Case Study

How Nuvolos helps students learn engineering at the TH Brandenburg

The Challenge

Professor Martin Kraska at the Technische Hochschule Brandenburg needed a scientific collaboration platform to teach students in machine engineering the necessary computational skills. He had a very specific use case, enabling students to undertake practical projects using the finite element model engine CalculiX. Particularly challenging was the need to visualise 3D models, a fundamental aspect of machine design. This required students to be able to quickly and frictionlessly deploy the application and the necessary compilers, while Professor Kraska had to be certain that each student would have the benefit of the same reliably reproducible workspace. 

Since the students were not yet advanced in their own technical knowledge, the project work required a CalculiX integration in a more familiar development environment (Visual Studio Code). Finally, students had to be able to test the robustness and design of their models with the Dakota computational toolkit for engineering. Of course, as with any computational science project, the necessary compute power and resources had to be guaranteed at all times.

The Solution

Although the use case was demanding and specific, Nuvolos was able to support the needs of Prof. Kraska and his students. Because Nuvolos allows users to deploy applications directly in the browser, using state-of-the-art cloud technology, the students were able to use Visual Studio Code as a development environment they were familiar with. This way, they could benefit from Nuvolos’ ecosystem of integrations to do their project work without having to learn to work in a new and unfamiliar editor. 

Naturally, the platform’s inbuilt course design features made sure that each student could be reliably provided with the same working context. Since Nuvolos is cloud native and built for end-to-end reproducibility and familiarity, Prof. Kraska did not need to worry about dependence on any particular hardware setup he or students might have. Nuvolos also scales smoothly and seamlessly, allowing the team to spin up new specialised CPUs and GPUs as needed with just a few clicks. Finally, the engineering support team at Nuvolos was ready to step in where additional help was needed, for example in providing syntax support for CalculiX in Visual Studio Code so students could more readily understand where they might go wrong. 

The Outcome

For Prof. Kraska and his engineering students at the TH Brandenburg, Nuvolos provided an integrated computational science platform that saves effort on setup, while guaranteeing hardware independence, scalability, and familiarity. After his experience, Prof. Kraska recommends Nuvolos “for all those who want to try out working with CalculiX and Dakota without facing the overhead of installation”.

Key Benefits

  • Saves repeat effort on installation and overhead

  • Students can use a familiar development environment

  • Guaranteed identical work context for students and scalability for course teachers