How can ASC, the world’s most challenging supercomputing competition, cultivate top talents for China?

In 1929, supercomputing (Supercomputing) first appeared in the “New York World” report. Supercomputers composed of hundreds, thousands, or even more processors are important tools for solving major scientific problems, and they are now playing an increasingly important role.

In November 2010, China’s first petaflop supercomputer system “Tianhe One” ranked first in the global supercomputing rankings released by the TOP500 organization. Since then, “Tianhe No. 2” has also won 6 consecutive championships between June 2013 and June 2016 (the TOP500 list is updated every June and November).

In 2016, the strongest supercomputer that surpassed “Tianhe II” also came from China, named Shenwei·Taihuzhiguang.

“After 2010, my country’s supercomputer construction and deployment have achieved great results, and the number of computers entering the TOP500 list of supercomputers has also increased significantly.” ASC World University Student Supercomputer Competition Organizing Committee Member Liu Jun said, “Although we are in hardware A lot of investment has been made, but the applications and software running on these supercomputers, especially the ability of supercomputers to combine industry and scientific research and innovation, are relatively weak. The fundamental reason is that the talent pool is far from sufficient. “So, ASC The World College Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge) was launched in 2012. It was initiated by China and jointly initiated and established with supercomputer experts and institutions in Japan, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other countries and regions. The organization has received active response and support from supercomputer scholars and organizations in the United States, Europe and other countries and regions.

After 9 years, ASC has been upgraded from China to Asia and then to the world, and its influence has continued to rise. Now ASC, SC and ISC are also known as the world’s three major college student supercomputing competitions, attracting nearly 10,000 university elites around the world to participate.

Affected by the epidemic, the ASC 20-21 competition innovatively adopted offline and online simultaneous holding. It was divided into three stages: registration, preliminary competition and finals. It was co-sponsored by the Asian Supercomputing Association, Southern University of Science and Technology, and Inspur Group. From May 8th to 12th, more than 300 participating teams came to the fore. The 21 teams that entered the offline finals competed fiercely at Southern University of Science and Technology. In the end, the ASC20-21 finals was won by Dark Horse Jinan University and Tsinghua University won the runner-up. , The e Prize Computing Challenge Award and the highest computing performance award were respectively won by Tsinghua University and Sun Yat-sen University.

Among the 7 teams in the online competition, Tsinghua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan, won the championship.

The goal of ASC is to cultivate Chinese supercomputing talents and to promote the exchange and cooperation of the world’s top supercomputing talents. In this process, how does ASC cultivate Chinese supercomputing talents?


The world’s most challenging supercomputing competition

ASC, American SC, and German ISC are called the world’s three major supercomputing competitions. Every year, ASC is held first, usually in April and May, followed by ISC, which is held in June and July, and SC will be held at the end of the year. The leading ASC is also the most challenging event among the three supercomputing competitions.

Jack Dongarra, the initiator of the TOP500 global supercomputer rankings, an academician of the American Academy of Engineering, a professor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, said: “I have participated in the world’s major college student supercomputer competitions, which are comparable to international competitions of the same kind. In comparison, ASC is the most intense and challenging supercomputing competition. Participants have to complete the system assembly, debugging and competition in just five days.

How can ASC, the world’s most challenging supercomputing competition, cultivate top talents for China?

ASC20-21 Southern University of Science and Technology final scene

This means that the players of ASC compete not only with their brain power, but also their hands-on ability and physical strength. As the first competition of its kind to introduce the world’s top supercomputer system as a competition platform, ASC introduced the world’s fastest supercomputer as the competition platform in 2014, and the supercomputer Shenwei·Taihuzhiguang as the competition platform in 2017 .

At the same time, ASC is committed to achieving integration with major international scientific issues through competitions, and creating more opportunities for participating team members to have close contact with major international scientific projects. The ASC15 competition cooperated with SKA, the world’s largest radio telescope project, and used gridding as the competition question. The ASC17 competition adopted the Gordon Bell Award finalist application high-resolution ocean wave numerical simulation MASNUM and the application of AI in the field of unmanned driving as the competition questions.

Not only that, the ASC competition also cooperates with leading technology companies to develop competition innovations in artificial intelligence. For example, the ASC17 artificial intelligence contest title is the traffic prediction application provided by Baidu, and the ASC18 artificial intelligence contest title is the search question answer prediction in natural language reading comprehension provided by Microsoft.

Continue ASC’s consistent promotion of the training of young talents, and guide college students to use supercomputing to challenge cutting-edge scientific issues. The ASC20-21 finals’ questions include searching for pulsars based on FAST (China Sky Eye) real observation data, training artificial intelligence models to take English exams, using classic computers to simulate quantum computing, super team competitions with cross-team cooperation, and cross-scale weather forecasting modes MPAS-A, supercomputing benchmark tests HPL and HPCG, etc.

These competition questions not only made the participating players rack their brains and learn new knowledge, but also stimulated their creativity. A team member from Tsinghua University who won the e Prize Computing Challenge told Lei “We are students in the Department of Computer Science and do not know much about pulsars and astronomy, so we first need to learn some background knowledge and then conduct an in-depth analysis of the code.”

“I am in charge of the AI ​​contest questions. The question of the preliminary contest is to train the AI ​​model to complete cloze. The question of the final is reading comprehension. The two questions are quite different and need to be rethinked from scratch.” When you rack your brains for the competition, you will also have a bright light. “In order to shorten the training time, we need to use distributed computing. The equipment in our school is not suitable for distributed computing. So we went to the site to debug directly. Under the circumstances of successful debugging, this is regarded as an on-the-spot performance, and there is also a flash of light.”

The team members of Sun Yat-sen University described the process of the final as a roller coaster. “My previous idea was that high-performance computing does not need to control power consumption. As a result, the final requires the participating teams to design and build a supercomputer system under the power consumption constraint of 3000W. We need to use us. The latest CPU build system that we haven’t seen before, especially when we found that it is very powerful, we took the risk to change the internal wiring of the machine to give full play to the computing power of the machine, and ran the HPL international benchmark test under the power consumption constraint of 3000W, achieving 79.04. Teraflops of continuous floating-point computing performance set a new world record and won the highest computing performance award. learned that the equipment for the offline finals is a new model launched by Inspur in April, with a total value of more than 10 million yuan. ASC20-21 has a total prize money of over RMB 380,000, which is the highest prize money event in the world.



How to tap and train Chinese supercomputer talents?

Coexisting with the mental challenge is the challenge of hands-on ability and physical strength. “The biggest feeling after the game is tired. ISC uses online games because of the epidemic, and the game time is 72 hours. We have a lot of time to adjust our strategy, and we can also take a break from running the app. ASC two official competition days every day It takes 10 hours to complete 3-4 questions, which means that we can make fewer strategic adjustments.” Tsinghua University team members also said.

“Offline competitions have allowed me to meet many new friends and get some new inspirations in communication. Moreover, through debugging and building the system, I have a deeper understanding of the principles of the entire computer architecture, which is a very big gain.”

Jinan University team members also mentioned, “The school server is quite different from the game server. There are some hardware and software version issues. We spent a long time on the cluster. However, some things that were not adjusted by the school were in the competition. It’s been debugged on site, which is a relatively unique experience.”

As the world’s first supercomputing competition to restart offline competitions, the ASC20-21 online and offline competition system is innovative and of course challenging. Liu Jun said: “The cross-regional, cross-time zone, and cross-language collaboration of offline and online teams is very meaningful for the entire game. In order to combine these two methods, we have made a lot of attempts. “This has a super Team competition, that is, the teams participating in the finals randomly form 7 super teams by drawing lots. Each super team needs to include an online team to jointly complete the final “super” questions in the form of cross-team cooperation.

The ASC20-21 super team competition is centered on the new crown virus. The participating players use VENAS to complete the mutation evolution network calculation of the tens of thousands of viral genomes in the shortest time possible. In the end, the coalition consisting of Northwestern Polytechnical University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Tsinghua University, and Ural Federal University in Russia improved the performance of VENAS by more than 10 times and successfully won the Super Team Award.

ASC allows participating team members to access, use the latest and strongest supercomputing system, and stay close to the forefront of innovation to help solve cutting-edge scientific problems. But the influence of ASC is not limited to the more than 10,000 college students participating in the competition.

Yang Guanghua, the instructor of Jinan University, said: “From the first time we participated in the ASC in 2018, we didn’t know anything about the competition, and now we have won the championship. In this process, the elderly and the newcomers are constantly being trained, which is helpful for promoting our teaching. Scientific research plays a very big role.”

Fan Jing, director of the Science and Engineering Computing Center of Southern University of Science and Technology, also said: “We have been participating in ASC since 2016. During the competition, the students spontaneously organized the SUSTech Student Supercomputing Club. They have their own structure and organization as well as regular schedules. Training exchange.”

Driven by ASC, there are also non-computer and AI-related students joining the supercomputing team. Sun Yat-sen University team members told (public account:, “Our supercomputing team will have two aerospace college students this year, because they often need to simulate many things with supercomputing, and they are also very good at supercomputing. Interested, so our supercomputer team also welcomes them to join.”

Not only that, ASC is also working hard to attract more talents to participate. “The number of participating teams in China is particularly high, but overall there is still a problem of imbalance. The frequency of participating colleges and universities in the west and the teams entering the finals are relatively large compared with those in the east, especially the leading 985 colleges and universities.” Liu The army further stated.

“We hope that more Chinese college students have the opportunity to participate in the ASC. Before, we held a finals at Taiyuan University of Technology. For western universities, there may be relatively few such opportunities. This year we saw that Taiyuan University of Technology and Shanxi The university’s participating teams have all entered the finals and achieved good results. Next, we will do more to enhance the influence and appeal of ASC.”


ASC blossoms and bears fruit

ASC, which has gone through nine years, has cultivated many talents for the supercomputing industry. Liu Jun introduced that many ASC team members have done a good job, and they have appeared in the Gordon Bell Prize and many major scientific research innovations. Also, one of the AWS team members who supported the online competition this year is the 2016 Huazhong University of Science and Technology ASC finalist.

Some of ASC’s competition questions are also exploring industrial applications in continuing research. According to Yang Guanghua of Jinan University, ASC19 has a super-resolution contest problem, which is to use AI to convert low-resolution images into high-resolution images. After the competition, they applied some of the AI ​​model algorithms involved in the competition questions to the field of wireless communication, hoping to reduce the load of the entire system as much as possible through super-resolution ideas or algorithms, and improve the efficiency and throughput of the system. Continue scientific research and industrialization.

There is another example. The 2020 ASC NLP competition questions involve natural language understanding. Through continuous research on related algorithms in the NLP field, they are also applying NLP algorithms to the field of smart medical care and establishing medical diagnosis models, hoping to achieve disease control. The diagnosis is even applied to the clinic.

The ASC20-21 super team competition questions can also help the research on the traceability and spread of the new crown virus, and help the prevention and control of the epidemic.

As Wang Endong, the initiator of the ASC competition, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and chief scientist of Inspur Group, said: “The new crown epidemic has made us more aware that only broader cross-border and cross-regional collaboration and innovation can better respond to the major challenges faced by mankind. As an important tool for solving major scientific problems, supercomputers will play an increasingly important role. The ASC competition hopes that through the form of competitions, students will continue to expand their technological horizons, enrich their knowledge structure, cherish team spirit, and strengthen their sense of cooperation. , Let them grow into the next generation of computing scientists.”

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