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Students win big at CHPC National Conference 2019

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) National Conference, held from 1 to 5 December 2019 at Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg, hosted three student competitions that ran in parallel with the programme of the conference. The conference exhibition floor was a battleground for university students from within South Africa and the Southern African Development Community. Over 120 of these students where split between the Student Cluster Competition, the Cybersecurity Challenge and the Student Datathon Challenge.

National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System (NICIS) Centre Manager, Dr Happy Sithole, is impressed by the amount of effort that the students put into the competitions. “The Student Cluster Competition and Cybersecurity Challenge remain important efforts in addressing the skills shortage in cyberinfrastructure, and the Datathon Challenge that was introduced this year brings the element of effectively harnessing cyberinfrastructure by using data manipulation techniques to solve societal challenges,” he said.

Contact Person

Nox Moyake

072 026 6762

nmoyake@csir.co.za

The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) National Conference, held from 1 to 5 December 2019 at Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg, hosted three student competitions that ran in parallel with the programme of the conference. The conference exhibition floor was a battleground for university students from within South Africa and the Southern African Development Community. Over 120 of these students where split between the Student Cluster Competition, the Cybersecurity Challenge and the Student Datathon Challenge. Prizes included submissions into international rounds with international trips, laptop computers and notebooks, noise cancelling earphones and even cash.

Chief Director: Emerging Research Areas and Infrastructure, at the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Daniel Adams, thanked industry sponsors of the competitions and applauded the teams from previous years for a great track record at international competitions. “Interventions that expose our students and researchers to high-quality conferences like this one, and which provide platforms and opportunities to stimulate the pipeline and grow the pool of postgraduate students are definitely steps in the right direction. The DSI remains committed to supporting such efforts,” he said.

National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System (NICIS) Centre Manager, Dr Happy Sithole, is impressed by the amount of effort that the students put into the competitions. “The Student Cluster Competition and Cybersecurity Challenge remain important efforts in addressing the skills shortage in cyberinfrastructure, and the Datathon Challenge that was introduced this year brings the element of effectively harnessing cyberinfrastructure by using data manipulation techniques to solve societal challenges,” he said.

Student Cluster Competition

The Student Cluster Competition starts in July every year. University students from various universities around the country are trained on Linux systems, as well as high-performance computing. Their training concludes with an assignment that requires each team to build a prototype cluster on the cloud. The teams selected from this round go on to compete in the national round of the Student Cluster Competition, which takes place at the CHPC National Conference.

This year, a team of six students from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of the Western Cape took first prize, and two reserves from the University of Western Cape and University of KwaZulu-Natal were chosen. The students are Guy Axelrod, Victoria Bench, Michael Beukman, Sivenathi Madlokazi, Alungile Tshangela and Mikhail Vink. The two reserves are Stephanie Agenbag and Kalreen Govender. This team will represent South Africa at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, in June 2020.

“The purpose of the competition is to expose young university students to high-performance computing and equip them with Linux skills. It’s a great opportunity for the CHPC to be able to provide the students with real workplace skills that they can go on and use in their careers,” said CHPC’s Matthew Cawood.

The Student Cluster Challenge was sponsored by DellEMC, Eclipse Holdings, Intel, Altair, Bright Computing, Mellanox and Microsoft Azure.

Cybersecurity Challenge

The South African National Research Network (SANReN) hosted its third annual information security competition, the Cybersecurity Challenge, at this year’s conference.

University of Pretoria, represented by a team of three students, namely Jared O’Reilly, Savvas Panagiotou and Tristan Sander-Hug, took first place at this year’s competition.

The challenge seeks to stimulate interest in cybersecurity and specifically in the field of network security within South African tertiary institutions and is aimed at university students who are interested in information security fields. The competition is split into two rounds, i.e. a qualification round and a final competition round. In the first qualifying round, 416 students, comprising 125 teams, competed for a place in the final round where 12 teams comprising four members were chosen to participate at the competition taking place at the CHPC National Conference.

“A benefit from this challenge is the exposure that university students get in real cyber-related threats and the pipeline of students that is built into the information security field,” says SANReN’s Ajay Makan.

The Cybersecurity Competition was sponsored by Cyanre, Microsoft and F-Secure.

Student Datathon Challenge

This year, the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA) hosted its first student competition at the CHPC Conference.

The aim of the challenge is for students to showcase how open research data can be used to come up with creative and innovative solutions to some of the country’s problems. The participating teams were chosen from a group of students who were invited to the DIRISA workshop in July this year, where they were given training on basic concepts of data science, research data management and Python.

“The judges of the competition do not focus much on the technicality of the solutions, but more on the feasibility of the solutions and the effort that the students put into finding a real problem and a suitable solution,” says DIRISA’s Nobubele Shozi.

Students used available data and computationally manipulated it to come up with potential solutions to delayed ambulance response time, suicide alert efforts, as well as crime.

The three-member winning team of Jean Boguo, Kayleigh Slogrove and Ruan Spijkerman from the University of Johannesburg will be put in an incubation programme where they will have an opportunity to develop their solution even further.

The datathon’s prizes were courtesy of Redhat and Altron.

Best Male and Best Female Award

Two Student Cluster Competition participants walked away with R65000 each courtesy of Intel. The award was given based their technical contribution to the team, their academic performance as well as team work. The winners were Sivenathi Madlokazi and Alungile Tshangela from the University of the Witwatersrand.

More information on the conference can be found on www.chpcconf.co.za.

Images from the conference can be viewed on https://chpcconf.co.za/2019-gallery/

End.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Nox Moyake: Communications Manager, NICIS
Cell: 072 026 6762
Email: nmoyake@csir.co.za

 

About NICIS

The National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System promotes scientific and industrial development through the provision of high-performance computing capability, high-speed network capacity and a national research data infrastructure integrated hierarchically into globally connected systems and local system, providing seamless access for the research and education communities of South Africa. It is a national initiative of the Department of Science and Innovation that is implemented by the CSIR.