Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Thursday, December 25, 2014
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Intel, DeVry Pair Up to Bring Modeling and Simulation to Midsize Manufacturers 

When manufacturers and HPC leaders alike discuss the “missing middle,” it’s clear that beyond questions of return on investment and the expense of investing in high performance computing infrastructure  as well as software licences for modeling and simulation tools, the greatest issue lies in talent: finding or training qualified experts to both maintain hardware and actually run the simulations in question, and then paying their salaries.

Already a number of universities have worked to make relevant courses available to cultivate a bigger, more capable workforce, but these classes can err on the side of abstraction, introducing engineering students to the overarching principles of computing without teaching them skills they can offer their employer upon being hired.

This has led DeVry University to join up with Intel and offer their own digital manufacturing course of study that’s dedicated to practical skills for those just entering the workforce or those who are looking to enhance their skillset.

We recently sat down with Bill Feiereisen, senior scientist and corporate strategist in high performance computing at Intel, and Jim Karagiannes, Dean of Engineering at DeVry, to discuss the new program and how the two were brought together in the first place.

“There are many, many programs that try and bring manufacturers and modeling and simulation people together, but so much of it is oriented around the theory of computing,” says Feiereisen. “What we hear from a lot of companies whom we’ve dealt with over these last couple of years has been that those courses are great—the provide a great theoretical background—but generally when companies end up hiring somebody who’s got to come into the company and actually use computing for design, they really have to start almost from ground zero.”

Karagiannes says that the relationship between Intel and DeVry was formed two years ago to this end, but at the time both parties were waiting for an independent consortium of industry and academia to take the charge. But as Karagiannes explains, as individual interests slowed down the group’s progress, Intel and DeVry decided to branch off

“One day I picked up the phone and said, ‘We both have ideas of where we’d like to go with this and we’d both like to see something happen. Why don’t Intel and DeVry just strike out on our own.’” And that’s when Feiereisen and Intel entered the picture to help the program take shape.

Now after two years of work, Feiereisen says the partnership is finally reaching the finish line, offering six courses that will become available later this winter.

Karagiannes says that the first two courses, Statics and Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis, act as a precursor to using different computing tools, effectively giving students a theoretical foundation on which the remaining four classes will build.

“In the computing section, those four courses are going to be concentrating on basic simulation skills,” he says “So they’ll be using tools like MatLab, SolidWorks and AutoCAD to develop different principles in modeling and simulation.”

Rather than assigning specific projects to these courses, Karagiannes says that the coursework will remain fluid, allowing those already in the workforce to bring in assignments from their jobs while full-time students can choose assignments based on their area of interest.

For those students Karagiannes notes that the engineering faculty has already compiled a list of industry-specific test cases to be used in class, which range from fluid dynamics to automotive engineering.

In addition, he says that thanks to the diversity of the faculty at DeVry’s Chicago campus, students needs will be met no matter their area of interest.

But this version of the program is only the start of Intel and DeVry’s relationship, as Feiereisen points out.

“There are a couple of different ways that we’ve talked about building upon it,” he says. This first is to expand the course availability to other DeVry campuses in manufacturing hotbeds throughout the country. As the program’s second axis of expansion, Feiereisen hopes to see the coursework extend beyond its current focus in manufacturing design to also include manufacturing production.

“I believe that programs like this are going to be critical in maintaining or bringing back the U.S. competitive edge in manufacturing,” says Karagiannes. “Without incorporating these computational tools into the mid-tier manufacturers, I think the United States is going to be facing some critical issues to be able to maintain those businesses, because the competition overseas is so intense and they’re working on a much economic plan in terms of labor costs and costs of business startups. I truly believe that this is our one shot at trying to rebuild our manufacturing strength.”

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