Let’s go to Mars together

In our final publication of this year, we would like to tell about our participation in recently launched ECMI virtual education program. The academic program in Applied Mathematics at the Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics (IAMM) of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University is emphasized in various aspects of computational mechanics. By joining ECMI virtual education program we intended to examine and adopt the methods of virtual and remote training used by ECMI colleagues and also to present the educational approaches used in IAMM.

The most challenging part of the project was choice and adaptation of short modeling course that is meant to fit our area of scientific interests and also have some national specifics. The idea was suggested by a short Science Fiction novel Jak and the Beanstalk by Richard A. Lovett [Analog Science Fiction and Fact, v131 #7 & 8, July/August 2011]. The story is about a guy who climbs the tower (Beanstalk) that is 65000 kilometers high. The novel mentions that such tower makes it possible to launch shuttles to Mars using just centrifugal force with minimal additional energy.

The students were proposed to conduct a technical audit of Beanstalk project as it was described in the novel. It turns out that the task can be considered from different points of view and various modeling approaches can be used on different levels: from analytical solutions of ordinary differential equations to advanced finite element analysis.

We have tested the developed course on different groups of students: from just high schools graduates to Master and even PhD students. And everyone was very enthusiastic about the project. Some pointed out new and previously unknown to us phenomena connected with the Beanstalk. Everybody has got a lot of fun that is rather unusual while study math.

So thank you very much for being with us these two weeks. See you next year … maybe on Mars.