Open house offers a glimpse at RENCI innovations

CHAPEL HILL, NC—The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) will open its doors to the public on Friday, March 2, for an open house that will showcase a wide range of technologies and projects related to disaster research, bioinformatics, public health, high performance computing and high resolution visualization.

The open house will take place at RENCI’s anchor facility at 100 Europa Drive, Chapel Hill (the Europa Center office building) between noon and 3 p.m. Visitors should enter the building from the parking lot entrance. Refreshments and light snacks will be available.

Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI brings together diverse teams of people and technologies to address major issues facing our state, our nation, and the world, including disaster planning and response, public health and biomedical research. The open house will include demonstrations and information about RENCI’s major initiatives. Highlights will include:

  • Tours of the robotics laboratory and the high-performance machine room. The robotics lab develops embedded devices and robotic tools that can be used to access and respond to disasters or remotely monitor chronic health conditions. The machine room is home to RENCI’s IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer Ocracoke. The 11-teraflop system is the most powerful computer in North Carolina and runs daily models of RENCI’s high-resolution, comprehensive forecasting application HydoMet.
  • Demonstrations of HydroMet, a comprehensive forecasting system that combines atmospheric, hydrological and coastal storm surge data. These models have nine times the resolution of the National Weather Service’s production models and will be used to produce more accurate flood and landslide predictions in North Carolina.
  • Up close looks at RENCI’s autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and its experimental emergency response vehicle. Equipped with a digital camera and programmed to receive transmissions from battery operated, low-power sensors in remote locations, the UAV can be used during disasters to gather data from areas too dangerous or too remote to be reached by humans. The experimental emergency response vehicle is a prototype meant for use in emergencies or for training emergency response teams. The custom-built flatbed truck is equipped with a mobile wireless network activated via a retractable helium balloon and a satellite dish. It can be used in conjunction with the UAV.
  • Information about the RENCI Outpatient Health Monitoring System (OHMS). This new collaboration with the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine will examine how wireless networking and tiny devices can be used to remotely monitor chronic conditions, such as asthma. The goal is to develop a system that will keep patients healthier while reducing costly visits to hospital emergency rooms.
  • Stereoscopic and high-resolution visualization. RENCI’S visualization and collaborative environments group will show how three-dimensional animations and graphic displays of scientific data have revolutionized research and discovery. High-resolution weather models and simulations of galaxies and astrophysical phenomena will be on featured. The visualization laboratory also will display examples of multigigapixel imagery, 360-degree, super high-resolution images that could impact medical and geographic imaging and the visual arts.

“With this open house, we hope to give the public a snapshot of what RENCI does and our potential impact on everything from how the state responds to hurricanes to how the medical system treats chronic diseases,” said RENCI Director Dan Reed. “We are excited about our work and we want to share our excitement with the university communities, the Triangle business community, educators, and the general public.”