COMPUTATIONAL ENGINEERING

February 19, 2012


Sir Isaac Newton once said in a letter to Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  His letter to Hooke was written in 1676 but still carries significant truth, certainly today.  Let’s face facts; technology is evolutionary and not revolutionary.  The Wright brothers flew a bi-wing airplane made from wood and fabric and not an SR-71.  The first “horseless carriage” was not a Lomborghani.   The use of leeches (for medicinal purposes only) definitely preceded penicillin.  The abacus was a very functional “counting device” centuries before the computer.  You get the picture.  Computational engineering is a fascinating technology, evolutionary in nature.  This discipline did not burst upon the scene overnight but evolved over the years to become one of the most truly viable research tools in today’s arsenal of investigative methodology.  The “proper” definition of computational engineering is as follows:

                “Computational engineering encompasses the design, development, and application of computational systems for the solution of physical problems in engineering and science.  These computational systems include not only the algorithms and software required for the solution of mathematical equations describing physical processes, but also the means and methods of visualizing, analyzing and interpreting computed results and other physical data. “ 

This definition is taken from the High Performance Computing Collaboratory facility at Mississippi State University.  Mississippi State has one of the most respected departments of computational engineering in the United States. 

Another excellent definition comes from The University of Auckland and is as follows:

                “Computational Science (called also Scientific Computing or Numerical Analysis) is the design, development, application, and analysis of computer algorithms and software to solve scientific and engineering problems. It includes not only numerical methods, probabilistic modeling, computer-based statistical inference, and computer simulation required for solving underlying systems of math equations, but also computer visualization, statistical analysis, and interpretation of computed solutions.”

All of this is well and good but why oh why do we need discovery techniques of this nature and why so detailed.  I cannot say it any better than the following statement from Dr. J. Tinsley Oden:

                “Near the end of the twentieth century, much of the industrialized world was becoming aware that the foundations of science and engineering were under rapid, dramatic, and irreversible change brought on by the advent of the computer. The steady increase in computer capabilities and the enormous expansion in the scope and sophistication of computational modeling and simulation place computational sciences as the third pillar of scientific discovery and revolutionize the way engineering is done. Computational engineering and science can impact virtually every aspect of human existence, along with the health, security, productivity, and competitiveness of the nation.”
        J. Tinsley Oden, Associate Vice President for Research, The University of Texas at Austin

  Let us now take a look at the results of computational engineering and the output derived from the process.

Formula 1 Racer

 

As you can see from the JPEG above, knowing the airflow around a Formula 1 race car can provide evidence of laminar flow that could provide a win when the checkered flag is dropped.  Disruption of airflow around an object could create resistance to lessen performance.

This is one of my favorite and shows the air flow around a shuttle craft re-entry vehicle.  Critically important information when considering the fact that re-entry is difficult enough and would be more so if surface-generated turbulence was an added problem.

 

Shuttlecraft

The JPEG below shows results of a study demonstrating the effect of “blunt force trauma” to the human skull.  Studies such as this are very important in understanding what happens when an NFL running back meets Ray Lewis.  We all know there is a class-action lawsuit against the NFL to compensate players who have experienced concussions during their playing years.  Computational engineering can aid efforts to fully understand what happens.

Human Skull

There are several schools that offer degrees in computational engineering (CmE), usually at the MS and PhD levels.  A BS degree in computer science, mathematics or engineering is almost always a minimum requirement with BS degrees in CmE not being offered.  Excellent schools offering course work and degrees in this field are as follows:

  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga—SIM Center
  • Mississippi State University
  • MIT
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Purdue
  • Notre Dame
  • University of Utah
  • Arizona State University

 I am sure there are other, maybe many others, but these are noted for their contributions to the technology.   I certainly hope you will take a look at the possibilities and continue to study what is available relative to seminars and short courses.

 

 

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      Cold sore free forever–Glad you liked the post. I’m really running behind in my comments so forgive the delay. My “number cruncher” has been acting up and just now getting back to normal. At any rate, many thanks for the very kind words. Please come again. Bob

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