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FDS Distance Education: Frequently Asked Questions

I have received a number of questions about the format of the supervised project that are answered below. As new questions come in I'll add them to this list, so please check back periodically.

Dave McGill

How do I register for the supervised project?

Registration will be processed by Seneca's School of Fire Protection. Contact Dave McGill , 416.491.5050 ext. 26186

I've never heard of Seneca College; can you tell me about it?

Seneca is located in a suburb of Toronto in Ontario Canada. The School of Fire Protection offers a Fire-Fighter Pre-service program (1-year), a Fire Protection Technician program (2-year), and a Fire Protection Technologist program (3-year). We have approximately 600 full-time students and an additional 500 part-time or distance education students.

What level is this supervised project: beginner, intermediate, or advanced?

The supervised project is for beginners, and progresses through all the major functions and features, certainly to the intermediate level. I teach an introductory fire modeling course, and we've included FDS/Smokeview for the last three semesters, so I've got a good idea as to the problems people have learning the software. Participants may explore advanced topics as part of their individual projects.

What is the format of the supervised project?

It is a self-study distance education supervised project. Participants will receive a manual containing explanatory material and exercises, and a CD with a number of files.The topics do not follow the order of the NIST manual; they explore the features of FDS in the order you would encounter them if you were building a scenario from the beginning. A typical exercise will address a single topic. You will begin by reading relevant sections of the NIST users guide, then the material in the Participants Guide, then perform several small exercises, using the supplied files. I will begin to discuss what you plan to do as your major project almost immediately, and you will begin to incorporate the features of FDS into your project as you learn them.

Can you explain the major project?

Ideally, this will be a well-documented situation from your own practice. If you are going to reconstruct a fire then you should have access to building dimensions, materials, contents, and relevant post-fire evidence of such things as origin, smoke layer height and temperatures.

I'm looking for similar scenarios for our full-time students to model, so if you have more than one interesting scenario, please consider providing the details to one of the full-time students.

How do I get help?

Contact me through e-mail or telephone (1.800.572.0712 from North America, or 416.491.5050 ext. 26186).

When does the supervised project start, and how long will it take?

There are no set start or stop dates. You can begin when you want, work at your own pace, and take as much time as you want. There will be no fixed assignment dates. The idea is to have enough flexibility to accommodate everyone's work, vacation and travel schedules. Most distant students are taking about 6 months to complete the material.

How much time will it take?

The time commitment will really depend upon the nature of your individual project. Doing the reading and individual exercises will takeabout 30 hours, a modest project would probably take at least another 20-30 hours. If you choose an ambitious project with a complicated structure (lots of internal partitions, furnishings, HVAC, etc.) you could spend 20 hours just building the structure. If you are modeling fire spread for a material not in the provided database, then you could spend many hours validating the properties of a new material. A modeling matrix with many different scenarios will add more time. Part of my role will be to advise you on the practicality of what you want to model, and reconcile that with the amount of time you can spend on the project. Most of the distant students are taking on fairly ambitious projects and spending a considerable amount of time on them.

What kind of computer do I need?

The bigger the better! At at a bare minimum I'd suggest a 2.0 GHz P IV with 512 MB of RAM. You will run into limitations with your project with a computer of this limited performance. A 3.0 GHz or faster processor, with 1 GB or more of memory is much nicer to work on.

Will this supervised project examine the mathematics, chemistry, and thermodynamics upon which FDS is based?

No. The goal of the supervised project is to make you proficient users of the software. The material makes frequent reference to the NIST users guide, and no reference to the accompanying Technical Reference.

Will your Participant's Guide replace the User's Guide supplied by NIST?

No, the Participant's Guide will refer you to sections of the User's Guide, and suggest things to consider as you implement various aspects of FDS.

Can you provide an ftp server to facilitate the exchange of files?

Yes. However, a scenario might produce hundreds of MB of data, so you will need some form of high-speed internet access (LAN, cable, DSL) if you plan on uploading or downloading the complete output of a simulation.