Intercollegiate Student Supercomputing Team Sets Benchmark Record

By Allison Kleber and Millie Zhu

It was the tenth anniversary of their participation in the Student Cluster Competition at SC22, the annual supercomputing conference, and the Massachusetts Green Team was ready to make their mark once again. The team, which is a collaboration between Boston University, MIT and Northeastern, had been preparing for months, attending (and hosting) training sessions and meeting regularly. “I was impressed by the amount of effort that our students put into the competition,” said Po Hao “Howie” Chen ENG‘23 of his teammates. “They worked really hard and decided to stay up for almost two days.” That dedication was about to pay off.

Working within a 3000-watt power limit, the team had several pre-announced challenges, and one “mystery” challenge, to tackle with the help of hardware and expert input provided by their industry partners, AMD and Supermicro. When the six-student team began meeting in May, each member was assigned to be their “expert” in a particular area, whether this was one of the assigned production codes, the reproducibility challenge, etc. In spite of some setbacks and unexpected software issues, they racked up respectable scores in all challenge areas; they also won the interview portion of the competition outright, demonstrating both their thorough grasp of the systems they were working with, and their capacity for communicating their expertise clearly and effectively.

Most impressively, the team also set a new HPL (High-Performance Linpack) benchmark record for the competition, of 142 TFLOPS, nearly tripling the previous on-site record of 51.74 TFLOPS (from 2019). HPL benchmarks are the de facto world standard for ranking supercomputers.

Their victory was in some sense a bittersweet one; due to a technicality, they were disqualified from participation in the SC22 awards ceremony and globally-recognized TOP500 list, an annual ranking of supercomputer benchmarks. However, their achievement stands, and the team was awarded a certificate to mark its importance.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the competition, however, was the team-building experience, and the strengthened ties between some of Boston’s most prominent educational institutions. The 2022 Green Team was primarily composed of Boston University students, with one junior from Northeastern making up their number; however, they were advised by faculty from Northeastern and MIT, as well as BU ECE’s own Professor Martin Herbordt. Students felt that their teamwork was enhanced by the fact that, for the first time in several years, they were able to meet and ultimately compete in-person.

Most of the team plans to return to the competition in the future to build on their accomplishments, and Howie Chen has expressed his interest in serving as co-advisor after his graduation. “I am certain that the students will be well-prepared for next year, and I cannot wait to see the next chapter of the Massachusetts Green Team.”

The Massachusetts Green Team attends SC22
Top Row: Carlton Knox (BU’23), Vance Raiti (BU’25), Yiran Yin (BU’24); Bottom: Kurt Keville (advisor, MIT), Andrew Nguyen (NEU’24), Po Hao Chen (BU’23), Yida Wang (BU’24)