High Performance Computing cluster to enhance simulation research
A new high-performance computer obtained through two Army grants totaling $2.6 million will allow the University of Central Florida to conduct realistic training scenarios with thousands of people training in the same virtual world and to conduct cutting-edge research in the physical and biological sciences.
Hundreds of times as powerful as a modern personal computer, the new IBM System Cluster 1350 housed at the Institute for Simulation and Training will help to satisfy the Army’s need for realistic large-scale simulations that can operate in real time.
IST is working with virtual world developer Forterra Systems Inc. and other local industry partners to study hosting simulation applications on this type of computer for governmental and commercial purposes. According to Forterra’s Federal Systems division general manager Mike Macedonia, studies conducted through the grants will help Forterra learn how
its realistic OLIVE™ (On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment) 3D Internet platform can take advantage of a high-performance computing system’s processing power.
Soldiers could participate in the training activities from anywhere in the world. While simulation scenarios on standard computers may be able to support some large-scale scenarios, they cannot accommodate them in real time with so many participants at once.
“The commercial market also is looking for highly scalable 3D collaboration and training applications, including building distributed networked communities,” Macedonia said, “so the published results will be valuable outside the Army, too.”
IST director Randall Shumaker also sees uses for the enhanced capabilities beyond the Army’s requirements. Many high-performance computers now crunch numbers sequentially, which means users input a problem and have to come back later for the results, he said.
“We plan to learn better ways to perform numerous operations at the same time, taking advantage of the system’s many parallel processors to return results that operators can see and interact with directly,” Shumaker said. “Improving our ability to interact with large-scale Army simulations will help open new doors to getting real-time results from
“Once the sole province of scientists, supercomputers increasingly serve as the foundation of applications in the business and consumer realms," said David Jursik, vice president, deep computing, IBM. Jursik noted that UCF’s use of the IBM system in creating innovative virtual world environments will help advance one of the most promising avenues of
In practical terms, the computer system can store more than 40,000 music CDs, or the text equivalent of 500,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In one second, the computer can do the numerical calculations for more than a billion income tax returns.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson helped UCF secure the first $1 million of the grant, applied toward initial hardware, software and research costs; U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown joined Nelson to help secure the remaining $1.6 million. UCF chose IBM to design the system and train researchers to use it.
The initial installation features a 192-processor IBM System Cluster 1350 with 20 terabytes (20,000 billion bytes) of storage. The system delivers nearly two TeraFLOPS (2,000 billion floating point operations per second) of processing performance.
The second increment of hardware for this system, anticipated in late 2008, is expected to more than triple its capacity, allowing researchers to develop many more new applications.
IST will operate the new system as a university,
community and statewide resource. UCF faculty from
the departments of Mathematics, Physics, and Civil
and Environmental Engineering, along with the NanoScience
Technology Center, will develop and run science-oriented
simulations. IST researchers also will work on
the continued development of the high-performance
computing hardware and software to improve the
system and enhance training scenarios for Army
applications. HPC website
Two undergrads and four graduate students have a feather in their cap, a plaque for their wall and a line item for their resume.
IST annually awards its top student researchers for outstanding assistance during the academic year.
With more than 80 students working with
and for the institute, it's a difficult but satisfying task to pick the best of the best for special recognition.
This year's nominees represent mathematics, augmented reality, robotics and team performance areas of study. Students are chosen for their exceptional contribution IST research.
Left to right: Undergraduate Jennifer Reedy and grad students Rex Oleson
and Ross Byers were available for a hero shot after the awards presentation.
Receiving awards were undergraduates Jennifer Reedy (mathematics) and Joe Sottilare (augmented reality and simulation interoperability). Grad students Rex Oleson (mathematics), Ross Byers (Robotic control), Cathy Yen (human-robotic interoperability) and Deborah Diaz-Granados (teams and team training) also received plaques.
IST "hires" typically more than 80 students each year to assist with research and gain valuable on-the-job experience. Internships are normally for up to 20 hours a week. Students assist faculty researchers and other research staff in actual contract-, grant- and award-related projects. This research, for many, often leads to co-authorship of reports and
papers, trips to conferences and other networking opportunities.
UCF and Lockheed Martin announce partnership to expand new screening and
While teachers in the virtual classroom interact with virtual students, one UCF student wears an exoskeleton suit so she can take on the persona of some of the virtual students to provide real-time interaction with the teacher.
Photo: Jacque Brund
UCF and Lockheed Martin today announced
a partnership that will help expand a technology
developed at the university that could revolutionize
the way employees are screened and trained for
a variety of professions.
“Today we announce a memorandum of understanding with
Lockheed Martin that establishes our desire to work together for the purpose of
ongoing research activities into education, simulation technology and its use in
training students and teachers,” said Terry Hickey,
UCF provost and executive vice president.
of Education Professors Lisa Dieker and Mike
Hynes, in conjunction with UCF’s Institute for
Simulation and Training, Computer Science and
student actors from the Interactive Performance
Lab, developed a virtual, interactive environment
that can give teachers real experience in handling
a classroom. Lockheed Martin brings years of
experience to the partnership including research,
concepts and prototypes of models and simulations
in the areas of teacher training and professional
Using a combination of technology, real life
experience and entertainment the university has
been able to create scenarios that are very realistic
and have already assisted new teachers in thinking
differently about their classroom. In fact, several
teachers who tested out the virtual classroom continue
to talk about how they need to change their teaching
or to “try” again
to make sure they meet the needs of these students
who are not real.
“This partnership provides a unique opportunity to blend
technology from academia and industry to benefit our mutual efforts in advancing
education,” said Dale Bennett, president of Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training
Lockheed Martin has a strong partnership with
the university and supports UCF financially and
through cooperative programs at its Central Florida
facilities. The corporation’s work with the College
of Education includes the Transitioning Math and
Science Teachers program. It has benefited more
than 425 teachers in Central Florida by providing
funding for continuing education in the areas of
math and science. The company says the technology
may be adapted to benefit training in other areas
such as counseling or nursing for example.
In its current form, teaching candidates or players
enter a Virtual Classroom at the Teaching Academy
on UCF’s main campus. There they
encounter five virtual characters projected on
a huge screen. Research shows these personalities
are usually present in middle school students.
Recently, algebra teachers from the community have been
testing the virtual classroom. The virtual students already have complete
histories that are programmed into a computer. They are also programmed to
perform certain actions and gestures.
Depending on how the teacher handles the class,
the characters react and chaos ensues. The player’s
movements are tracked by sensors in the room and
fed over a secure network to monitors across campus
at the Media Convergence Lab in the Institute for
Simulation and Training.
At the lab a UCF a student wearing an exoskeleton
suit watches the player in the virtual classroom.
The suit allows the student – an
actor – to slip in and out of the virtual characters
adding real-time conversations to the scenario.
Virtual characters react to the actor and teacher’s
interactions based on their individual student profiles.
The teacher never really knows when the student
is virtual and when it is the live actor.The interaction ensures teachers are dealing
with both student behavior and teaching the content of algebra.
If students are confused during the algebra lesson, the
virtual classroom becomes rowdy as the virtual characters lose focus.
Meanwhile, the entire session is recorded and
fed into monitors that professors in education are
viewing to see how the teachers are faring. At the
end of the session, they allow the teachers to reflect
on how they felt the session went and provide feedback
to assist the teachers in improving their skills.
The professors involved in the project hope to collect data
from a network of virtual classrooms across the country sometime in the future.
A national data pool would allow them to determine the effectiveness of this new
technology in teacher training.
This virtual classroom provides teachers a safe environment
for making mistakes and learning with virtual students and not learning at the
expense of real students, creators said. For teachers this experience may
provide them a way to find out if they really want to be in this profession.
“Some people’s personalities may just not lend themselves to
becoming happy, successful classroom teachers and wouldn’t it be great to find
that out before they spend thousands of dollars getting a teaching degree and
struggle with students,” Dieker said.
The bottom line of this partnership is to ensure teachers are
best prepared to be successful in the classroom.
IST professor Eduardo Salas garners prestigious UCF Pegasus Professor award
It's UCF's "academy award," the top honor bestowed on a select few UCF professors each year. This year Dr. Eduardo Salas, of IST and the Psychology Department, is one of only two recipients.
Since 2000, UCF has awarded 13 professors for "sustained excellence in teaching, research and service."
Dr. Salas is program director for Human Systems Integration Research at IST and a Trustee Chair in Psychology. He is known throughout both national and international research communities for his research in team training and effective decision-making and is well-known in the field of industrial and organizational psychology. He was named Researcher of the
Year at UCF in 2002.
Dr. Salas is principal investigator and co-principal investigator respectively on two multi-disciplinary university research initiatives (MURIs), each a highly competitive, multimillion dollar, multi-year grant for collaborative research. The first of these, awarded in 2006, was for study of team cognition (more here).
The most recent (due to begin in May) will attempt to increase understanding of how different cultures might better collaborate and negotiate. UCF has a major share of the research funding.
The effects of cultural differences on teambuilding is of great interest to U.S. military personnel who must learn to work among people whose ways of communication and cooperation are quite foreign to Western culture. Researchers note an astounding lack of knowledge on the subject and a great need to understand how culture influences basic psychological
processes. The U.S. Army Research Office is the funding agency for the project.
"Everything is multicultural in the wars we're fighting," says Dr. Salas. "This MURI is an attempt to create some science behind the art of negotiation."
One of 34 awarded The 2008 award (University of Maryland is lead) was one of 34 proposals accepted out of 104 proposals submitted by U.S. universities and colleges. many more sent in white papers in hopes of receiving an invitation for a follow-up proposal. Awards typically are for an initial three years, with an additional two-year continuation based on funding
availability and satisfactory research progress.
Contract for up to $75 million will result in research to benefit warfighters and the simulation community
The U.S. Army has awarded IST and UCF a contract worth up to $75 million over five years to support innovative modeling, simulation and training research.
Left: (l. to r.) Vice President
for Research and Commercialization MJ Soileau,
UCF President John Hitt and STTC Acting Director
LTC Raymond Compton affix their signatures
to a document commemorating the partnership.
The contract between the university and the Army's Research Development and Engineering Command, Simulation and Training Technology Center (RDECOM STTC) is intended to primarily benefit simulation research and technology that benefits U.S. warfighters, but resulting work will be valuable to the simulation community as a whole.
IST and RDECOM STTC recently renewed the five-year-old cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) that established the Simulation and Training Center in the Central Florida Research Park (see our story about this here). Although not directly connected with the CRADA this new grant will
give the Army greater access to UCF's many centers and institutes.
Many close to the industry consider the Central Florida region the nation's highest concentration of simulation and training-related science and industry. Central Florida Research Park is the home of major military training contracting agencies.
UCF simulation research aids
military medics, drivers (With Video)
By Chad Binette
Blood loss is one of the leading causes of death on the battlefield, but
war-zone medics often find it difficult to receive the training to prevent
Story and video footage from UCF Office of News and Information.
they can “save” a
life-sized arm developed by the University of Central Florida’s
Institute for Simulation and Training that simulates “bleeding.”
Researchers there have developed the arm in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s
Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and Chi Systems. On
Tuesday, they demonstrated how it works during the nation’s largest
exhibition of modeling, simulation and related technologies at Orange County
After this week’s Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education
Conference, the Army’s RDECOM plans to demonstrate the arm to special
operations medics in early December, and the technology could reach the battlefield
in the next year or two, said Sandy Fowler, a science and technology manager
for RDECOM who is based in the Central Florida Research Park next to UCF.
“You’re learning a life-saving skill, and you’re almost
playing a game at the same time to keep you interested,” said Todd
Lazarus, a researcher at IST.
UCF researchers developed the hardware for the “bleeding” arm.
It can be used in conjunction with a PDA device or a laptop computer. Medics
first choose a small, medium or large wound and then decide whether they
want to simulate a small, medium or large-sized arm. A spot on the arm then
lights up as “red,” indicating that it is bleeding. The medic
must place and tighten the tourniquet properly to turn the light green, indicating
that the bleeding has stopped. A clock on the arm times how long that takes.
While the arm can help medics in the field, another UCF research project
stands to make getting to patients safer for rescue workers.
A driving simulator developed at IST allows ambulance drivers, truck drivers
and others to practice in all types of hazardous conditions, including rain,
snow and children suddenly running in front of their vehicles.
Lisa Hernandez, a lab manager at IST, demonstrated the driving simulator
with a 42-inch plasma screen at the I/ITSEC conference. After a crash, the
simulator tells the driver what violations occurred and whether it might
have been severe enough to cause a fatality.
The simulation, and the detailed feedback that it provides users, allows
people to learn important skills that should make them handle dangerous scenarios
better if they ever encounter them.
“Our measure of success is the human performance changes, not how
well the technology changes,” said Ron Tarr, a researcher at IST.
UCF’s presence at the I/ITSEC conference extended beyond the exhibit
Eduardo Salas, a trustee chair and professor of Psychology who also is an
IST researcher, participated in a discussion on how advances in medical simulation
have benefited the military. Salas discussed the importance of using science
to develop an effective team training system that includes observation and
During another panel discussion, Professor Jan Cannon-Bowers of UCF's School
of Film and Digital Media spoke about how innovations in simulation can help
military personnel and their families, including children, better understand
military medicine, including diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.
Cell phones, athletes help students learn about science and math
By Chad Binette, UCF News and Information
Most kids love watching sports and using their cell phones. Now they can do both while learning about science, math and nutrition in a new program developed by the University of Central Florida and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Sprint Nextel and Växjö University (Sweden) also sponsor the project.
About 60 seventh-graders at Glenridge and Lockhart middle schools in Orange County have been answering questions sent via text messages as part of the My Sports Pulse program. They receive and respond to some of the problems during their math classes and others at home.
The questions connect sports-themed scenarios, such as scoring a soccer goal or throwing a curveball, to principles of math, science, fitness and nutrition. In addition to text messages, voice mails and video clips with questions also are sent to participants. Professional athletes posed some of those scenarios.
My Sports Pulse, which will complete its pilot phase this month, is designed to promote student achievement and interests in math and science using mobile devices and sports-themed scenarios. The goal is to expand the program for use in conjunction with Olympic competitions and other major sporting events across the globe.