AI4GOOD@SC19: Apply by Sept. 12!

Join STEM-Trek in Denver, Colorado-US November 16-22 for SC19, the international conference on high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis!

A limited number of registration waivers (conference plus two-day tutorial registrations donated by the conference), and possibly travel support, funds pending, will be available for eligible candidates who apply before September 12.


Cybersecurity professionals, HPC systems administrators, educators, researchers, tech project managers, and network engineers who are responsible for supporting and securing research computing systems and data at colleges and universities in resource-constrained regions are welcome to apply. In the U.S., those meeting the above criteria who work at institutions in EPSCoR states and territories are eligible. We are especially eager to receive applications from women and others from demographics that are under-represented in STEM academics and careers. Applicants must be at least age 21 by November 1, 2019, and work at least 50 percent of the time in a professional support role helping students, faculty and staff leverage locally-hosted, or remotely-accessed advanced cyberinfrastructure for education and open research.

We hope to hold a co-located workshop late afternoon on Saturday, November 16. The format will be similar to the AI4GOOD@PEARC19 workshop (but only AI4GOOD case studies; we will not offer hands-on training or a security panel discussion this time).

STEM-Trek beneficiaries will be required to attend this pre-conference event if they accept a registration waiver or travel award from STEM-Trek.

To Apply

Complete applications must be received by Sept. 12, 2019 close of business.

A curriculum vitae or resume, head-shot photograph and a brief biography (200 words) should be included with a cover letter, supervisor’s recommendation letter and a copy of a photo-identification card. The support letter must address the level of financial support they are expected to receive from their employer. US applicants may provide a photocopy of their driver’s license, state or university-issued identification card. Pan-African applicants must provide a photocopy of their passport photo page. International travelers are responsible for securing their own health insurance, visas (where applicable), and must have at least two blank pages in their passport.

We expect the process will be competitive. Therefore, cover letters must provide a justification for why the applicant should be supported, and how they intend to pay-it-forward—include specific and unique reasons.

All beneficiaries are encouraged to blog for STEM-Trek (one word for every dollar in value of financial and in-kind support received).

Application Checklist (applications must be complete)

  1. Cover letter.
  2. Photo ID copy (or passport photo page).
  3. Professional photograph/head shot. By providing your photo, you acknowledge that STEM-Trek, and its collaborators, may use it for publicity purposes on the public website, and any communications collateral developed for the activity. Photos will be taken during the activity will also be used for promotional purposes unless you officially opt out (see number 7).
  4. Letter of recommendation (dean, director or other supervisor). This letter must disclose the level of financial support offered by the employer (a requirement for sponsorship this year). For example, the employer may cover lodging, flight, per diem, or all of the above. The letter should describe how the university (or host institution) will benefit from the activity, that the applicant’s release time from work is approved, and how the individual intends to share what they have learned with others. For example, they might teach a workshop, conduct a seminar, or mentor students who are following a relevant academic path.
  5. CV/Resume (2-pages maximum).
  6. Brief biography explaining the applicant’s experience and interests (as they relate to HPC; in addition to what is already on their CV/Resume).
  7. Two brief essays (300 words, or one-page total):
    1. “How will this experience benefit me?” and “What are my expectations for this experience?”
    2. “How does the delegate intend to pay-it-forward at home?” (STEM-Trek encourages participants to provide a pay-it-forward proposal that describes how participants intend to share new information with others or how they can contribute in some other meaningful way that supports STEM-Trek objectives).
  8. If you do NOT authorize your photo to be used for publicity purposes, you must still provide a photograph with your application. Explain your reasons for opting out, and ask your adviser/supervisor to support the business case for anonymity in their letter of support.
  9. Delegates must purchase their own travel health insurance if their primary insurance does not cover travel.
  10. Non-US delegates are responsible for obtaining the necessary visas.
  11. All who are approved for support must sign a code-of-conduct which, by signing, indicates they agree to treat others with respect, be on time and attend all planned activities (including sponsored dinners). Travel awards and/or reimbursements are contingent upon delegates’ conduct.

Selections will be made by a multinational committee of volunteer reviewers led by Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek); the strongest applicants will be offered registration waivers at a minimum, and lump-sum travel scholarships (as funds allow). Beneficiaries are responsible for arranging their own lodging and transit. Any awards that are issued are intended to help defray these expenses.

Applications with .jpg and .doc (MSWord) attachments must be received by no later than September 12, 2019. Please use the subject line: APPLICATION FOR AI4GOOD@SC19.

Award notification letters will be issued on or before September 23, 2019. At a minimum, 12 registration waivers with two-day tutorial passes will be awarded. Financial travel awards are contingent upon the success of our fundraising efforts and will be awarded to the most deserving candidates.

Thank you SC19!

Intellectual Merit:

Our primary goal is to train engineers to understand AI and apply it to a broader range of applications.

Much development in this space has been proprietary; the IP is held by wealthy industries that tend not to share, so there is little opportunity for other markets to leverage their innovation. We hope to identify strategies, tools and open-source data that CAN be shared without exposing or exploiting the IP that is rightfully owned by AI4GOOD sponsoring agencies and organizations.

Applications will be encouraged from those who live and work in under-served regions—EPSCoR in the US, and Southern African Development Community (SADC) in sub-Saharan Africa—the longest last miles that stand to benefit the most from AI solutions. We expect them to bring first-hand experience and a passion for service provisioning in the remote areas they represent. Agricultural, finance, health and many other applications for AI stand to serve these regions in the future as they struggle with the impact caused by climate disruption. Since most of the delegates will also have teaching obligations, greater competency with AI will allow them to prepare their region’s workforce for the future.

Dissemination Plan

Media coverage of all activities is recorded on the STEM-Trek site. Here is STEM-Trek media coverage from PEARC17:

Delegates will be contacted via email, and all will have the opportunity to opt-in to social media platforms (FaceBook, WhatsApp). A feature story describing the activity and final outcomes will be released by STEM-Trek Nonprofit, and a post-event feature or features will be written in the following weeks or months. STEM-Trek and its stakeholders (collaborators, speakers and sponsors) will co-market news about the workshop. STEM-Trek has relationships with HPC industry online journals, including HPCwire, Top500, and others. Links to content published on the STEM-Trek site, and other resources will be shared with stakeholders. The HPC Ecosystems Project (Africa) has a Google Group, SIGHPC-RCE (ACM Virtual Special Interest Group for HPC in Resource Constrained Environment), the “Small HPC Centers Managers’ Group, CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Socioeconomic Community of Practice, Research Data Alliance Precision Agriculture and Cybersecurity groups, and the XSEDE Campus Champions. Leake is either an administrative member of these community lists or participates on them.

Data Management Plan (ongoing stewardship)

STEM-Trek beneficiaries are required to submit pay-it-forward (PIF) proposals. In this case, the PIF obligation will be fulfilled through participation on one of the five development teams that will convene in the virtual spaces before, during and after the two conferences. Delegates are encouraged to upload any scholarly papers that come from this experience via FigShare and Google Scholar so others can access them for free and learn from their experience. Some scholars may offer to blog for the event, and their stories are published on the STEM-Trek site; such testimonies provide unique perspectives of the conference experience. They are retained indefinitely and offer a longitudinal record of our training efforts, and what was important to the community at each point in time. Not many other programs can do this; especially if they are grant-funded and lost support after three or five years. STEM-Trek has been in operation since 2012 and is expected to be around for a long time (we hope!).

Data Types and Storage

STEM-Trek collects applicant data that is necessary for applying to the program, providing travel support, and arranging travel. In doing so, we may collect a wide variety of identifier data such as, but not limited to, address, race, university enrollment, age, dietary preferences, and major/area of study, and GPA.

Data Organization, Documentation and Metadata

All data collected, including presentation slides, papers, posters, communications, and submitted travel forms or any other ephemera, are added to a private-access controlled Google Drive folder, maintained by STEM-Trek, that will be deleted 18-months after the event concludes. A temporary email resource is created for the program, using Gmail, that is also deleted 18-months after the event.

Data Access and Intellectual Property

You will not be identified in any publication or in any data files shared with researchers outside of the mentioned principle investigators, reviewers and advisers without your consent. Consent will be sought via email, except for the code-of-conduct form (requiring a separate signature). Your application submission and associated data are confidential. In rare circumstances, federal or state laws may require us to show information to university or government officials, or sponsors. You agree to share your data with the principle investigators who will utilize this data to make decisions regarding your eligibility for the program and travel support. If photographs are taken, we will seek your consent prior to posting them via social media or on the web. We appreciate your participation and willingness to share your information for our consideration.  

Data Sharing and Reuse

All access to data will be limited to STEM-Trek and collaborating institutional representatives. Such access will be provided using web-based applications that are secure and confidential. Materials generated under the project will be disseminated in accordance with collaborating institutions and NSF policies.

Data Preservation and Archiving

All data files collected and created will be managed, processed, and stored in a secure environment (e.g., computer systems with passwords, firewall system in place, power surge protection, virus/malicious intruder protection) and by controlling access to digital files with encryption and/or password protection. The data are stored for 18 months.

Enhancement and Improvement of STEM Research and Educational Activities

Since CI managers at resource-constrained centers wear many hats, they will benefit from access to open-source or low-cost training and tools. These workshops will introduce them to useful resources and methodologies that can be immediately employed when they return home. Since many prospective delegates are educators, the workshops’ ripple effect will be widespread.

Broader Impact

The broader impact of this effort is clear and far-reaching; especially for students and delegates from under-served regions and demographics.

When the Ranger system was donated to the Center for HPC in South Africa in 2012, it had already helped many thousands of U.S. researchers advance discovery and innovation during its production lifetime, before being supplanted by the more powerful NSF-supported Stampede system. Since then, that donation, and subsequent donations from the University of Cambridge, UK, Center for HPC in South Africa, and TACC have allowed students and researchers at 18 African universities in a dozen countries to not only benefit from access to computational resources, but through the additional training and knowledge transfer provided by the NSF-supported STEM-Trek workshops in 2015, 16, and 17.

In 2016-2018, the HPC Ecosystems project (as it is now called) grew beyond the SADC 16-nation region to include Ghana and Ethiopia. As a result of STEM-Trek publicity published after the SC17 program, several more African nations applied for eduGAIN membership, and inquired about forming national research and education networks (NRENs) which will make it possible for them to engage with more globally-collaborative research (and provide unique African data). At each location, a growing number of students, faculty and staff are learning the skills necessary to deploy and operate cluster computers and manage big data from a variety of disciplines.

STEM-Trek workshops typically maintain a 50/50 ratio of US and international delegates. With our SC16 and SC17 workshops, most US delegates were XSEDE Campus Champions. The same will be true for the SC19 workshop (half will be from the US), and we expect many XSEDE Campus Champions will apply. US delegates who attended previous workshops have gone on to collaborate with African colleagues they met at STEM-Trek workshops, and new projects have been formed in Physics, Bio, and Cybersecurity (to name a few). Because they continue to interact via social media, they are establishing trust and confidence that will likely lead to additional international collaborations.

The merit of this exercise rests in the exchange of information and best practice. Open source AI software and operations procedures developed by programs developed under NSF funding will be exchanged with US and international delegates. They will learn useful skills necessary to support local hardware, and engage with federated, cloud-based resources and services sponsored by XSEDE. Participants will also learn from each other, and their relationships will support additional research collaborations among their respective communities in the future.

All workshop materials will be shared with delegates and hosting organizations, so they may continue to teach other researchers and systems administrators in the future. At the close of each workshop, a wrap-up session will encourage suggestions for future proposals. Notes from each meeting will be distributed and may be suitable for a BoF or paper submission for future Supercomputing Conferences (or ACM Special Interest Group for HPC in Resource Constrained Regions). This activity will strengthen the support toolkit used by delegates who are responsible for securing research computing systems, and help scientists understand how AI and secure ledgers could be used to underpin discoveries that change the world.

Broader Impact Success story from a prior NSF-supported STEM-Trek program:

“Because I was able to participate in URISC@SC17, I leveraged the
open-source tools I became acquainted with at the workshop to form an
undergraduate program in cybersecurity at Slippery Rock University of
Pennsylvania. The program was approved last August, and I am now the Director for Cybersecurity and the Advanced Computing Center,” said Nitin Sukhija, PhD.

Here are news items about this activity:




Building an AI-savvy Engineering Workforce

One goal for this workshop series is to provide professional development that will enable technical and educational personnel to become AI leaders in their respective states, territories or nations; these are skills that lead to employment. AI and DLT are being embraced by the Consumer Goods Forum—with representation from commercial giants such as Nestle, Walmart, Proctor and Gamble, and McDonalds; CGF represents 400 stakeholders in 70 countries and employs directly 10 million, and indirectly 90 million along the value chain.1 IBM’s DLT development team reportedly employs 1,500, according to an April 16, 2018 CNBC article by Ruth Umoh.2 IBM is investing heavily in scheduling and resource-management solutions for the many applications that utilize AI.

Underrepresented Populations: This workshop will train emerging CI leaders from populations that have traditionally been underrepresented in CI leadership, including (a) women, (b) underrepresented minorities, (c) those who can pay-it-forward in rural regions, and (d) those who work at institutions in US-EPSCoR jurisdictions. An advocacy session will offer strategies for developing and fostering diverse teams and a culture of inclusion.

Media coverage from past and future projects:

2016 (with support from NSF, Google, Cray, Dell, Intel, and others):

2017 (with support from NSF, Google, Micron Foundation, and others):

The “Longest Last Mile” article was published by HPCwire on January 11, 2018. In February, Leake received a letter from Nick Roy (Internet2/InCommon) thanking her for writing this feature which inspired several African sites to apply for eduGAIN access, and Uganda was (at that time) vetted and had become the 55th eduGAIN member organization. Additional African nation-states sought guidance from existing NRENs and STEM-Trek regarding how they might form NRENS (National Research & Education Networks) after managers read this article.

Through URISC participant survey feedback, we learned that one US university is developing a cybersecurity undergraduate. Open-source resources shared by Von Welch (Indiana University) have been incorporated in that program.

2018 activities with help from Cray, Micron Foundation, SC18 and others

2018 STEM-Trek publicity that prepared stakeholders for the prospect of AI, DLT, and cybersecurity-themed workshops in 2019:

US agency funds would be managed by the partnering academic institution (in this case, NSF grants would be managed by UI; funds subject to allowable institutional indirect). Any funds remaining will be carried over for SC19 and 2020 STEM-Trek activities.

Theme, purpose and scope

Economic empowerment and digital inclusion foster social stability and world peace. But poverty alleviation relies on financial inclusion, and there are still many obstacles to overcome in the world’s poorest regions, especially for women. Earth’s population, currently at 7.6 billion, is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. Half of that growth will take place in nine countries, including India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United States of America, Uganda, and Indonesia. Many African countries are expected to double in size; women and children will comprise the majority.3,4

In developing countries that aren’t fully mechanized, a greater number earn a living from agriculture.With added exposure, farm children are more likely to pursue academic tracks and careers in related industries, but according to the United Nations, the average age of farmers worldwide is 60.5 In the U.S., only about two percent farm (vs. 83 percent in 1800, and 21 percent in 1930). This shift demands a greater emphasis on urban agriculture if we hope to produce enough food, feed, fiber and fuel to meet demands in the future.6

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, climate change disproportionately affects food insecure regions, and extreme poverty is concentrated in rural areas and this is especially true throughout sub-Saharan Africa.Deserts are growing, while urbanization and poor soil management have claimed many arable acres. Poor, agrarian communities lack a social safety net, and are forced to migrate when growing conditions deteriorate.

But even under the best circumstances, poor infrastructure—power, network and roads—diminishes profit margins since transit and inputs are more expensive with each mile. With less financial cushion, farming operations are especially vulnerable to economic shocks. Subsistence farmers benefit from low-interest loans to carry them until crops are sold, but there are few bricks-and-mortar banks in the most remote regions, and credit-based financial portfolios are usually designed to accommodate urban interests.

With broader adoption and coverage of mobile technologies, financial inclusion and precision agriculture are at the fingertips of today’s digitally-savvy farmers. According to World Bank, new and emerging markets spanning all industries can be supported by digital finance solutions that are “smarter” when developed with machine learning methodologies that consider last mile variables. Each presents unique computational challenges that are solved by drawing from a variety of proprietary and open data, which consider risk analyses, market forecasting, economics, actuarial science, supply-chain fulfillment, logistics, cost-recovery analyses, geospatial context, and more. The most useful solutions are developed by multidisciplinary teams. Socially-responsible engineering will lead to cheaper, smarter and more secure agri-business solutions for subsistence farmers.

Last-mile network conditions, combined with Africa’s power grid problems, make mobile technologies the most practical choice for financial, business, recreation and social Internet engagement. But even mobile technologies used in sub-Saharan Africa may seem antiquated by western standards. Hardware is comparatively more expensive and difficult to come by. It’s therefore important for those who develop digital solutions with these consumers in mind to fully understand their needs, challenges and goals. AI4GOOD will inspire the development of digital solutions that are light at the end-point and responsive to a range of devices; not just the latest iPhone. App designers who attend STEM-Trek workshops are encouraged to incorporate ways to teach financial stewardship, privacy and cybersecurity best practices.

Economic empowerment depends on systemic inclusion, which demands a well-informed and digitally-equipped citizenry. Next-generation Internet will require gigabit apps that simply won’t work with older devices; which is already the case for many applications. However, great strides will be made if more engineers design for a broader range of device models now so that those who would benefit the most from access aren’t left further behind in the future.7

*The total number of students andntrainers/facilitators supported will depend upon the total funds raised for this project.


  1. US workforce development road map; visions of the Feb. 14, 2018
    Congressional Hearing, “Beyond Bitcoin: Emerging Applications for DLT Technology,” a Joint hearing from two congressional subcommittees:
  2. Umoh, Ruth, “IBM Blockchain Team is Led by Women; Here’s why
    that’s a big deal in Silicon Valley.” Published by CNBC (April 16, 2018).
  3. Report by the United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social
    Affairs; World Population Prospects (2017, June 21). Accessed Feb. 13,
  4. 2014 Report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (United
    Nations), page 2:
  5. “Towards a Sustainable Future,” Facts and Figures on Life
    Expectancy. Published by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
    Accessed Feb. 13, 2018:
    World Health Organization, Global Health Observatory
    (GHO), Life expectancy for women and men. URL accessed February 13, 2018:
  6. Esters, L. T., and Bowen L. T. (Iowa State University). “Factors
    influencing career choices of urban agricultural education students.” Published
    by the Journal of Agricultural Education, Volume 46, No. 2, 2005. Accessed
    March 3, 2018:
  7. Report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United
    Nations, Rome, 2017: “The Future of Food and Agriculture; Trends and
    Challenges. ”
    Accessed Feb. 28, 2018:
  8. Bigelow, Bruce V. “Smart City Initiative Spurs Gigabit Apps for
    Next Gen Internet,” published by (2018, Feb. 23). Accessed March 1,

Caption for group photo: URISC@SC17 delegates from 11 countries (12 US states/8 EPSCoR) attended a STEM-Trek cybersecurity workshop during the annual supercomputing conference, Nov. 11-16, 2017 in Denver, Colorado-U.S. URISC was supported by US National Science Foundation grants managed by Indiana University and Oklahoma State University, with STEM-Trek donations from Google, Corelight, Hermes Worldwide Transportation, and the SC17 conference (General Chair Bernd Mohr (Jülich Supercomputing Centre) with support from Inclusivity Chair Toni Collis (Collis Holmes Innovations, formerly at U-Edinburgh)).

Leave a Comment

Awesome! You've decided to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated.

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>