Work experience at EPCC

Author: Guest blogger
Posted: 10 Apr 2017 | 16:06

Guest blogger Kara Moraw is an undergraduate Informatics student in Bonn, Germany. Here she writes about her 4-week internship with EPCC, spent working with EPCC's Nick Brown on the ARCHER outreach project.

I spent the first two weeks working on the windtunnel simulation for Wee Archie. The simulation allows you to design an aeroplane wing, changing its angle, camber and thickness. Then Wee Archie calculates the flow field and the pressure, and you can take a look at a world map to see how far a plane with the designed wing could fly. There is also an animation showing the plane’s takeoff: depending on the design, the plane will either take off at some point, or just overrun the runway and crash into the water.

This part of the windtunnel simulation was already set up and working when I arrived, and we looked for ways to optimise it, mainly to make it more appealing to the user.

We decided to add a dashboard with the main and best-known flight instruments. The next days I went through the existing code and various pages of the Python documentation in order to get the instruments animated, but I soon discovered one big issue: I could not clean the lines I had drawn without erasing all the background images. At first I found a rather inelegant solution by overpainting every drawn line with the background colour before drawing a new line. However, I was then advised to have a look at double-buffering, so I went into “refactoring” the code I had written, and now everything is erased and re-drawn nicely. 

After that Nick showed me the ARCHER challenge, a web game where you can build and manage your own supercomputer. Again, I added new features, like the bank statement, but this time using Javascript and html, which was completely new for me. Positioning an object in a particular place became an especially frustrating challenge, but eventually all the buttons showed up where they should, or at least where they looked sensible.

These four weeks have passed by really quickly, today is my last day at JCMB and I have learned a lot. I was very happy to contribute to a bigger project, and fortunately I get to see the windtunnel simulation with my changes in action next week at the Edinburgh Science Festival! I am really looking forward to that, but first, I will be heading west to the Isle of Arran for the weekend. 

A big thank you to the EPCC staff for being very nice and welcoming, and especially to Amy and Nick who organised this work experience and were always there to answer my questions.

Photograph shows Kara with Wee Archie at this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.