Cornell esports team donates processing power to fight COVID-19

Cornell College’s esports team is joining gamers worldwide in a cooperative effort to fight COVID-19

Esports players
Student team members practice in Cornell’s esports arena.

The college’s 12 esports arena computers are not being used for the rest of the school year while students are home studying through distance learning. But the computers aren’t sitting idle, either. 

Cornell is donating spare clock cycles—or processing power—of its powerful graphics cards to a global network of PCs forming an international supercomputer. Researchers are using this supercomputer to simulate COVID-19 proteins.

“Our unused PCs can be useful in helping researchers learn about the virus,” says Mayson Sheehan, head coach and program director for Cornell esports. “The PCs can help process the massive amount of information researchers need to find ways to manage or even cure the virus.”

He researched the opportunity with Cornell’s Information Technology staff and determined the software, developed at Stanford University, was safe. Gamers must install a software and leave their computer on to participate. When they want to play games they just pause the software.

Senior Logan Conley, a member of the esports team and a student worker for Information Technology on campus, said in a phone call from Chicago that he was excited to be a small part of the project. 

“I love seeing the esports program and Coach Sheehan working to continue the use of these powerful computers even without students on campus. As a Cornell student it makes me proud to be a part of this great community,” he said.

In the past year Sheehan has built a varsity esports team at Cornell that competes with other colleges in both Overwatch and League of Legends. Its varsity rosters consist of 25 students, but 50 to 80 students participate in the program depending on the block. Sheehan is actively recruiting team members with the possibility of earning scholarships to play with the Cornell Esports Team.