Category: News

Applications open for the 2020 Student Cluster Competition

The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) invites applications from suitably qualified candidates to enter the 2020 Student Cluster Competition. The CHPC Student Cluster Competition gives undergraduate students at South African universities exposure to the High Performance Computing industry. The winning team will move on to the international round at the 2021 International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany.
To enter a team, visit and complete the online application form by 23:59 on 14 September 2020. For more information on the CHPC Student Cluster Competition, visit Applications will be processed as they are received and qualifying candidates will be given access to the course content immediately. The centre is running this programme with as much flexibility as possible and encourages students to enter even if it is uncertain if they will be able to complete the course. There are no fees for the course and students may progress at their own pace.

Competition duration

Due to the restrictions in place to combat the spread of COVID-19, the competition’s organising committee has decided to make this round of the competition an online event and spread it out over a period of 10 weeks. The content and total work required to complete the Selection Round remains largely the same as it was in the week-long event that was run in previous years. If you are currently on lockdown without access to the Internet, a computer or a computer lab, you are still encouraged to enter. You do not need to be available from the starting date of the Selection Round and may progress at your own pace. Once you have been entered, you may participate as and when your university makes resources available to you.
For any queries related to the application process, please contact David Macleod at

A new Software Developer for NICIS

As demand continues to rise from the user-base, NICIS welcomes a new staff member. This month, the group welcomed Binjamin Barsch to the CHPC.

Binjamin is joining the CHPC Research Group as a Software Developer with appointment date, 15 July 2020. He is joins from Flightscope where he has been involved and leading software development projects for a number of years.

My name is Binjamin Barsch, pronounced Binyamin. I was born and raised in Cape Town. I currently stay in Kenwyn with my wife. I went to Stellenbosch University where I graduated with a bachelors in engineering in mechatronic engineering in 2012. I also received a masters in engineering from UCT in radar and electronic defense in 2018. In 2013 I started working at FlightScope, a company based in Technopark, Stellenbosch. They design, develop and manufacture sport projectile tracking devices using radar and camera technology. I worked there for 8+ years focusing on radar firmware for the golf, tennis, and athletics products and software development for data analytics, mining, processing and visualisation. I was also the athletics project team lead. My interests and hobbies revolve around learning languages, part-time teaching, robotics, IoT, and parkour. I am excited to join the CHPC as I want to make a positive impact in South Africa. I want to contribute in developing cutting-edge technology and research that will make an impact in South Africa and uplift our society.

In Welcoming Binjamin to his team, CHPC Research Manager, Werner Janse van Rensburg said: “We are excited to welcome Benjamin to the CHPC and we are looking forward to the contributions he will be making to the success of the CHPC and NICIS. Most of us (including him) are of course still locked-down and working from home, but we will make sure to properly welcome him in person at the CHPC when we are all back at work. We will however, be scheduling a virtual welcome via Zoom for him to be introduced to the wider team”.

NICIS gets three new staff

NICS is proud to announce the addition of three new staff members who will be providing additional support to the national cyberinfrastucture system of South Africa. They are Nyameko Lisa and Eugene de Beste for the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and Nhlamulo Chauke for the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA).

A little more about them

Nyameko Lisa

I am passionate about developing people and the transformative power of technology, these are the foundations of the continent’s growth – Nyameko Lisa

Nyameko Lisa joined the CHPC on 1 June 2020 as a High Performance Computing Scientist with CHPC within NICIS. He will be part of the ACE Lab. He holds an undergraduate BSc degree specializing in Physics, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, a Master’s Degree in Physics where he studied and modeled nuclear particle reactions and a Postgraduate qualification in Intellectual Property Law. Nyameko is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Physics.Nyameko is not new to the CSIR as prior to this, he was a Senior Researcher at the National Laser Center. Prior to joining the CSIR, he was a Software Practitioner for the Simulation and Design Group at Denel Dynamics. This was preceded by his time at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station where as a trainee nuclear physicist.

Eugene de Beste

I work hard and enjoy learning new things on and outside of the job. I’m a fan of self-hosting services and trying to de-Google myself where possible. I love container technologies such as Docker and Singularity. I’m a big fan of open source software and I’m also dipping my toes in electronics. I also enjoy running, hiking, squash, and narrative focused video games – Eugene de Beste

Eugene is a young and passionate technology enthusiast who has a history with high-performance and cloud technologies and joins the CHPC as a Senior Technologist. His academic background includes receiving a BSc in Computer Science (Cum Laude) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), followed by a BSc Hons in Information Technology (First Honours) at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and finally an MSc in Bioinforamtics (Cum Laude) at the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) through UWC.
During his undergraduate years he was involved in the CHPC’s Student Cluster Competition as part of the team that got the overall winning position at ISC’14. During and after his MSc he worked at SANBI automating systems, doing general Linux based systems administration, revamping networking, introducing DevOps concepts and designing and implementing a distributed storage (Ceph) and cloud (OpenStack) solution. The development of the aforementioned systems led to his co-developing and implementing the ILIFU Cloud based at UCT, where he was responsible for parts of the OpenStack and Ceph deployment. He has also consulted external companies as a SANBI employee to teach and assist with OpenStack deployment and assisted in the deployment of a prototype eResearch compute cluster at UWC.

Nhlamulo Chauke

I consider myself a hardworking person and during my spare time I enjoy playing computer games – Nhlamulo Chauke

Nhlamulo Chauke joined the CSIR on 1 June 2020 as a Software Developer for DIRISA. He holds a BSc degree in Computer Science and Statistics from the University of Limpopo and is currently studying towards an Honours degree in Statistics with UNISA. He has experience in several programming and scripting languages, and skills in tools for building microservices for robotics. His interests include Data Science and Big Data ecosystems.

Nhlamulo is not new to the CSIR. Upon completion of his Bachelor’s qualification, he joined the CSIR as an intern with the then MDS unit in 2015. He was promoted to a Software Engineer in 2017, and his role included developing software that runs on robots and assembling robots. In 2019, he left the CSIR to join Rand Merchant Bank on a project on migrating their existing architecture (Monolith applications) into a microservices architecture.

Team CHPC takes second prize at the 2020 International Student Cluster Competition

The team of six undergraduate students has done South Africa proud and scooped the second overall prize; results were announced during an online event on June 24 2020.

The Centre for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC) national team was part of 82 university students from 11 countries that spent a month working feverishly on a cluster located at the National Supercomputing Centre of Singapore to try to win the overall prize of the International Supercomputing Competition (ISC) 2020 Student Cluster Competition.

South Africa was participating for the seventh time in the competition and has made it to the podium each time, winning three times, coming second three times and third once.

The ISC Student Cluster Competition went virtual this year and ran from 1 June to 24 June 2020. As part of this year’s competition, the ISC organising committee joined the global fight against COVID-19, and the competition included applications that address education and applied learning towards accelerating bioscience research and discovery. The student teams were tasked with testing several applications that are used by scientists and researchers to find cures against the virus.

Team South Africa is made up of six undergraduate students from Wits University, the University of the Western Cape and the University of KwaZulu-Natal namely Guy Axelrod, Victoria Bench, Michael Beukman, Sivenathi Madlokazi, Mikhail Vink and Kalreen Govender as well as Stephanie Agenbag who was the reserve from the University of the Western Cape. The team proceeded to the international round after winning the national one held in December 2019 at the CHPC’s National Conference in Johannesburg. Team South Africa is one of the only teams made up of undergraduate students and is also one of the few that does not have the same participants twice. “For the students to spend almost a month on this competition shows a lot of dedication in itself. The novelty of the applications was geared towards drug discovery using HPC. Well done to the entire team, the mentors from the CHPC and the organisers who ensured that this year’s competition take place irrespective of the challenges the world faced.

The participation of the team for the whole month mimicked the actual challenge that NICIS is facing now which is to ensure that we provide HPC resources for COVID-19 combat efforts in the country, whilst simultaneously looking at addressing issues of connectivity to enhance on-line learning.”, said the Centre Manager of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastucture System.

The ISC Student Cluster Competition encourages international teams of university students to showcase their expertise in a friendly, yet spirited competition, that fosters critical skills, professional relationships, competitive spirit and lifelong comradery. Since 2011, ISC has focused on introducing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students to the world of possibilities that is High Performance Computing (HPC) – its leaders, opportunities and community, and helping develop critical skills that students will use long after completing their current studies. Each team comprised six students and up to two advisers, competes in the competition and takes part in the world’s oldest, and Europe’s premier, conference and networking event for the international HPC community.

Over the intense competition days, the teams demonstrate incredible capabilities to obtain the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications. In parallel to their day-to-day learnings, the students’ novel approaches and unique perspectives gained during the competition are integral to our own education – teaching us how HPC influences our world.