Girls' Day is an annual event that takes place across Germany to promote awareness of and interest in careers in science, engineering, and information technology among young women. On April 27, 2017, HLRS hosted six girls from the Stuttgart area to explain basic concepts in supercomputing and to show some ways in which it is used in technology development.
"Industry is always searching for highly qualified employees and although it is less common for women than for men to choose careers in science and technolgy, they clearly have a lot to offer," says Jutta Sauer, who organized the Girls' Day activities at HLRS. "We were glad to be able to participate in the event to help give the girls a sense of some interesting opportunities that could be available to them."
The day began with a tour of Hazel Hen — currently Germany's largest supercomputer. The students were very curious and engaged, asking many questions to understand the difference between a supercomputer and the laptops they use in their daily lives. Later they also rolled up their sleeves to dismantle a board of supercomputing hardware, learning more about the physical components that make high performance computing possible.
Driving through a virtual city at Girls' Day 2017 at HLRS.
The visitors then explored how simulation using high performance computing is applied in engineering. Working on personal computers, the girls received a digital model of an airplane wing, visualized air flow around it, and attempted to optimize lift. The exercise was analogous to the process engineers use to improve flight dynamics and reduce fuel consumption. In this way, the girls gained an appreciation of the continual cycle of modeling and simulation that is essential in computer-aided engineering.
The last stop on the girls' tour was the CAVE, an immersive virtual reality environment for exploring simulation data. After observing how visualization can be used to model and improve airflow around a car, they hopped into the HLRS driving simulator. Fortunately it was not street legal, as the girls enjoyed speeding with reckless abandon through virtual city streets. The activity capped an enjoyable day with a healthy dose of laughter and adrenaline.
"Even if the girls who participated don't ultimately decide to work in high performance computing," Sauer says, "our hope is that they had fun and gained a new sense of possibilities as they think about what they might pursue in their future careers."
HLRS plans to continue its participation in Girls' Day 2018, which is scheduled for April 2018.
— Christopher Williams