DOD super computer aids cadets' aero research at Academy

  • Published
  • By Ray Bowden
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Aeronautics experts at the Air Force Academy said a major Defense Department computer system is a boon to cadet researchers.

Forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to swap the classroom for the living room, most cadets left the school in March to continue their coursework online.

Despite this distance learning, aeronautics department head Col. Douglas Wickert, and aeronautics professor Russ Cummings, said cadet research is going well this summer, with 67 cadets studying computational fluid dynamics.

“Computational fluid dynamics is using computers to solve complicated equations that govern how air flows over and around aerospace vehicles,” Wickert said.

Cadets’ aero research is enabled by “HPCMP,” the Defense Department’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program, which provides hardware, network and software for high-performance computing.

“I’ve observed cadets learning about computational fluid dynamics and aerodynamics rather than being frustrated with trying to learn from their homes and not getting any help,” Cummings said. “I’m amazed at how well this is working,”

Wickert said the HPCMP helps cadets research aerodynamic phenomena, parachutes, wing flutter and hypersonic heat transfer, and other complicated subjects.

“Teaching cadets how to remotely log in and program some of the world’s fastest supercomputers to conduct important research was a challenge,” he said.

Despite the constraints the coronavirus has placed on students from universities across the world, Wickert said his faculty and cadets have adapted well.

“I’m incredibly proud of the adaptability of our aeronautics faculty and the grit and determination of our students as we continue learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.  “Adapting what are usually hands-on laboratory experiences for our engineering majors has been challenging, but we’ve figured out how to do it,” Wicket said. 

Due to the spread of COVID-19, the Academy dismissed of a large segment of the cadet population to get the senior class to graduation and ensure the best care for the base population, based on public health recommendations

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the Academy’s superintendent, announced May 7 that the school is preparing for the June arrival of its next class of cadets.