DesignSafe Academy 2021 Builds Technical Skills – and Excitement

Published on August 31, 2021


"The WindyWaves," winners of the DesignSafe Academy 2021 hackathon

The 2021 inaugural DesignSafe Academy (DSA), held virtually July 26 - 30, 2021, was attended by 72 participants from 24 countries.

The DSA had two main sections, a three-day workshop followed by a two-day hack-a-thon. DSA participants attended sessions on Jupyter, Python, data analytics, database access, machine learning, high-performance computing, and visualization.

During the workshop, the students were exposed to various aspects of DesignSafe, from launching HPC jobs using Jupyter to visualizing natural hazard events using HazMapper.

A new user on DesignSafe commented, "I was excited to learn the different tools available to us, their capabilities, and how to make use of them. I feel more comfortable navigating these tools as needed in my research." The DSA participants were able to link the concepts they learned during the tutorial sessions and hands-on exercises with real-world applications covering the use of DesignSafe by various researchers.

Although the DSA has been designed to encourage new users and expose them to the capabilities of DesignSafe, it is exciting to see the Academy helps long-term users as well.

"This academy provided the opportunity to learn about what the DesignSafe offers to the natural hazard community," said a 5-year DesignSafe user.

DesignSafe researchers showcased their projects and the benefits of DesignSafe on topics ranging from seismic studies, storm surge, machine learning, hazard mapping, and visualization of natural hazards.

DSA Hackathon. The last two days of the Academy brought together the best 20 participants to go head-to-head in 5 teams supported by four mentors for hack-a-thon projects to solve natural hazard problems. By far, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in natural hazards was the most popular theme. Other projects in the hack-a-thon were the development of optimization schemes to improve numerical methods to solve seismic wave propagation and creating templates to launch HPC jobs to evaluate and visualize storm surges. The teams worked tirelessly and almost non-stop over two days to put everything they learned in the workshop to learn, build, develop and create tools and applications on DesignSafe. "It was fun to work on a new problem, interact with the teammates/mentor, and getting stuck with the code while having a timer running all the time – and drinking loads of coffee," commented a hack-a-thon team member on their experience.

The Academy culminated with the five teams presenting their work to a public presentation with two teams, "The WindyWaves" and "GeoPyoNeerS," winning the Judges and the Public awards for best projects. The DesignSafe Scademy will be an annual event, which aims to support both new and experienced users alike in helping them utilize various tools on DesignSafe to accelerate their research in natural hazards engineering.