UW Students Innovation Wins Him a Trip to Supercomputing 12 Conference in Salt Lake City

October 11, 2012
Man holding up poster project presentation
Jared Baker, a University of Wyoming graduate student majoring in mechanical engineering, poses with his poster presentation in front of UW’s Mount Moran, a high-performance computer in the IT Building. Baker took first place with his project -- that focuses on enhancing the performance of wind turbines -- at the recent Front Range HPC Symposium. As a result, Baker receives an all-expense paid trip to the Supercomputing 12 Conference this fall.

Jared Baker is going to Disneyland. Well, at least the equivalent of it in the high-performance computing world.

By virtue of the University of Wyoming graduate student’s win in the poster presentation category at the recent Front Range High-Performance Computing (HPC) Symposium, Baker earned a trip -- all expenses paid -- to the Supercomputing 12 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 10-16.

“There are plenty of workshops to attend. I would like to bring back information to our research groups and see how we can use high-performance computing systems more effectively,” says Baker, a mechanical engineering major from Casper who says high-performance computing is one of his hobbies. “I want to see how we can accentuate our (computer) codes to do more things.”

While at the conference, Baker says he would like to develop some industry contacts and seek out future HPC collaborations.

His poster presentation, titled “Computational Investigation of Spoiler Attachment on Wind Turbine Blades,” focused on enhancing the performance of wind turbines. He did so by proffering the idea of attaching spoilers, based on the actions of a bird’s wings as it lands, to the wind turbine.

“When birds come in for a landing, their feathers fluff to help with the landings. We want to mimic that effect with a wind turbine blade,” Baker says. “The spoiler has to be passive to mimic this action and to remain cost effective.”

A portion of Jared Baker’s poster presentation includes illustrations of a spoiler that mimics the action of a bird’s wing when it lands.   The spoilers would be placed on the root section, or thickest point of each blade. This is where the flow separation or “stall” occurs -- the point at which the wind turbine blade can’t produce enough lift and, thereby, reduces the turbine’s power, Baker says. The spoiler is proposed as an attempt to delay the onset of flow separation and enhance the power output.

“It needs to be investigated further. We’ve definitely shown it’s feasible,” he says. “We estimate it would increase power efficiency (of wind turbines) somewhere between 2-5 percent. On a large power system, that’s a pretty decent potential improvement.”

Baker’s poster presentation triumphed over approximately 20 others. The symposium competition required each presenter to explain the basic concepts of their project within a two-minute time frame. In addition, each presenter had one hour to answer questions asked by high-performance computing officials.

Based on other projects he saw presented at the symposium, Baker surmised his presentation won because it was more “computationally intense” than the others and also included a 3-D simulation element.

“This student’s success in this regional forum shows that students from our computational fluid dynamics group (CFD) can favorably compete with those from larger Colorado schools,” says Paul Dellenback, head of UW’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “This is nice recognition for the student, our CFD group and for the Wind Energy Research Center.”

Computational fluid dynamics is a branch of fluid dynamics that uses numerical methods and algorithms to analyze and solve fluid flow changes.

This past summer, Baker gained valuable high-performance computing experience during an internship with the National Center for Atmospheric Science (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. He tested various operating conditions and parameters in an effort to optimize efficiency at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center located near Cheyenne.

Using his background in computational fluid dynamics, Baker constructed virtual rooms using TileFlow, a 3-D software tool for simulating cooling performance of data centers. He also conducted various simulations to collect data on temperature distributions and air flow patterns.

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