Research Computing @ UTEP: John Chessa

Last Updated on May 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

This is the fourth in a series of profiles on users of UTEP’s high performance computing capabilities. 

By Nadia M. Whitehead

UTEP News Service

Predicting how a navy ship will react to an underwater explosion is complicated.

“It requires a lot of math, coding and mechanical physics to find out how a structure will fracture, or fail upon impact,” said John Chessa, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering, whose current research is funded by the U.S. Navy.

A ship hull consists of multiple layers, beams, panels and cross members welded together to create a sturdy structure – all of which must be taken into consideration when solving problems. The type of material that makes up the structure must also be considered, as well as what has struck the ship and at exactly which location.

“Ultimately, they are going to be big, big problems to solve, which is why it’s essential to have access to high performance computing, especially when you want to test many different simulations,” Chessa said.

In addition to the Navy, the mechanical engineer has created impact simulations for the U.S. Air Force, Army and even NASA.

“I didn’t have any involvement in the project, but when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, a lot of scientists ran simulations and found out that even a small particle – a flake – at high enough speed can compromise and breach the ship’s paneling in space,” he said.

Real life simulations – like car crash experiments completed by the insurance industry –can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But with high performance computing, multiple scenarios can be tested much more quickly and at a much cheaper price.

“Trial and error has been a part of engineering for a long time now, and the only way we can speed up the trials is through computation,” he said. “These trials are absolutely necessary, or we’re never going to get anywhere.”

Chessa added that by running simulations, his end goal is to help scientists and engineers develop optimal structures for survivability.

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