In 1765 James Watt improved Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine, to such an extent that he often gets incorrectly credited with inventing the whole thing himself. How did he do this? Perhaps it was simply serendipity, or could his access at a young age to his father’s shipbuilding workshops - all those hours spent building models of cranes, barrel organs, etc, and becoming intimately acquainted with their mechanics- have given the future inventor the edge?
Engineering methods have moved on a lot since then. Now when you hear the word ‘model’ you don’t necessarily picture this:
However, engineering of all kinds, then and now, is at its very heart a physical science, concerned with what is real and tangible and as much as any creation begins in the mind, it cannot live there. Collaborations between academia and industry are therefore indispensable if innovation is to thrive.
‘… engineering education will never be satisfactory until theory and practice are taught simultaneously. …’
‘We're realizing that there is a gap between what we do in the classroom, which is often theory-based, and what might be out there from the software vendors, which is more tool-based.’
The first of these quotes is from over a century ago (Charles Mann) and the second (Shawn Midlam-Mohler) is from a webinar in July 2022.
It’s a perennial question; how do we make, and keep, engineering education relevant?
For about a decade now, the Ohio State University Simulation Innovation and Modeling Center (SIMCenter), a collaboration between Honda and Ohio State University, has been endeavouring to answer that question by bridging the gap between the classroom and industry.
In the webinar ‘The OSU Simulation Innovation Center – A Unique Applied Research Center’ the center’s director, Dr Shawn Midlam-Mohler and Allen Sheldon,chief engineer at Honda Development and Manufacturing America tell us how it all began, the successes so far, and what the future holds for the collaboration.
The SIMCentre’s focus is wide-ranging and organised, Shawn tells us, around 6 thrust areas; CFD, computational solid mechanics, multi-physics optimization and CAE automation, system modeling, integration and controls, and non-physics, data-driven modeling.
Their projects have included everything from aero-acoustics and efficiency work, looking at drone rotors, dishwasher NVH (dancing dishwasher anyone?), to systems level simulation for a traffic network for an autonomous vehicle project, all the way to the biomedical field where they are identifying commonalities between different fields and bringing together experimentalist professionals with application professionals to work out innovative solutions.
We get to find out how Honda and OSU have benefitted from this joint approach and the structures that have been put in place that have made it possible. As well as letting us in on what makes this particular collaboration unique, Shawn and Allen are keen to point out that this is an open collaboration, with Allen telling us that from its very inception there was an intention that the facility not be an exclusive Honda center but rather a truly collaborative space, not only across industries but also across disciplines. Shawn gives a perfect illustration of this when he parallels the dynamics of a car crash and those of a metal forming operation- the SIMCentre has those silos firmly in its sights. From developing new finite materials and methods to repurposing existing ones in innovative ways, the OSU SIMCenter is led with passion in its commitment to advancing computer engineering techniques and researching product development and manufacturing.
Watch the webinar to find out about the OSU SIMCentre’s projects, details of how the collaboration works now, their plans for the future, and how you can engage with their work.