UTSA's SiViRT engineering center accomplishes great things in first year

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SiVIRT lab

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(Dec. 2, 2010)--The UTSA Center for Simulation, Visualization and Real-Time Prediction (SiVIRT) has become an important resource for aspiring engineers. The research and education center, which integrates high-performance computing in all of its activities, launched a year ago in the UTSA College of Engineering and already has accomplished great things.

"The bottom line is that we want to support engineers through computing," said Stathis Michaelides, UTSA Robert F. McDermott Chair in Engineering and SiVIRT director. "That means everyone from middle school students on up to our research faculty."

SiViRT offers expertise to students in San Antonio and the region. In the spring, for example, the center assisted a Knippa, Texas, junior high robotics teacher and her class with free training on the SolidWorks software, which they received for their robotics program. The budding engineers now are using SolidWorks to prepare for their next robotics competition.

In the summer, the center sponsored nearly 80 middle and high school students at a two-week advanced robotics camp in the UTSA Interactive Technology Experience Center. The students built soccer-playing robots as a way to develop engineering, programming and teamwork skills. The camp culminated in a friendly three-on-three robot soccer competition.

At the college level, SiViRT has financially supported 53 UTSA students: 22 undergraduates and 31 graduate students. Each has received training in simulation, visualization and real-time prediction, which will increase their marketability once they graduate. Two-thirds of SiViRT students are minorities and women, supporting SiViRT's goal to improve the retention of under-represented and minority engineering students.

UTSA established the SiViRT center in 2009 with funding from the National Science Foundation as a response to the critical shortage of qualified professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related careers.

In addition to supporting the community and UTSA students, the center supports faculty using high-performance computing to research topics in imaging, real-time prediction and uncertainty quantification. In just a year, the SiViRT imaging team developed a new system to reconstruct and visualize three-dimensional Purkinje cells (neurons) from two-photon microscopy images.

The new method provides a much clearer picture of the neurons and has revealed hidden dendrite branches in those neurons. The real-time prediction researchers have developed a bio-heat transfer model for kidney cooling. The device will improve the kidney transplant process by allowing kidneys to survive for a longer period of time before transplantation.

To learn more about SiViRT community outreach, academic and research activities, contact Efstathios Michaelides at 210-458-5516.