ASC20-21 Student Supercomputer Challenge Kickoff

25 November 2020

Beijing, China, Nov. 24 2020 – The preliminary round of the 2020-2021 ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC20-21) officially kicked off on November 16, 2020. More than 300 university teams from five continents registered to participate in this competition. Over the next two months, they will be challenged in several cutting-edge applications of Supercomputing and AI. The 20 teams that eventually make out of the preliminaries will participate in the finals from May 8 to 12, 2021 at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. During the finals, they will compete for various awards including the Champion, Silver Prize, Highest LINPACK, and e- Prize.

Among the registered participants for ASC20-21 are three prior champion teams: the SC19/SC20 champion team of Tsinghua University, the ISC20 champion team of University of Science and Technology of China, and the ASC19 champion of National Tsing Hua University. Other power competitors include teams from University of Washington (USA), University of Warsaw (Poland), Ural Federal University (Russia), Monash University (Australia), EAFIT University (Columbia) and so much more.

For the tasks of this preliminary round of merged ASC20 and ASC21, the organizing committee has retained the quantum computing simulation and language exam tasks from the ASC20, and added a new fascinating, cutting-edge task in astronomy -- searching for pulsars.

Pulsars are fast-spinning neutron stars, and remnants of collapsed super stars. Pulsars feature a high density and strong magnetic field. By observing and studying the extreme physic of pulsars, the scientists can delve into the mysterious space around black holes and detect the gravitational waves triggered from the intense merge of super massive black holes in distant galaxies. Because of the unique nature of pulsars, the Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded twice for pulsar-related discoveries. Using radio telescopes over the previous decades, astronomers have discovered nearly 3,000 pulsars with 700 being discovered by PRESTO, the open-source pulsar search and analysis software. In ASC20-21, the participants are asked to use PRESTO from its official website, and the observational data from Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope located in Guizhou, China, operated by National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Participating teams should achieve the applications’ maximum parallel acceleration, while searching for a pulsar in the FAST observational data loaded in the computer cluster they build. Practically the teams will need to understand the pulsar search process, complete the search task, analyze the code, and optimize the PRESTO application execution, by minimizing the computing time and resources.

The quantum computing simulation task will require each participating team to use the QuEST (Quantum Exact Simulation Toolkit) running on computer cluster to simulate 30 qubits in two cases: quantum random circuits (random.c), and quantum fast Fourier transform circuits (GHZ_QFT.c). Quantum simulations provides a reliable platform for studying of quantum algorithms, which are particularly important because quantum computers are not practically available yet in the industry.

The Language Exam task will require all participating teams to train AI models on an English Cloze Test dataset, striving to achieve the highest "test scores". The dataset covers multiple levels of English language tests used in China.

This year’s ASC training camp will be held on November 30 to help the participating teams from all around the world prepare for the competition. HPC and AI experts from Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peng Cheng Laboratory, State Key Laboratory of High-end Server & Storage Technology will introduce in details the competition rules, computer cluster build and optimization, and provide guidance.