The SC21 supercomputing conference was held in St. Louis during the third week in November.  This is the world’s largest conference dedicated to high performance computing.  Many computer hardware and software manufacturers have exhibits and announce new products at this show.  There are also technical talks on a wide range of related topics.
The Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) had a booth at the Supercomputing conference for many years, but not for the recent few years.  This year, ASA again had a booth.  This was the only booth at SC21 from an educational organization in Alabama.  The show typically includes booths from academic organizations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and many other states.

ASA staff in new ASA conference booth at SC2021ASA’s presence at this supercomputing conference serves multiple purposes.  At the highest level, this brings visibility to the State of Alabama and its educational institutions in the larger national and international community.  A few years ago Dr. Joshua Booth learned about the ASA HPC services while attending a supercomputing convention.  Based on that information, Dr. Booth chose to consider academic positions in Alabama, and is now a computer science professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.   There have been students who chose to attend graduate school in Alabama after finding out about programs in Alabama at a Supercomputing conference.  The conference is also a big benefit to ASA’s HPC technical staff, who return with a large collection of notes about new technical solutions to consider implementing.
ASA attends multiple conferences with various goals in mind.  A tutorial on how to handle network issues is often presented to school technology coordinators at the Alabama Educational Technology Coordinators (AETC) conference.  The School Superintendents of Alabama (SSA) conference provides an opportunity to find out what future technology needs school administrators hope to address.  Other conferences were ASA typically attends or exhibits include Alabama Leaders in Educational Technology (ALET), the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE MEGA conference), Alabama Association for Public Continuing and Adult Education (ALAPCAE), Alabama Library Association (ALLA), and the Alabama Community College Association (ACCA) conference.
The recent pandemic has changed how conferences are run.  Some have been cancele.  Some have been completely online.  Most have had some format changes to facilitate social distancing.  The Alabama Supercomputer Authority has continued to participate in these as just one of the mechanisms employed to serve Alabama’s educational community.