Student Cluster Competition
(Wake Forest University)
Left to right: Jacques, Dr. Cho (primary advisor), Mitch, Hao, Vera, Emma,
Adam (secondary advisor) and Cody (secondary advisor)
- 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.
Even though this is our second time at the Student Cluster Competition, and we still 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 long-term preparation. We have invested a lot of time and resources to make sure that we have the strongest possible team. Even before our first competition at SC18 last year, 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. This year, we added a new secret sauce, Jeff Squyres, the Technical Lead with our vendor partner, Cisco. Jeff has been a part of weekly Cisco Telepresence video conferences with our team throughout the spring, summer, and fall. He has been an invaluable source of information and direction, and the students feel comfortable asking him questions.
- 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.
What makes us unique is preparation. 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, respectively, including all the members competing in SCC18. Based on the success of our team (the first team from North Carolina to ever compete in the SCC, 2nd out of 6 first-time competitors, and the only first-time competing team invited back), we recruited 3 new students and retained 3 veterans from the previous competition (3 others graduated and are therefore ineligible).
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 and working with teams from other universities. We’re also excited about skipping classes for the whole week to compete in a competition at the international stage, although we are far less excited about having to make up the work we will miss. However, we are very excited about exploring Denver for the first time, and our Vendor Sponsor promised us to take us to a Korean BBQ restaurant.
- How long will it take you to get to Denver?
The fight from our nearest airport at Piedmont Triad International Airport to Denver International Airport is a little over three (3) hours.
- 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, boba tea, Asian black rice, Shake Shack burger, croissants and other pastries, and traditional bean cakes. One of us (Vera) even has a foodstagram: @whatrueatin. To burn our excess calories, we run jobs 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?
Our "American" team members come from 4 different countries and can fluently speak 5 different languages (English, Mandarin, French, German, and Japanese). Don’t get us started on computer programming languages..