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High Performance Fast Computing Challenge

Improve the speed of computational fluid dynamics algorithms in NASA's FUN3D software. Read Overview...
Total Prize Amount
$55,000
Overview

Overview

Do you want to help aerospace engineers solve problems faster? Does the phrase “nonlinear partial differential equations used for unsteady computations” excite you? Do you want to try yourself with the complex computational software that NASA scientists use? This might be the challenge for you.

NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) is responsible for developing technologies that will enable future aircraft to burn less fuel, generate fewer emissions and make less noise.  Every U.S. aircraft and U.S. air traffic control tower has NASA-developed technology on board. It's why we like to say, NASA is with you when you fly!

We need to increase the speed of computations on the Pleiades supercomputer, specifically for computational fluid dynamics, by orders of magnitude, and could use your help!

This isn’t a quest for the faint of heart. As a participant, you’ll need to gain access to FUN3D software through an application process with the US Government.  Although this software usually runs on the Pleiades supercomputer, you can download and run it locally after applying HERE.

 

Background

NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) is tasked with innovating at the cutting edge of aerospace.  Their work includes Innovation in Commercial Supersonic Aircraft, Ultra-efficient Commercial Vehicles and Transitioning to Low-Carbon Propulsion while also supporting the development of launch vehicles and planetary entry systems.  These strategic thrusts are supported by advanced computational tools, which enable reductions in ground-based and in-flight testing, provide added physical insight, enable superior designs at reduced cost and risk, and open new frontiers in aerospace vehicle design and performance.

The advanced computational tools include the NASA FUN3D software which is used for solving nonlinear partial differential equations, known as Navier-Stokes equations, used for steady and unsteady flow computations including large eddy simulations in computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Despite tremendous progress made in the past few decades, CFD tools are too slow for simulation of complex geometry flows, particularly those involving flow separation and multi-physics (e.g. combustion) applications. To enable high-fidelity CFD for multi-disciplinary analysis and design, the speed of computation must be increased by orders of magnitude.

NASA is seeking proposals for improving the performance of the NASA FUN3D software running on the NASA Pleiades supercomputer.  The desired outcome is any approach that can accelerate calculations by a factor of 10-1000x without any decrease in accuracy and while utilizing the existing hardware platform.

 

This challenge is being supported by HeroX and Topcoder and proposals are being accepted for 2 separate opportunities:

  1. Ideation (this page) - Ideas and approaches may include, but are not limited to exploiting algorithmic developments in such areas as grid adaptation, higher-order methods and efficient solution techniques for high performance computing hardware.  Ideation responses can be submitted by clicking the accept challenge button above.
  2. Architecture (Topcoder) - Optimize individual software module code and inter-node processing in order to reduce overall model computation time and parallelization efficiency is the goal of this second challenge.   Ideal submission may include algorithm optimization of the existing code base, Inter-node dispatch optimization or a combination of the two.  Unlike the Ideation challenge, which is highly strategic, this challenge focuses on measureable improvements of the existing FUN3D suite and is highly tactical.   See Topcoder for full details.

 

FUN3D Software:

Description-

The FUN3D software is written predominantly in Modern Fortran. The software is evolving

steadily in multi-language directions for reasons other than performance. Currently, a standard

computational task in the CFD area takes from thousands to millions of computational

core-hours.

FUN3D is:

  • Code developed by the US Government at US taxpayer expense
  • Flow analysis solver is written in Fortran, other components are written in C++ and Ruby
  • Code which can be applied to a wide range of fluid dynamic problems, and
  • Has a number of code features which represent leading-edge technology
  • Is export controlled research code

 

Instructions to Request FUN3D-

FUN3D can be requested at https://software.nasa.gov/software/LAR-18968-1

FUN3D Application Guidance

  • FUN3D has strict export laws so only US citizens may apply for the software and compete in this challenge. 
  • Use only personal non-affiliated emails like Gmail or Yahoo.  Company or .edu emails should not be used since you are competing as an individual and they imply affiliation.
  • There is a question in the application that asks you to explain the purpose for which the software is to be used.   You may simply put:  “HeroX HPFCC Challenge”
  • You should plan to install the Fun3D on your own computer, NOT one provided by your company or school.  
  • No other individuals besides yourself should be using this software and you should answer affirmative to the question asking if it will be used in-house only.
  • You should use your full name for the recipient (Company/ University) Name question.
  • Once your request has been accepted you will get an email notification informing you will need to sign the  Software User Agreement.   Once you log back into the NASA Software portal and you should see your request in the Pending state, there will be “action” button with an option to sign the SUA.   This does not mean your application is complete.  Once you sign, the final step is to verify your address.
  • Once you sign the Software agreement (SUA) you will be sent a letter via the US mail which will contain a passcode.    You may respond to the email provided in the letter and include the passcode.  After you send the email which includes the passcode you should receive instructions to download the software within one business day.


You will need to get started on this right away, as this approval process will take several weeks.  While you are waiting for the software request to be processed you can download and read the FUN3D documentation and manual.  

 

NASA Pleiades supercomputer:

The FUN3D software is typically run on the NASA Pleiades supercomputer.  Pleiades is a distributed-memory Silicon Graphics Inc. SGI ICE cluster connected with InfiniBand® in a dual-plane hypercube technology.

 

Pleiades Current System Architecture

  • 161 racks (11,472 nodes)
  • 7.25 Pflop/s peak cluster
  • 4.09 Pflop/s LINPACK rating
  • 132 Tflop/s HPCG rating
  • Total CPU cores: 246,048
  • Total memory: 938 TB

 

Information about Pleiades can be found here.

 

Questions about this challenge, FUN3D software, and the Pleiades supercomputer may be emailed to NASA at:

 

Prizes

A prize purse of up to $55,000 in overall cash prizes is available:

  • HeroX Ideation Awards - up to $20,000
    • First place - $10,000
    • 2 - runner up awards - $5,000 each
  • Topcoder Architecture Awards - up to $35,000
    • 1st Place $15,000
    • 2nd Place $10,000
    • Qualified Improvement Candidate Prize Pool  $10,000
    • See Topcoder for full details

 

Ideation Challenge Overview

The High Performance Fast Computing Challenges is about optimizing source code to improve NASA’s FUN3d Computational Fluid Dynamics suite in such a way that flow analysis that previously took months to compute can now be done in days or even hours.  We are hoping this challenge will identify ideas that will improve FUN3D to complete complex flow analysis 1000x faster.  We think there are several approaches to finding solutions that will help NASA achieve 1000x performance improvement and they don’t all require you to be an aeronautical engineer.  Ideas and approaches may include, but are not limited to exploiting algorithmic developments in such areas as grid adaptation, higher-order methods and efficient solution techniques for high performance computing hardware.

 

How do I win and Ideation Prize?

To be eligible for an award, your ideation proposal must, at minimum:

  • Be a US citizen over the age of 18 at the time of submission
  • Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements (Entries that do not satisfy the judging scorecard may not be scored.)
  • Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
  • Be scored higher than your competitors!

 

Ideation Judging Score Card

 

Section

Description

Overall Weight

Improvement Potential

  • By what factor is it likely that the solution will improve calculation speed? (Target is 10-1000x’s improvement)
  • Validity of theory and reasoning

40

Accuracy

  • Will the proposed solution maintain the current accuracy of models?

20

Feasibility & practicality

  • How feasible is the implementation?
  • How much time and effort will it take to implement the proposed solution?

20

Originality

  • Leveraging all the data and resources available
  • Imagination in approach
  • Adaptation or creation of new approaches

 

10

X-factor

  • How does your submission go above and beyond the sections above?

10

 

Ideation Rules

Participation Eligibility:

The Prize is open to those eligible to obtain FUN3D: US Persons (US Citizens, Permant Residents/Green Card holders, and those in the U.S. as a protected political asylee or under amnesty), on US soil, age 18 or older, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. If you are a NASA employee, a Government contractor, or employed by a Government Contractor, your participation in this challenge may be restricted.

Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement, which will be made available upon registration.

 

Intellectual Property

Innovators who are awarded a prize for their submission must agree to grant NASA a an irrevocable, royalty free, perpetual, sublicensable, transferable, and worldwide license to use and permit others to use all or any part of the solution including, without limitation, the right to make, have made, sell, offer for sale, use, rent, lease, import, copy, prepare derivative works, publicly display, publicly perform, and distribute all or any part of such solution, modifications, or combinations thereof and to sublicense (directly or indirectly through multiple tiers) or transfer any and all such rights. See the Challenge-Specific Agreement, which will be made available upon registration, for full details on intellectual property.

 

Registration and Submissions:

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before 5:00pm EST on June 29, 2017. All uploads must be in PDF format. No late submissions will be accepted.

 

Selection of Winners:

Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the weighted Judging Criteria section above.

 

Judging Panel:

The determination of the winners will be made by HeroX based on evaluation by relevant NASA specialists.

 

Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.
Timeline
Updates (5)

NASA Cancels its High Performance Fast Computing Challenge

June 16, 2017, 10:30 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Hello NASA Innovators,

HeroX would like to offer our deepest gratitude to everyone who has shown an interest in the High-Performance Fast Computing Challenge thus far. Your enthusiasm and desire to improve the world are what creates game-changing breakthroughs to some of the world's toughest and most pressing problems.

Unfortunately, we are tasked today with announcing some disappointing news for all of us.
 

After careful deliberation, NASA has decided to cancel the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge competition it announced six weeks ago.  See below to see the full text of NASA’s press release explaining their decision.


But don’t despair, friends! The best thing about HeroX is that there is always another way to contribute. In fact, today we’re announcing a pretty fun one: it’s called The HeroX Fortran Storytelling Competition.  We have already seen some good stories about Fortran in reaction to the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge, and we want to hear more. There is a total of $1,750 up for grabs for the best Fortran Stories shared on video!

 

And if you were really excited to contribute to NASA’s space missions, we’ve got another coming soon.  Sign up to be the first to hear about our upcoming NASA project involving CubeSats.

​ 


NASA’s Press Release was originally posted here:

NASA Cancels its High Performance Fast Computing Challenge

After careful deliberation, NASA has decided to cancel the competition it announced six weeks ago that was designed to solicit the public’s help in speeding up its Pleiades supercomputer software.

Called the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge, the contest was designed to reward qualified contenders who could change the agency’s FUN3D design software so that it could run 10 to 1,000 times faster without a decrease in accuracy.

The extremely high number of applicants, more than 1,800, coupled with the difficulty in satisfying the extensive vetting requirements to control the public distribution of the software made it unlikely we would achieve the challenge’s original objectives in a timely manner.

NASA looked at several alternatives to keep the challenge design intact – things like significantly extending of the challenge performance period, and offering a much smaller portion of the code. Neither were considered viable options.

'We truly appreciate the huge amount of interest shown in this challenge,' said Richard Barhydt, deputy director of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program. 'It shows that people support what we’re doing and wants to get involved.'

At this time, NASA has no plans to reorganize and offer this particular challenge again. However, the agency firmly supports the use of prize challenges to solve difficult problems and engage a broader community in agency activities.”


Big News About the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge

June 5, 2017, noon PDT by Maureen Murtha

Hello Community,

First off, thanks for your continued patience. We've been overwhelmed by the excitement for the challenge following press coverage and the exceptional community that's come together as a result. This challenge has really taken on a life of its own!

All that being said, we're very aware many of you are eagerly awaiting access to FUN3D software, and still wondering about the status of your application. We wanted to share with you that while it is an important protection, export controlled software is difficult to access, especially when a large number of people are interested in getting access simultaneously (as is the situation with this competition.)

In regard to this situation, it's important to be aware that NASA is committed to making sure the playing field is level and fair for all.  And great news, NASA is hard at work creating a custom software package for release through their software release catalog, so you can begin working on your solution that much faster!

The public release of this software is anticipated for the end of June.  As you might expect, we're extending the submission deadline by roughly 3 months to allow all competitors ample time to formulate their submissions.

You can expect additional follow-up announcements over the coming weeks with updated instructions and timelines for this new plan.

Thanks so much for sticking with it! We truly couldn't do this without the community commitment and understanding. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, and feel free to leave them as a comment to this update.

 


Timing Updates on the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge

May 17, 2017, 11:01 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Hello again, High-Performance Fast Computing Community -  it's week three of the submission phase, and there's already over two thousand of you.

That's wonderful!

There's a good chance you found your way here from one of the numerous articles featuring the challenge; the press coverage for this competition has been fantastic - check it out for yourself on our Press Page

One result of this surge of interest is that NASA will require some extra time to process all the software requests.  NASA is committed to getting everyone who is interested and eligible involved.  

Due to the amazing level of interest, we're working on a new, extended challenge timeline that will accommodate those interested and eligible so that there will be adequate time to apply for the software, receive it, and complete your design for submission. 

If you haven't already, apply for the software by June 29th (that deadline stays the same) and stay tuned for an updated timeline!


Can't Spell FUN3D Without Fun!

May 10, 2017, 11:21 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Well hello there!

We're thrilled with the rapid growth of this community, and would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone just catching up with the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge! It's worth noting that some of the surge is likely to due the excellent press coverage the competition has received thus far. Check out our press page to see articles in New York Times, Popular Mechanics, and other well-known publications. 

Notes of Clarification on the Competition

We know you've had a lot of questions regarding eligibility for this competition as well how to properly petition for access to the software. First of all - thanks for your sincere interest! We're really excited where this competition is headed. Now, to address your questions: 

1) On eligibility
In order to be eligible for FUN3D and participate in the ARMD HPFCC you must be a US Person (this includes US Citizens, Permanent Residents/Green Card holders and those in the U.S. as a protected political asylee or under amnesty); currently on US soil; and age 18 or older.

2) Directions for accessing the FUN3D software
FUN3D can be requested at https://software.nasa.gov/software/LAR-18968-1

 

FUN3D Application Guidance

FUN3D has strict export laws so only US Persons may apply for the software and compete in this challenge. 

  • Use only personal non-affiliated emails like Gmail or Yahoo.  Company or .edu emails should not be used since you are competing as an individual and they imply affiliation.
     
  • There is a question in the application that asks you to explain the purpose for which the software is to be used.  You may simply put:  “HeroX HPFCC Challenge”
     
  • You should plan to install the Fun3D on your own computer, NOT one provided by your company or school.  
     
  • No other individuals besides yourself should be using this software and you should answer affirmative to the question asking if it will be used in-house only.
     
  • You should use your full name for the Recipient Name (Company/ University) question. Do NOT attempt to list a company or university.
     
  • Once your request has been accepted you will get an email notification informing you will need to sign the Software User Agreement.  Once you log back into the NASA Software portal and you should see your request in the Pending state, there will be “action” button with an option to sign the SUA.  This does not mean your application is complete.  Once you sign, the final step is to verify your address.
     
  • Once you sign the software user agreement (SUA) you will be sent a letter via the US mail which will contain a passcode. You may respond to the email provided in the letter and include the passcode.  After you send the email which includes the passcode you should receive instructions to download the software within one business day.

You will need to get started on this right away, as this approval process will take several weeks.  While you are waiting for the software request to be processed you can download and read the FUN3D documentation and manual.  

 


NASA Issues a Challenge to Speed Up Its Supercomputer Code

May 3, 2017, 7:30 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Fancy yourself a top-tier programmer? NASA has a challenge for you.

NASA’s aeronautical innovators are sponsoring a competition to reward qualified contenders who can manipulate the agency’s FUN3D design software so it runs ten to 10,000 times faster on the Pleiades supercomputer without any decrease in accuracy.

The competition is called the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge (HPFCC), and it is officially open for submission. 

“This is the ultimate ‘geek’ dream assignment,” said Doug Rohn, director of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP). “Helping NASA speed up its software to help advance our aviation research is a win-win for all.”

This challenge is being supported by HeroX and Topcoder and proposals are being accepted for 2 separate opportunities:

HeroX is accepting submissions for ideas and concepts, while Topcoder is accepting submissions for software architecture optimizations.

How could you pass up an opportunity like this? We'll see you over the next 57 days until the competition closes on June 29th. May the best nerd win! 


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