This is not only the first cluster competition for the team from the University of the Pacific, but also the first time any of the students have done anything at all HPC-related.
Under the mentorship of Oak Ridge National Lab and their hardware sponsor Appro, the team gave it their best against much more experienced competitors. They posted a respectable 2.33 Teraflop/s LINPACK, which was good enough to put them into fourth place going into the application round of the competition.
On the scientific apps, Team Venus was, as they put it, “Either strong or struggling.” While they all have computer science backgrounds, they don’t have much (if any) experience in running large-scale scientific research applications. But they persevered and busily worked to get their ‘struggle’ apps functioning at a reasonable level.
Team Venus is also noteworthy because it’s the first all-female team to compete in an SCC. This attracted a lot of attention and helped shine a brighter light on women in STEM fields, and on the cluster competition in general.
But they aren’t the first female competitors. Over the years, many teams have had female members and coaches. The Asian teams have had several females on their teams, and Team Taiwan’s player/spokesperson is usually a female. Team Russia (2010 and 2011) had a female coach and female team members, and teams at the ISC’12 SCC also sported women competitors.
Although HPC and computing in general is predominantly made up of humans of the male persuasion, it’s a mistake to say that it’s completely male-dominated these days. There are many women engineers, researchers, and scientists. The male-female ratio isn’t 50-50, but it’s not 90-10 either, and over time it continues to change.
Aside from Team Venus, I think there were four or five women on the SCC teams this year – about the same number as in 2011 and 2010. I don’t have accurate stats on female participation because it’s not something I’ve been tracking; my coverage focuses on team and individual personalities, what they’ve built, and how they deal with the challenges presented by the competition. To me, that’s the interesting stuff. And Team Venus, regardless of gender, was an interesting team to observe and definitely added some personality to the 2012 SCC.