Activity Report of Open Application Program 2022 vol.3 (Course A)
University Students from Indonesia Learn How to Use Supercomputers and Large−scale Computer Science Networks
Meson Science Laboratory, RIKEN
Report from Dr. Isao Watanabe
This program, in collaboration with Chokroaminoto Palopo University on Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, aims to train students on the actual operation of large−scale computer facilities in Japan and on a large−scale computer science network covering Japan. Unfortunately, due to COVID−19, they did not come to Japan for a long time, although the first application for the program had already been accepted last year. However, with the easing of immigration restrictions this year, they were able to come to Japan right before the students who applied for the program graduated.
They visited "Fugaku", one of the world's leading supercomputers, and other large−scale computer facilities that are active in actual research at Japanese universities, and interacted with researchers who use each facility. It took 8 hours by late night limousine bus from the town where their university is located to Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, the main international airport on Sulawesi Island. They spent about four and a half days at the airport in Jakarta and then flew to Japan on a late flight, finally arriving in Japan. Even though it took them two overnight stays and three days to just travel to Japan, they arrived there with a bright smile. As it was the first time for all the participants to travel abroad, they enjoyed Japan from the beginning with, its very different atmosphere from their home countries.
After coming to Japan, they visited the supercomputer facility at The University of Tokyo. This supercomputer is the most powerful facility at any university in Japan. The students were impressed by the large capacity of the hard disk to store data and the high performance of the computer. In addition, they were able to learn how supercomputers are used in actual research by attending lectures from researchers who use the facility on what applications there are. The students were also impressed by the transportation network in the greater Tokyo area because, in Sulawesi, where they live, there is no railway and most of the students have never experienced riding a train, so that they were looking at the view with excitement from a train window that changes by the minute.
The next stop is "Fugaku" in Kobe. They took the Shinkansen, a Japanese bullet train, from Tokyo, and everyone enjoyed the high−speed rail, which is different from ordinary trains. They said it felt like taking no time traveling from Tokyo to Kobe for two and a half hours. "Fugaku" has not yet been open to the public due to the COVID−19 pandemic; however, we fortunately had an opportunity to visit the facility, courtesy of our acquaintances. Although there was not a detailed explanation, the outline was explained by the remote tour during the COVID−19 pandemic, and They were able to see the actual equipment and learn its size and performance. During the time, there were questions from students: such as the possibility of using the facility, we felt their enthusiasm for exploring the path to be a researcher by any chance.
After visiting "Fugaku" we visited the Cyber Media Center of Osaka University. Osaka University also has a supercomputer comparable to The University of Tokyo. The University of Tokyo and Osaka University use different suppliers, and they were able to learn about the differences. They listened to explanations about the research: conducted by researcher who supervise the supercomputer, the professor who uses the supercomputer, to apply it to dental research, and they were able to come into contact with a wide range of applications of computers. Also, they were able to realize that Japan also has a diverse culture by seeing Osaka, which has a different culture from Tokyo.
In addition, they visited HOKUSAI, a supercomputer facility of RIKEN, the host institution, and learned the way of use and program it with researchers. They realized how powerful a supercomputer is when they ran a real program and saw the speed competition with their own personal computer.
In the host laboratories, there were foreign students from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand so that we were able to take care of the food during their stay, and the language barrier was not recognized as a major challenge for them thanks to the translation by the international students; they seemed to be able to live a stress−free stay. Some of the participants even decided to pursue a master's degree throughout the visit, impressed by the performance of the computer and the talk with researchers here. Actually, they are currently talking with a local instructor to go on to a famous national university in Java.
Although it was only a week which was an extremely short training period, it was a very impressive and valuable experience for the participants. After their returning to Indonesia, they reported to the president of their university, and their experiences here were reported widely on the fourth page of the local newspaper, PALOPOPOS (August 11), which had a feature article about this visit with photos and half of the page. As the educational environment in Sulawesi is not good enough compared with that in Java, the main island of Sulawesi, the enthusiasm of the students in Sulawesi stays unchanged. I hope this program will help more students become interested in Japanese technology and that they will have the opportunity to come to Japan and experience it through the Sakura Science Exchange Program.