$1 million grant to OSC and partners to provide business with workforce training and supercomputing portals

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Mar 31, 2008) — 

Man at computer

The National Science Foundation last week designated nearly $1 million to provide Ohio’s workforce with crucial training in computational modeling and simulation. The grant also supplies Ohio’s businesses with advanced Internet portals that will offer cyberinfrastructure resources companies need to compete in the global marketplace.

The $999,942 grant, titled “Improving American Competitiveness through Workforce Education in Cyberinfrastructure Applications,” was awarded March 26 to the Ohio Supercomputer Center, The Ohio State University, the University of Akron and the Ohio Learning Network. The term ‘cyberinfrastructure’ describes an integrated grid of computing, information, networking and sensor resources.

The project’s lead organizations will partner with a consortium of Ohio colleges and universities that collaborated on an earlier NSF project to launch a virtual, undergraduate minor program in computational science through the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s Ralph Regula School of Computational Science. Yet another NSF project, involving three Ohio community and technical colleges and the Ralph Regula School, is currently expanding academic programs in computational science at the associate degree level.

“We will partner with Columbus State and Sinclair community colleges to integrate the ongoing undergraduate minor program into the first certificate programs for workforce training,” explained Steven I. Gordon, principal investigator for the grant and director of the Ralph Regula School. “We intend to create more advanced, industry-driven computational science certificate programs to serve major groups of industry collaborators. Those certificate programs will tie to an emerging master’s degree program in the College of Engineering at OSU.”

The project team plans to expand participation in the computational science minor program and the related first-level certificates to additional institutions, particularly colleges or universities in Appalachian Ohio. The intent is to increase the reach of the programs into areas with low-income populations and to provide opportunities for students at those institutions to upgrade their skills.

“At the same time, we will adapt and create science and engineering web portals that will give Ohio businesses access to the high performance computing resources necessary to remain competitive with 21st-century businesses in other states and nations,” Gordon said.

A 2004 survey by the Council on Competitiveness, a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization of business, labor, academic and government leaders, indicated that 97 percent of major companies could not function without high performance computing and computational science. The use of computational modeling and simulation have been cited by the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee and the National Science Foundation’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Simulation-based Engineering Science as key to continued U.S. leadership in science and engineering.

The Council on Competitiveness is assisting OSC in creating a curriculum that addresses business community needs and regional economic potential. PolymerOhio, Inc., an Ohio Edison Technology Center, has agreed to provide forums for the introduction of those tools and educational opportunities to key leaders of Ohio's 2,800 polymer firms.      

“The high performance computing services, coupled with the portals linking to complex modeling packages, will remove many of the barriers to entry that currently prevent those firms and their employees from utilizing modeling and simulation as a part of their business practices,” said Wayne Earley, executive director of PolymerOhio. “The courses and certifications that will be established under the program will be invaluable in preparing the workforce in our industry to move quickly and surely into the computer age.”

Computational science describes the application of computing, especially high performance computing, to the solution of scientific and engineering problems. Computational scientists use computers to create mathematical models that help them simulate and understand complicated mechanical and natural processes, as well as to visualize these models.

One example of computational science is found in aircraft engine design, where vast amounts of data are combined with sets of mathematical formulas in a computer program called a propulsion model to develop energy-efficient jet engines. These studies save manufacturers time and resources, and can measure aspects of internal performance that can’t be accessed in operating prototypes.

Another important example is the use of computer models to simulate and test new consumer products prior to manufacturing. The use of ‘virtual prototypes’ sharply reduces or even eliminates the slow and expensive process of building and testing physical prototypes.

Celebrating 20 years of service, the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) is a catalytic partner of Ohio universities and industries that provides a reliable high performance computing and high performance networking infrastructure for a diverse statewide/regional community including education, academic research, industry, and state government. OSC promotes and stimulates computational research and education in order to act as a key enabler for the state's aspirations in advanced technology, information systems, and advanced industries. For additional information, visit http://www.osc.edu.