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Archive for July, 2012

The ASTRA team host Smallpeice trust course for Yr 12 pupils

The ASTRA team host Smallpeice trust course for Yr 12 pupils

A residential summer course organised by the Smallpeice Trust was delivered in partnership with the University of Southampton Faculty of Engineering and the Environment and Microsoft. The students had the opportunity to experience some of the technologies used or developed by the ASTRA team over the last year.

Ramjet - Pupils in the ramjet laboratory.

Ramjet – Pupils in the ramjet laboratory.

Day one began with a welcome talk from Prof. Simon Cox, followed by an icebreaker session and a tour of the Highfield campus, including demonstrations of one of the wind tunnels, a ram jet engine, a 3D printer, and a visit to the Iridis 3 supercomputer, one of the largest computational facilities in the UK, and named as the fastest Microsoft Windows-powered computer in all of Europe.

Building computers - Pupils assembling supercomputer.

Building computers – Pupils assembling supercomputer.

After lunch and an introduction to supercomputing, the students were set the task of building supercomputer nodes from scratch with boxes of commodity hardware. Their day did not end there: next they were given an introductory talk on ‘Engineering the Perfect Wing’, followed by an excercise involving the use of a flow analysis code to design an aerofoil optimisation for minimum drag.

Flight simulation - Pupils in the University's flight simulator.

Flight simulation – Pupils in the University’s flight simulator.

Day two started with a talk on ‘Computers and Simulations in Aerospace Engineering’ by Dr Andras Sobester. The students were then set their challenge for the week; each team was asked ‘What role do you see computers playing in the development of aircraft engines, cabins, fuselages, landing gears, galleys. During the rest of the day the students then got the opportunity to fly in the University’s state of the art flight simulator. In the morning the students were also given a talk on ‘Exploring the Atmosphere and its Impact on Aviation’. The talk included an introduction to ASTRA.

In the afternoon the students were introduced to rapid prototyping, which began with a talk on 3D printing and .NET Gadgeteer, including a live coding demo by Dr Steven Johnston. The students then had the opportunity to get their hands on the .Net Gadgeteer kits, and each team was given their own sensors to program.

Phone app - Students working on WP7 app.

Phone app – Students working on WP7 app.

Day three started early with a lecture on ‘Exploring the Atmosphere – the Role of Computer Simulations.’ The task was to use the ASTRA trajectory prediction code to simulate the flight of a balloon launched from the University campus. By changing the type of lifting gas, balloon and parachute type, as well as the amount of helium pumped into the balloon, they were required to ‘land’ the virtual flight as close to a target landing site as possible. Next came an introduction to Windows Phone 7 including a live demo of how to write and deploy an app using Visual Studio. The teams of students were then each given an HTC Surround phone, and asked to develop a location app with guidance from the team at the Microsoft Institute for High Performance Computing at the University. The app had to display the location of a simulated balloon launch on a map, providing the user with flight information.

WWT - Data visualisation in the World Wide Telescope.

WWT – Data visualisation in the World Wide Telescope.

After lunch, the students were joined for the rest of the day by Mr Geoff Hughes from Microsoft Academic Relations, who gave a very interesting Q&A session. The afternoon was based around the concept of visualising ‘Big Data.’ After a World Wide Telescope (WWT) demo, the students were asked to visualise the data gathered by the ASTRA 8 launch, using WWT. The students also took part in a presentation practise and critiquing session before their talks the following day. The students then got the opportunity attend a formal dinner in The Hartley Suite along with other Smallpeice Trust course attendees.

The winners - The winning team.

The winners – The winning team.

Day four began with a final briefing and last minute tweaks to the students’ presentations. Then at 11:00 everyone gathered for the team presentations, delivered to the Associate Dean for Enterprise and Chair of the Faculty IT Forum. All of the talks were of a very high standard but there could only be one winning team, and each member received a signed copy of ‘Stratospheric Flight: Aeronautics at the Limit’ and a model of the first day’s optimized aerofoil, created using one of the Faculty’s 3D printers.

Gadgeteer winners - Two of the students left with Gadgeteer kits as prizes.

Gadgeteer winners – Two of the students left with Gadgeteer kits as prizes.

 

Two other lucky students were selected for an outstanding achievement during the week, each received a .NET Gadgeteer kit courtesy of Microsoft Research UK. Looking back on the week, a great time was had by all and it’s nearly time to start organising next year’s course!

Thanks to Microsoft for all their generous support, and a special thanks for lending us the Windows Phones and the .NET Gadgeteer kits which made the event possible.

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