Dr. Greg D. Power
University of Tennessee Space Institute
As a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) practitioner and researcher, I have been using the Gridgen mesh generator for more than 30 years, starting before Pointwise, Inc. was formed. I have been hesitant to switch to the Pointwise software due to my familiarity with Gridgen, but I knew that I was missing out on some great features. I just didn't feel that I had the time to learn a new, seemingly very different mesh generator.
In the fall of 2012, I began teaching a course focused on introducing students to the CFD application process at the University of Tennessee Space Institute and the Knoxville campus of UT via a remote video feed. Although I had used Gridgen for nearly my entire career, I wanted to expose the students to the latest grid generation technology, so I took this opportunity to teach myself how to use Pointwise as well.
Jan Batts at Pointwise worked with me to establish a Pointwise Teaching Partnership that allowed the use of 10 free licenses for my students. Carolyn Dear Woeber provided a PDF tutorial and example cases. The tutorial and example cases allowed me to quickly learn all of the basic steps for structured and unstructured mesh generation so that I could stay just ahead of the class. (I believe at least some of the students were fooled into thinking I was an expert Pointwise user.)
The students picked up the concepts of Pointwise very quickly, especially since they did not have a Gridgen mindset as I did. However, even with the Gridgen mindset, the Pointwise user interface proved to be very easy to master. Features such as easily picking entities graphically and masking entities sped up the process. Each student would find tricks and shortcuts that were shared with the other students and myself. By the end of the class all of the students were generating meshes on complex geometries with very little help from me. In fact, I often found that I was learning as much from the students as they were from me.
I also chose to use an open source CFD code, the Stanford University Unstructured code (SU2), as the teaching tool for running applications. I was pleased to discover that Pointwise already had a capability to export the CAE data for SU2. This capability allowed a much more seamless process for the students so that I could focus on teaching the basics of CFD. Each of the students was required to complete a project. These included everything from rocket facilities to formula cars.
I chose my own project for the class that would be a complement to a local science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach program. The STEM program used a small wind tunnel that contained an airfoil and a smoke generation system. I was able to model the airfoil in the wind tunnel and create a Pointwise script, including a graphical interface, to change the airfoil angle of attack, viscous spacing, etc. and regenerate the grid with a click of a button. I was able to then run a number of these cases with SU2 and present these results to a local high school calculus class as the students observed the smoke trails in the actual tunnel.
Needless to say the graduate students learned a lot about the CFD process, and maybe I was able to influence a few high school students to pursue CFD as part of their career. As a bonus, I am now using Pointwise exclusively for my day job!
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