By Kaylee Jones, Rylee Au, and Michaela Kovalsky
Hi! We are Kaylee, Rylee, and Michaela (pictured left to right), undergraduates at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. This year, we attended the Supercomputing Conference (SC23) in Denver. We were very excited and also a little nervous to attend our first major conference. With the help of Elizabeth Leake from STEM-Trek, the registration and sign-up process went smoothly.
Our first two days in Denver were at STEM-Trek’s energy-themed pre-conference workshop, NRG@SC23. This experience provided us the opportunity to get to know the STEM-Trek cohort from six countries and 12 U.S. states and to learn more about the universities and programs they represent. Additionally, the workshop allowed us to get acclimated before SC23 – a huge conference that drew more than 14,000 attendees from around the world.
This year’s theme was “I am HPC.” As SC unfolded, we quickly discovered that it’s tailored to everyone; private industry/enterprises, government agencies, and academic institutions. There were so many different events to sign up for that we had a difficult time choosing! Highlights from the first few days included cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) workshops, and the grand opening of the exhibition hall. These events connected the small concepts we’ve learned during our undergraduate education to the much larger realm of high-performance computing (HPC).
The exhibition hall was very impressive. We spent two days walking around and viewing all of the cool new things that each company or agency showcased, and it still wasn’t enough time to see what everyone had to offer! We loved hearing about the groundbreaking strides companies and academic institutions are taking to create a better, more efficient HPC community.
Thanks to members of the STEM-Trek cohort, we also had the pleasure of attending the Women in High Performance Computing (HPC) night. We thoroughly enjoyed this evening and were filled with happiness upon seeing the astounding support from both the women and men who attended. Listening to everyone’s advice and support really inspired us to become involved in the computing world! We hope to attend more conferences and symposiums just like this in the future.
In our current undergrad education, we don’t receive a lot of exposure to supercomputing. SC23 gave us insight into new technologies as well as grad school opportunities we could experience in the near future. We hope to use our new-found knowledge to create an Academy team for next year’s student cluster competition!
We wanted to give a special thanks to everyone who made this conference possible: to Dr. Shannon Beck (USAF Academy) for all of her hard work coordinating our attendance and to Elizabeth Leake and STEM-Trek for sponsoring us and making us feel welcome – thank you!
Some more fun pictures from the exhibit:
- Major: Computer Science
- Something I learned at SC23: How expensive and energy consuming HPC is. Prior to this conference, I knew that HPC is hosted in huge server rooms that are pumped full of air conditioning to cool, while circulating the heat out. During one of the workshops, I learned that engineers are developing novel cooling innovation and making hardware more efficient, so it doesn’t consume as much energy.
- Favorite Part: Walking through the exhibit hall and talking to the wonderful vendors. I was able to learn a lot about the private sector, government sector, and other academic institutions’ contributions to the HPC world and the direction they want their research/further advancements to head in.
- Major: Data Science
- Something I learned: I enjoyed talking to a representative for the Naval Research Laboratory. He told me about a 3D printing project where they designed a stabilization device for 3D printers on board ships (3D prints are distorted when not printed on level surfaces). This is so that when a ship needs a printable repair, printing is possible on the ship instead of going off route to dock and wait for the piece to print on land which adds hours of delay!
- Favorite Part: I absolutely loved talking to all of the representatives of research projects, academic institutions, and computing companies. I even solved a cube puzzle and won a North Face jacket!
- Major: Data Science and Systems Engineering
- Something I learned: Cooling is critical to HPC systems and comes in many forms. I talked to many experts about the advantages and disadvantages of water and air cooling.
- Favorite Part: I loved seeing all of the collaboration between academic institutions and industry. Everyone was extremely passionate about their work and open to helping others in the HPC community.
Thank you, sponsors!
A special thanks to Dr. Shannon Beck from the U.S. Air Force Academy for helping these cadets get to SC23, and STEM-Trek sponsors who helped in other ways.