Ninth Graders Tap HPC in the Cloud to Design Flying Boats

This is the third in a series of articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of high-performance computing (HPC) in new user communities and application areas. In this article we present UberCloud use case #208 on how 9th-grade students (pictured above) design flying boats in ANSYS Discovery Live on Azure’s GPU instances, 3D-print them, and ‘crown’ their 3-month tech course with a final competition for the best flying boat. This project is just another demonstration of the trend toward easy-to-use application software (also recently called ‘appification’) and the seamless access to HPC cloud resources, as demonstrated by 14-year old middle school students!

This UberCloud project #208 has been collaboratively performed by a class of 25 9th-grade students from Torsdad Middle School in Sandvika, Norway. Help was also given by their physics teacher Ole Nordhaug, engineer Håkon Bull Hove from ANSYS channel partner EDRMedeso, and HPC Cloud service provider UberCloud. They implemented ANSYS Discovery Live on Microsoft Azure NV6 compute instances, each equipped with an NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPU.

The students used ANSYS Discovery Live, released in the first quarter of 2018, which provides real-time 3D simulation, tightly coupled with direct geometry modeling, to enable interactive design exploration and rapid product innovation. It is an interactive, multiple physics simulation environment in which users can manipulate geometry, material types, or physics inputs, and see results instantly.

Hired by fictional company “FlyBoat”

Through a course called “Research in Practice” the students got a taste of the work of an engineer. They were told that a fictional company called “FlyBoat” was planning to develop a combination of a boat and a sea plane. FlyBoat had hired them to do a concept study. Within some given parameters, like a predefined height, width and length, the students were free to innovate. Eventually, FlyBoat would pick one of the concepts for their design. To win the competition, the students had to come up with the best overall design, which required attention to many different aspects of boat and plane design. At the end of the semester, all the boats were 3D-printed, and the students held sales presentations to convince a panel that their concept was indeed the best.

Figure 1: The winners from Torsdad Middle School in Sandvika, Norway, and their flying boat. 

3D modelling in Discovery Live

The students designed a 3D model of the boat in ANSYS Discovery Live. None of the students had prior experience with CAD modelling nor simulations, but they took the challenge head-on. The students learned the software impressively quickly. It was really inspiring to see what concepts they came up with,” says Håkon Bull Hove, engineer at EDRMedeso. Together with teacher Ole Nordhaug, he demonstrated Discovery Live to the students and helped them with their simulations.


Perhaps the most challenging task of the project was to prove that the flying boats could indeed fly. To do this, the students performed aerodynamic analyses of the wing in ANSYS Discovery Live, examining both lift and drag. Their simulations did not only prove that the wings had enough lift, but provided excellent visualization of the physics as well.“It is much easier to understand foil theory when you see it live on your screen,” says enthusiastic teacher Ole Nordhaug. “To see such a spirit among the students was the most inspiring moment in the entire project.”

Using UberCloud computing

During the whole course of the design and simulation project – from March to June this year – the students have been supported by UberCloud which provided – every Wednesday – ten ANSYS Discovery Live environments sitting on ten Azure NV6 Windows compute nodes, each equipped with 6 Intel Xeon E5 compute cores, 56 GB, and an NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPU for accelerating compute and real-time remote visualization. Cloud resources were located in Microsoft’s Azure datacenter in Amsterdam which the students accessed instantly, with login and password, through their web browser.

At the beginning of the project, data traffic between the cloud and the students’ low-end Chromebooks was quite slow. To further speed up remote visualization during students’ interactive work, NICE DCV software has been used for accelerating the rendering of visual elements and sending the rendered elements to the students’ web browser as compressed data. With this technology the network bandwidth and the overall user experience was very satisfactory, even with the low screen resolution of the students’ Chromebooks.

Figure 2: Students model their designs and use simulations to prove their boats can fly.


This middle school project with 14-year old students and their physics teacher in Norway is just another impressive demonstration of the current trend towards more user-friendly application software, combined with extremely fast HPC Cloud infrastructure (equipped with GPUs) available for everyone at their fingertips; a big step forward towards “democratizing” high performance computing and engineering simulation. Interested readers can download the case study here.

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