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Development and Implementation of a High Performance Computer (HPC) Cluster for Engineering Education Simulations

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Computers and Simulation

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.443.1 - 25.443.16



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Paper Authors


Kurt C. Gramoll University of Oklahoma

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Kurt Gramoll is Hughes Professor of Engineering.

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Development and Implementation of a High Performance Computer (HPC) Cluster for Engineering Education SimulationsAbstractWith the advancements in high performance computer (HPC) computing it is only natural thatengineering education also utilize the massive computational capabilities of large server clusters toenhance student learning. This paper presents recent work in developing and implementing complexengineering simulations for engineering education. Key aspects of this work include developing methodsto access the simulations through web pages, creating user friendly input modules (web-based),automated job control system for web submission, efficient core utilization for any number of users, andautomatic final display of results on the user’s web page.Working examples are given in the paper including torsion, stress concentration, and potential fluid flowproblems. Currently, up to 40,000 degree of freedom problems can be solved with the system.Execution time varies depending on the number of cores devoted to a given problem. But even if onlyone core is used, the solution time is 10-50 faster than solved at the client device (laptop, smart phone,tablet, etc.) since the cluster solver is compiled C code. All examples used in the paper are currentlyavailable on the internet.The paper addresses the special needs of education when utilizing HPC systems. All simulations are web-based, and no knowledge of clusters, job control, parallel programming, etc. is required. Simulations areaccessed through a web page where parameters, such as boundary conditions, geometry constraints,loads, accuracy and grid resolution (FEA) are specified. The web interface is one of the more difficultaspects of the system. The interface needs to be intuitive and accessible on a large number of devices,such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets.To simply the development of the user interface, this system used web-enabled Flash for both thesimulation set up and viewing of the results. This allows most devices connected to the internet toaccess the system through a common web page. Utilizing Flash also makes it easier to develop advanceduser interface graphics such as real-time grid generation, slider, input boxes and graphical result output.The paper provides details on how the dedicated 32 node (384-core) engineering education cluster wasset up using Windows 2008 HPC Server R2. This includes the job control system, allocation of coreresources, cluster solvers, utilization of math libraries, and network communications between thecluster and user during the solution steps.Oct. 7, 2011 Computers in Education Division

Gramoll, K. C. (2012, June), Development and Implementation of a High Performance Computer (HPC) Cluster for Engineering Education Simulations Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21201

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