and NVIDIA) who are now donating or lending us equipment for the competition. We worked with our primary advisor, Prof. Samuel Cho (Associate Prof., Depts. Computer Science & Physics), and recruited two secondary advisors, Adam Carlson (Senior System Architect) and Cody Stevens (System Architect) who comprise the High Performance Computing Team at our university's DEAC Supercomputing Facilities. We compiled, ran, and benchmarked several applications even before we applied for the competition.
- What have you done to prepare that makes your team unique?
To prepare for the competition, the Computer Science Dept. created a brand new High Performance Computing class, which is taught by Prof. Samuel Cho (Associate Prof., Depts. Computer Science & Physics), who is the primary advisor for this team. Prof. Cho has extensive experience performing research and teaching classes in GPU Programming, Parallel Algorithms, and Computational Biophysics. In addition, Adam Carlson (Senior System Architect) and Cody Stevens (System Architect) who comprise the High Performance Computing Team at our university's DEAC Supercomputing Facilities (3.5k+ x86_64 compute and 12k+ GPU cores) will serve as secondary advisors for this team. They provided practical experience of compiling, running, and benchmarking applications in a high performance computing facility, as well as maintaining it.
The inaugural class in the Fall 2017 semester consisted of 6 undergraduate students who learned about High Performance Computing, as well as compile, run, and benchmark applications on the DEAC Supercomputer. In November, Prof. Cho, Mr. Carlson, and all 6 undergraduate students attended SC17 to directly see the competition in person and gather information about the competition. We were fortunate that the Dept. Computer Science funded their travel through a generous donation from a former alumni. The Spring 2018 and Fall 2018 semester consisted of 9 and 7 undergraduate students, including all the members competing in SCC18. We hope that it is clear that we have a strong institutional investment and a strong set of instructors and a growing number of undergraduate students who are dedicated to the success of our team.
- What are you most looking forward to in the competition?
We are looking forward to applying our skills and knowledge to practical problems, seeing our potential, and also learning from teams from other universities. We're also excited about skipping classes for the whole week to compete in a competition at the international stage. Also, we are very excited about exploring Dallas for the first time.
- How long will it take you to get to Dallas?
The flight from our nearest airport at Piedmont Triad International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is a little over two hours. We will probably stop off somewhere for North Carolina BBQ and Texas BBQ, just to compare. So our trip may take over 6 hours total. Much longer if we compare East and Central Texas BBQ, since Dallas is right in the middle of those regions, and cannot come to a speedy decision.
- What do your team members do for fun?
The thing that unites our team is our love of eating great tasting food. Some of our favorites include Kentucky Fried Chicken (from China because it tastes totally different there), curry ramen, falafel pita wraps, durian ice cream, and traditional bean cakes. One of us (Vera) even has a foodstagram: @verayzeats. To burn our excess calories, we run job on computer clusters; so far not much success, unfortunately.
- If your team had a theme song, what would it be?
Although most teams probably would not consider this song, we were particularly inspired by the great classic, "Never Gonna Give You Up" by the bard, Richard Astley [LINK]: Never gonna give you up // Never gonna let you down // Never gonna run around and desert you // Never gonna make you cry // Never gonna say goodbye // Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you
And, just like the song, we plan to improve every time we play.
- Can you share an interesting fact about your team?
We come from 5 different countries and can speak 8 different languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Korean, and Hindi). Don't get us started on computer programming languages..