The 2016 International Supercomputing Conference is being held in Frankfurt Germany this coming June and with it the fifth annual Student Cluster Competition . Once again Team South Africa, Co-sponsored by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and Dell, will be competing for a winning title.

The team, led by CHPC’s David MacLeod, who is responsible for introducing the cluster competition to South Africa students, putting together the first official team in 2011 and leading all subsequent teams. David has an impressive record, with two first place teams and one second place team. His eyes are on clinching the 2016 title at ISC this year, but in addition he aims to raise awareness of HPC as a transformative technology in South Africa, and attract more students to the field.

This year’s team consists of six bright young students from the University of the Witwatersrand and two reserves from Stellenbosch University who will face off against 11 other teams from around the world. These student squads will compete over a three-day period to build a small cluster computer of their own design and run a series of HPC benchmarks and applications.  In preparation for the competition, Team South Africa spent a week at Dell’s Round Rock campus to meet with HPC experts, check out our next-generation HPC and thermal labs, become familiar with the cluster systems and receive hands-on tutorials and feedback sessions. A special treat for the South African students was a sit down with Jim Ganthier, Dell’s Head of HPC, and Ed Turkel, Dell’s HPC Strategist, to learn more about pursuing a career in HPC.

Both Jim and Ed discussed the recent progress in the HPC industry, and just how far it has come from the days they worked on monolithic systems, before the advent of x86 servers and clusters. They also talked about how HPC is going beyond the world of academia and scientific research, thanks to the explosive growth in big data, and how companies like Dell are leading the charge to bring HPC to mainstream audiences, with the hopes that the students of today will help make that vision a reality.  The students had many questions from the medical applications of HPC to how the democratization of HPC will affect the way business leaders look at technology, to what a career in electrical engineering would look like in relation to HPC,

For more on the South African students visit to Dell, please visit Perrin Cox’s post.