23 March 2022 - High performance computing Heidelberg Students at International Competition for High Performance Computing

Under the name "Heidelbears", a team of Heidelberg students are participating in the ISC Student Cluster Competition (SCC) - supported and supervised by experts from the University Computing Centre. This is now the fifth time that Heidelberg University has been able to send a student team to the competition.

Bear with a coffee mug and the text “The Heidelbears”

The SCC is an annual international competition that brings students together from around the world to compete in the field of high performance computing. In the competition, the participants tackle various challenges taken from the world of high performance computing (HPC).

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the competition is being held in a hybrid format. For the digital part, in which seventeen international teams are participating, the students must optimize several HPC applications for predetermined external HPC clusters. The applications can be used, e.g., to calculate weather forecasts and climate models, analyze turbulent flows or solve problems in molecular engineering. Additionally, participants must reprogram an HPC application to run as quickly as possible on specific new hardware.

For the on-site part of the competition, in which only the five European teams will participate, the students must build and configure a “mini-HPC cluster” and run applications on it with the highest performance possible. The hardware components can be selected freely but may not exceed a power limit of 3000W. For the digital competition, the available computing resources include supercomputers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), the University of Toronto and the HPC Advisory Council High-Performance Center in Sunnyvale, California.

The digital competition is taking place from 14 March to 12 May 2022. The on-site competition in Hamburg will run from 30 May to 1 June 2022. During this time, the students will be able to work on the tasks as well as optimize their results and the associated presentations. On 1 June 2022, the winner of the competition will be announced.

“It is a great challenge to keep all participants engaged over the course of several months and with the fluctuating intensity of the competition. Fortunately, our students are intrinsically motivated and very independent,” explain Aksel Alpay and Alexander Haller from the URZ service area Future IT - Research & Education, who together have taken over the coaching of the team. “It's also very helpful that Heidelberg has gained a lot of experience by participating regularly in the SCC.”

The Student Cluster Competition is part of ISC High Performance, which is one of the world's largest exhibition and conference events for high-performance computing. This year it will take place partially in Hamburg and partially in a digital format. The competition is jointly organized by the ISC Group and HPC-AI Advisory Council.

The Team


I love working with computers. I like researching the components, building them, and testing different things on them. I'm fascinated by the idea of working with computers that are way more powerful than the current home PCs (even though there are already some quite powerful setups). Therefore, I totally love the opportunity I'm given here to work with HPC clusters and their surrounding challenges.

Oliver Arndt, B.Sc. Computer Science


During my bachelor studies in mechatronics, I've developed a strong interest in computer science. For me, it was the automation aspect of computer programs that fascinated me the most. Computers can be used for so many things and their potential to automate processes in order to create value for humanity is gigantic. […] I see the SSC as a great opportunity to deepen my knowledge of high-performance computing and to build up new connections in that field. My hopes are that it will be a unique experience allowing me to help solve our very hard problems a little bit faster.

Eric Matthias Kern, M. Sc. Computer Engineering, inoffizielles SCC-Teammitglied


I was always fascinated by the power of HPC and what you can do with it, especially what kinds of algorithms are the best to perform well on hardware with, for example, a large number of CPU cores […]. I am looking forward to use my skills for the ISC SCC 2022 and enhance my knowledge to the next level.

Kevin Klein, B.Sc. Computer Science


I started my programming experience in school with Java and then worked during my bachelor studies at a software company which produces its own ERP system. There I developed my interest in databases and connecting various services via REST APIs. Privately I started with Arduino controllers and later with Raspberry Pi-controlled projects. I am especially interested in the interaction of the self-built circuits and hardware and the corresponding software. Therefore, I am also looking forward to working on our own cluster on the hardware level during the SCC and to use it later on the software level.

Manuel Philipp, M. Sc. Computer Engineering


What draws me most to high-performance computing is that it is the literal bridge that connects the mathematical notion of „what-is“ to the computational framework of „how-to“. I have had my fair share of seduction to HPC from the Computational Fluid Dynamics lecture, where I realized how colossal large linear systems could be in real life. With a keen interest in CFD and numerics, I want to participate in ISC to experience and build such a „bridge“ for a practical problem.

Purusharth Saxena, M. Sc. Scientific Computing


As a participant in the previous edition of ISC SCC, in 2021, I learnt about the technical aspects such as the fine-tuning of performance of the high performance applications for specific hardware, for example how to think about trade-offs in accuracy and precision for performance gains in GPUs. […] I am looking forward to participating in the competition once again, where I will get to improve upon the knowledge I gained last year, and hopefully also get to meet the other competing teams.

Sanchi Vaishnavi, M. Sc. Scientific Computing, Team Captain


After participating in the virtual ISC Student Cluster Competitions in 2020 and 2021 and working with different HPC applications, I managed to gather many insights on how to work on clusters. Last year’s weather model WRF in particular caught my interest. This led to me running some forecasts on my local machine. Obviously, I also came across ICON, which caught my eye since it is actually used by the DWD (Deutscher Wetter Dienst). Since ICON is part of this year’s applications it is a major motivation for me to participate again.

Holger Wünsche, M. Sc. Data and Computer Science