Increasingly, making cars go faster falls under the purview of high-performance computing. This is especially true in the case of supersonic cars, vehicles capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound. With its undeniable cool factor and a close relationship to advanced computing, supersonic racing is getting school-age children interested in science, engineering, math and computing.
In the UK – where the current world land speed record of 763 miles per hour was set in 1997 by ThrustsSSC – the Supersonic Cymru project has partnered with HPC Wales to challenge students to design a rocket-powered car capable of exceeding the sound barrier using the latest in high performance computing technology. The contest offers students from select UK schools real-life experience with the same tools used in the design of the Bloodhound supersonic car, the top contender for the next land speed record.
The Bloodhound Project – launched in 2007 with several of the ThrustsSSC team members – is seeking to build a car capable of reaching not just supersonic speeds but that landmark breakthrough of 1000 mph, 1.4 times faster than the speed of sound. A big part of the project’s aim has also been to inspire young people toward a career in the science and engineering field, thus much of the research and design material is made available to the education community via the project website.
Using the Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) as a template, the student teams will work with teachers and engineers to develop, test and modify their designs using the computational resources of the HPC Wales’ national supercomputing network. As UK’s largest distributed supercomputing network, HPC Wales infrastructure spans 17,000 cores, yielding 320 teraflops capacity.
The challenge is directed at expanding the horizons of students in the 11-14 year age group by providing them with hands-on experience with advanced engineering and computing tools. Participants will become familiar with the web-portal interface and state-of-the-art aerodynamics analysis software as they make modifications to the cars’ design parameters, guided by readouts of distance, speed and acceleration data that will be available online. Ongoing classroom training will focus on fundamental sound and aerodynamics principles.
HPC Wales will host a welcome event on March 22, giving pupils, teachers and families a chance to learn more about the challenge. At the end of the contest, prizes will be awarded to the teams based on a presentation and overall results.
Other supporters of the Supersonic Cymru project include the Welsh Government, Swansea University, Fujitsu UK Ltd, Technocamps and Zenotech.