Safe driving, accurate weather forecasting, and resource-friendly production—few know that without simulation, certain accomplishments of the modern age would not exist, including some ubiquitous components of everyday life. The research project Simulated Worlds, funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research, and Art, aims to sensitize students to the importance of simulations and their applications, and to enhance their interest in coding by bringing the topic into the classroom.
The first call for HLRS-funded scholarships in the school year 2016/2017 constitutes a milestone for Simulated Worlds. Beginning in 2011, elements such as study trips, training courses, and course material formed the foundation of the project. These are now being enhanced by actively involving a selected group of 10th- and 11th-grade junior scientists in scientific work.
Their efforts to familiarize themselves with subjects such as medical technology, urban planning, and philosophy has been especially pleasing for project leader Jörg Hilpert: "When students get to work on such a wide range of topics, they get to see far more ways in which simulations are applied in both scientific and societal ways," Hilpert says. "They also get to see how the technical skills that are required in simulation can be used in fields one wouldn’t necessarily expect."
Six pupils received awards on July 7 for their work on three projects. Focusing on blood flow through the human heart, Jana-Pascal Bode, Cara Buchholz, and Jakob Steimle analyzed the flow conditions and volume flows of four predetermined sections of the multiple parts of the heart’s main artery—the aortic arch and the descending aorta—as well as cranial branches. The team used open source-software called ParaView to visualize and analyze the underlying MRI dataset.
Participating students in Simulated Worlds celebrate with advisors and program organizers. Photo: Jörg Hilpert, HLRS.
Alexander Kharitonov and Marius Manz conducted traffic simulations of a traffic hub in Herrenberg, a small city located near Stuttgart. They collected three-dimensional data using laser scanning, generated a road network, and integrated the results with another set of three-dimensional measurement data provided by the state of Baden-Württemberg. They visualized these components using the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) and presented their findings to attendees of the awards ceremony in the CAVE, a virtual reality environment at HLRS.
Kira Fischer approached the topic of simulation on a philosophical level, raising the question of the veracity of results gained by computer simulation. Developing her argument required exploring and combining insights from the study of societal, technical, and mathematical aspects of computer simulation.
In comments near the end of the event, HLRS Director Prof. Michael Resch praised the high standard and ambitiousness of the students' projects. “I have seen some lectures at professional conferences that were not nearly as impressive as some of these projects,” he said as he evaluated the scholars’ final presentations.
The six pupils study at the Königin-Charlotte-Gymnasium in Stuttgart-Möhringen, the Schelztor-Gymnasium in Esslingen a.N., the Friedrich-Schiller-Gymnasium in Marbach a.N., and the Königin-Katharina-Stift in Stuttgart. Technical support was provided by four HLRS-employees—Dr. Ralf Schneider and Alena Wackerbarth supervised the computer model in medical technology, Myriam Guedey supported the team of traffic visualizers, and Dr. Andreas Kaminski served as an expert in the field of technological philosophy.
In addition to HLRS, the Steinbuch Centre for Computing (SCC) in Karlsruhe and the Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies (ZIRIUS) are also involved in the Simulated Worlds project.
— Lena Bühler