Asee peer logo

High Performance Computing For High School Students: A Dam Design Competition

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

K-12 Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.689.1 - 10.689.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Caroline Cochran

author page

Kanthasamy Muraleetharan

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

High Performance Computing for High School Students: A Dam Design Competition

Kanthasamy K. Muraleetharan, Caroline A. Cochran University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma


High performance computing is an integral part of modern engineering design and research. Advanced computing techniques such as parallel computing are increasingly being used to solve difficult engineering problems. Many high school students are, however, unaware of these advanced computing techniques and their usage to solve real world problems. This paper discusses a pilot design competition conducted at the Westmoore high school in Oklahoma to expose high school students to advanced computing techniques and other skills in an engaging and exciting manner. A web-based, parallel, finite element computer code, TeraScale_Dysac, developed through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Information Technology Research (ITR) grant for predicting behavior of earth structures during earthquakes was used in this design competition. Students in an AP Geology class were requested to design the geometry of an earth dam to minimize the volume of earth and to satisfy the specified deformation criteria during an earthquake. The students used the full version of TeraScale_Dysac over the web, but the students were not required to vary more difficult input parameters such as the material properties and varied only the geometry of the dam.

Pre- and post-competition surveys were conducted to gather data on students’ knowledge of engineering computational tools, how earth structures behave during earthquakes, and their preference for a career in science and engineering. These surveys revealed that although the competition did provide valuable knowledge for the students about engineering computational tools and the effects of earthquakes on earth structures, it had no significant influence on changing the students’ career choices. The planning and implementation of this pilot design competition is presented and the difficulties encountered during the implementation are discussed and suggestions for improving a similar competition are provided. Selected survey results are also presented and discussed.

1. Overview

The dam design competition was created to expose high school students to the cutting-edge technology implemented in the finite element computer code TeraScale_Dysac. In addition to creating excitement in the students toward engineering, the project aided the traditional high school curriculum by giving team building experience and requiring higher level learning skills in the students. The web-based nature of TeraScale_Dysac has the potential to bring similar experience to remotely located high schools.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition. Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Cochran, C., & Muraleetharan, K. (2005, June), High Performance Computing For High School Students: A Dam Design Competition Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14135

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015