Gamification in Computational Fluid Dynamics in 2022
This story focuses on “gamification” in the context of Computational Fluid Dynamics, a science focused on predicting the movement of fluids through computer simulation used in the aerospace, automotive and many other industries.
This story diverges from the prior stories I wrote as it does not focus on coding but rather on a personal narrative that sets a context for my development and coding efforts.
The views/opinions expressed in this story are my own. This story relates my personal experience and choices and is provided for information in the hope that it will be useful but without any warranty.
Computational Fluid Dynamics
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a discipline and industry that is close to my interests as I started in this field over 2 decades ago.
CFD, as its name implies, uses computer simulation to model and represent the movement of fluid. This is achieved by solving a set of equations governing this movement. Wikipedia’s article or cfd-online.com’s wiki (for more depth) provide an overview of the set of equations and discretisation techniques that can be employed.
The evolution of the discipline is intrinsically linked with the evolution of computational power. According to cfd-online’s wiki, it came to be applied in the aerospace industry around 1985 and other industries in circa 1995. Since that time, significant progresses on software and computer power have allowed CFD to become more accessible and routinely used.
This story gives my thoughts on the state of play in 2022 in consideration of gamification in this field.
What is gamification and why is it important?
According to Wikipedia, “Gamification is the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations, and activities in order to create similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users.”
The context of this story considers that, when I started, a super-computer or a cluster was needed to run simulations. This limited its use to specialists versed in unix, compiler and command line interface… Since then, progresses have significantly reduced the barrier to entry from ease of use, computer hardware and price perspectives.
From a software perspective, mature open-source CFD solver such as openFoam and SU2 are available that alleviate licensing costs — albeit with steep learning curves. Commercial CFD software have evolved to facilitate adoption through user friendliness, cloud offering and integration with workflows and other tools.
These have led to a democratisation of CFD capabilities, whereby CFD can be used by non-expert early and throughout the design process as detailed in this 2020 iMechE article as well as used by enlightened amateurs.
This story looks at gamification as the step following democratisation whereby strategies are employed to actively engage with users to promote the use of CFD beyond just completing an analysis or study.
Gamification in CFD
My earliest encounter with gamification in the CFD discipline was in the activity statistics and badge on the forum cfd-online.com — see my profile here. It looks dated now, but was the go-to place in the 00s.
I, personally, see effects or attempts to gamification in CFD occurring in three distinct ways.
Firstly, engagement with audiences is taking a social spin. Traditionally, engagement take place in academic and conference settings and software vendors organising users meetings and newsletters focusing on their own product(s) targeting current and prospective users. In contrast, some current initiatives engage with a wide community without actively promoting a specific software. John Chawner (Cadence, formerly Pointwise)’s This Week in CFD is a weekly blog post of links to CFD news worthy of attention during the week — accompanied with an example of meshing in arts. Twitter #SimulationFriday gathers contributors sharing images or videos of simulation CFD or otherwise — a great opportunity to engage with a wider audience that has now expanded beyond its initial set of amateurs and individual contributors to include posts from software vendors and professionals. FYFD “Celebrating the physics of all that flows” is a fantastic blog by Nicole Sharp that, as its title indicates, promotes fluid dynamics through visual and regular posts.
The second strand is active engagement with software users through competitions. Such competitions may be tailored towards future software users, such as CONVERGE Academic Competition, STEM activities, for example Fluid Dynamics Photography Competition, or current software users, see The Art of Simulation Image Competition. The Mantium Challenge is (was?) a practical challenge focused on design and aerodynamic skills with participants designing virtual racing cars that are ranked based on predicted lap-time using design aerodynamic performances assessed using CFD.
The last strand is in minimalist fluid dynamic software — let’s not call them CFD as they are design tools . These software provide easily accessible and interactive area for playing with fluid dynamic. For example, there are fluid dynamics simulation running in a browser such as liquidfun-wasm and cfd-wasm, or on a phone or table, see Navier-Stokes Arts & Wind Tunnel, or meshFlow.
[Side note: Is Fluid Simulation solving fluid dynamic equations?]
Pushing the gamification further, one can foresee the possibilities of adding gaming features to a fully fledge CFD software such as concurrent multi-user/player capabilities; practice areas in place of tutorials; scoreboard/rating whereby a user would develop from beginner to expert based on their ability to converge simulation for example; live streaming…
The vortex particle simulation software, source code on github and live at cfd-webassembly.com, is my contribution to the minimalist fluid simulation strand, where I develop and test ideas and concepts — but it is only the efforts of one person in his spare time.
Over the last couple of months, I went through a rewrite to use VueJS version 3 and implemented a gaming approach to controlling the camera position inspired by R/C control modes alongside traditional zoom and orbit controls. The controls are described below and perfect when used on a mobile phone in landscape view — they are not suitable for mouse/keyboard work:
The implementation is rough and does not account for plane or helicopted behaviour… yet…
But it is enough for a challenge: load cfd-webassembly.com, launch the vortex simulation, and try to pass through the vortex ring without touching any of the vortex particles? #IWentThroughTheRing