Wrestling with Fame: First-Ever High School Team Squares Off Against Top Universities in Annual Supercomputing Challenge

by Kristin Bryson

Most underdogs don’t take home the trophy. But that didn’t stop the Sudo Wrestlers from competing as the first all-high school team in the main track of the 11th annual Student Cluster Competition, held last week at the SC17 supercomputing show, in Denver.

Dozens of undergraduate students in 16 teams from some the world’s most lauded universities joined the high schoolers, all armed with the latest NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPU accelerators. Their aim: to create small computing clusters for a non-stop, 48-hour challenge measuring how fast they could complete scientific, high performance computing workloads.

Traveling to the show in Denver from William Henry Harrison High School in West Lafayette, Indiana, the Sudo Wrestlers comprised one senior, four juniors and a sophomore. Their interest in the challenge was inspired by a presentation two Purdue University instructors made last year to their school’s robotics club.

sc17 student cluster competition teams
All 16 teams participating in the Student Cluster Competition at SC17 gathered on the steps of the Denver Convention Center for a commemorative shot.

“We’re probably not going to win, but we’re just happy to be here,” said team member Jacob Sharp, as the competition was getting started.

Sharp was charged with ensuring the cluster was up and running smoothly at all times. As a gamer and fan of NVIDIA’s GeForce cards, Sharp said he and his teammates were “psyched” to have access to NVIDIA Volta GPUs to build their cluster.

The competition fosters collaboration not just within teams, but across them. Sharp reported that the other, older teams offered assistance when the Sudo Wrestlers ran into compiling and other technical issues.

Unfortunately, Sharp’s prediction was right. Toward the end of the week, the winner of the Student Cluster Competition was announced. It was not the Sudo Wrestlers.

Instead, the honor went to Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, whose members shattered two benchmark records with a screaming-fast cluster they packed with 16 NVIDIA V100 GPUs.

The NTU team posted a SCC LINPACK score of 51.77 TFlop/s, beating the previous record of 37.05 TFlop/s, held by Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat. Then, it captured the competition’s HPCG record — a benchmark meant to mimic modern HPC workloads — with a score of 2,056, easily topping the 1,394 record set by the Purdue/NEU team six months ago at ISC17.

The Sudo Wrestlers posted a LINPACK score of 28.65, landing them in ninth place — an impressive feat for such a young team.