Welcome to the XSEDE13 Student Programming Competition


Showcase your team's programming skills by participating in this exciting, fast-paced onsite contest. With access to parallel computing resources, teams (of up to five members) will receive a variety of interesting computational science problems to address at the conference. Awards will recognize creativity, quality of solutions, and good coding practices of the teams who solve the most problems during the daylong competition.

Students participating in the XSEDE13 Student Programming Competition must be registered as part of the Student Program for XSEDE13. For more information on the XSEDE13 Student Program, please visit the student information page. To register for the XSEDE13 conference, please visit the registration page .


There will be ten problems sets presented to each team at the start of the competition. Problem sets will be loaded onto the LittleFe machines and will be available online and in hardcopy form. Teams may choose from a variety of programming languages to solve each problem set: C, C++, Fortran, Perl, Python, and/or Java. Parallel solutions are encouraged but will not factor into the grading. Teams needing an assigned programmer to join their team may request one in their application to participate, as well as upon arrival.

So that teams know what to expect from the competition, sample problem sets will be posted each week beginning April 30, 2013 at HPC University's weekly challenge page. Please be sure to take advantage of this opportunity, as it will help teams more fully prepare for the competition. There is also an archive of past competition problem sets at this link that you many also use to prepare.

More details on the competition can be found at the competition guidelines page.


Prior to the competition, teams are encouraged to become familiar with the Bootable Cluster CD operating system (BCCD) and the LittleFe cluster, and to work closely with domain scientists to understand the hardware and the sample competition problem sets. This is a wonderful learning opportunity for students, and we hope team members, the supervisor and research partners collaborate to maximize the educational impact.


Once the competition starts, student teams will not be allowed to receive assistance from supervisors or research partners. Dedicated XSEDE13 supervisors will be on hand to provide assistance with any questions about hardware, software, or general concepts related to the problem sets.

The LittleFe units will not be connected to the Internet during the competition. Teams are encouraged to bring laptops for connecting to the Internet.


Here are our overarching rules during the XSEDE13 competition:

  • Safety First. Equipment configurations are always subject to safety as first consideration. If it cannot be done safely then it is unacceptable. When in doubt, ask an XSEDE13 supervisor.

  • Hands off. No one can touch the LittleFe equipment physically after the competition starts, except to plug in and unplug the keyboard, mouse, monitor cable, and any USB drives needed to transfer data to and from the LittleFe. If there is a need to touch the equipment an official XSEDE13 supervisor needs to be called and will rule on the issue. The only exception is in keeping with Rule 1: if an unsafe condition is found, anyone can power down the equipment, and an XSEDE13 supervisor must be called immediately afterwards.

  • Powered on at all times. All equipment used for running the LittleFe machines must be used when running the competition applications (i.e. You cannot run LINPACK on half the machine and then power up the whole system to run the competition applications).

  • No rebooting. Reboots are only necessary for hung or failed hardware. XSEDE13 supervisors must be notified before rebooting any hardware.

  • Assistance from others. Prior to the competition, teams are encouraged to work closely with peers and domain scientists to understand their hardware and the sample competition problem sets. This is a wonderful learning opportunity for the students, and we hope team members collaborate to maximize the educational impact. Once the competition starts, student teams will not be allowed to receive assistance from supervisors or audience members. Each team will be on their own to work through the competition problem sets.

  • No late solutions will be graded. Problems are due at the end of the competition and will be submitted via USB flash drives provided by the XSEDE13 supervisors. No late submissions will be accepted for grading.


Judging and Awards During the XSEDE13 Student Programming Competition, student teams will compete to solve problems related to:

  • Prime number calculation
  • Cellular automata
  • Genomics
  • n-body simulation
  • Graph traversal
  • Agent modeling
  • Monte Carlo simulation

Points will be awarded for all components listed above, and some others. The team scoring the highest aggregate points across all components will be the winner of the competition for the group's level in school (high school, undergraduate, or graduate, determined by the team member with the highest level in school). Recognition will also be given to the team with the most creative solutions overall and the team chosen as the Fan Favorite by XSEDE13 participants.


The aggregate scores from the categories of good software engineering (good documentation, clear and concise code, correctness of solution), speed and/or speedup of solution, and analysis/presentation will determine the winner. Each of the ten problem set components will be weighted evenly towards the final score.


When the XSEDE13 Programming Competition begins on Tuesday morning, July 23, teams will meet and check in at 8:00am at the Point Loma/Solana Room of the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. The competition will continue until 4:00pm. Lunch will be brought to the competition room.


Scientific problem sets will be chosen prior to the competition and will only be made available when the competition begins. Teams may study the problem sets prior to beginning the event after the problem sets have been revealed. The event will strive to provide more data than the teams can expect to process in the time allotted. One aspect of the competition will be determining the strategy for solving the problem sets to maximize the team's points.

It is not necessary to fully understand the science behind each application to succeed in the competition. The solutions will, in general, compile and run on our LittleFe cluster, and require only standard mathematical and message-passing libraries. What may help your team, at the time of the challenge, is an ability to analyze the input and understand the computational resources required for a given problem set. Points will be given for solutions that follow good software engineering and show clear progress toward a solution, regardless of an understanding of the science behind the problem.


During the competition, teams will be given the chance to showcase their abilities and continuously present application output on a large high-resolution display on the competition floor. Teams should strive to impress XSEDE13 participants and judges (potential employers) with their ability to convey their HPC knowledge through visualizations, interviews, ream compatibility, and all-around-friendliness. The judges will observe the team synchrony and interview each team on HPC knowledge pertaining to the competition, including the competition problem sets. Teams will also be responsible for a short presentation to other student participants. More details on the interview procedures and presentations will be emailed to registered teams and also available at the competition guidelines page after June 12, 2013.


Recognition will be given for the most creative solution. Last year, a problem set involved computational mathematics and parallel programming, where students were asked to estimate the area of the unit circle as a way of generating pi. The students were coaxed to see that all aspects of the problem were based on mathematics they already knew, and in fact, all aspects of their solution would be based on mathematics they already knew. This was the twist in the problem, since computational mathematics requires computers and computer representations of number. The computer solution that the students would come up with would require much creative thinking and problem solving to improve on the few digits produced by a brute force solution. One student approached part way through the competition and confessed that since he knew MPI well and the mathematics was so straightforward, he knew his team would win. He then realized there was more knowledge needed to be effective solving the problem. This is what we mean by creative problem solving.


Throughout the competition, XSEDE13 participants will vote for their favorite Student Programming Competition team. This is your chance to impress the greater XSEDE13 audience and get noticed.


“This programming competition is more educational than my last year of CS. I know the conventional classroom education is essential, but I also know good problem solving experiences are essential.”
– Rice University student

“During and after the competition, groups of students would come up to me and ask for guidance on problem solving, on computational mathematics, on being the kind of student to be able to solve these kinds of problems more easily. I consider this to be a wildly successful event!”
– Tom Murphy, Contra Costa College


Applications Open: April 30, 2013

Applications Close: May 30, 2013

Notification: June 12, 2013


Team submissions are now being accepted for the XSEDE13 Student Programming Competition, a spirited event featuring young supercomputing talent from around the world competing to solve an array of problem sets. The deadline for team submissions is Friday, May 30, 2013.

Created as an opportunity to showcase student expertise in a friendly yet spirited competition, the XSEDE13 Student Programming Competition aims to introduce the next generation of students to the high-performance computing community. Over the last couple of years, the competition has drawn teams from around the world, including China, South America, Canada, Africa and Europe.

Team proposals must be submitted via the XSEDE13 Student Programming Competition Submission site. All competition questions can be sent to Kathy Traxler, Education, Outreach, Training, at ktraxler@lsu.edu or 225-279-2540.


XSEDE, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, is a National Science Foundation-supported project that brings together supercomputers, data collections, and computational tools and services to support science and engineering research and education. The annual XSEDE conference focuses on the science, education, outreach, software, and technology used by the XSEDE and other related communities worldwide. Hundreds of researchers, technology experts, educators, and students from around the globe will come together in San Diego for XSEDE13, July 21-25, 2013. For more information, please visit the XSEDE 13 site.

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