I’m Patrick Baker and This Is How I Mesh

Patrick Baker, Manager of the Product Development Team.

Patrick Baker, Manager of the Product Development Team.

A native of Kansas City, MO, I spent the earliest part of my technical life hanging out with my dad at his office. Maybe it was the lure of technology that kept me going with him, or maybe it was to spend time away from my six sisters – too many tea parties and makeovers. My dad worked for the same civil engineering firm his entire life, primarily as a Fortran programmer who designed and implemented algorithms for bridge and highway systems that are still in use today. My interest in engineering and writing code is most assuredly tied directly back to him. My earliest memory of programming was, at age 12 or 13, writing a simple temperature converter in Fortran for a GE-600 series (I think) mainframe using punch cards and magnetic tape. I vividly remember the impressive and massive array of core memory, teletypes, high-speed card readers and paper and magnetic tape machines – it took up nearly have a floor in the office. There was an entire room of keypunch machines which produced an amazing volume of confetti. I think the sheer size and impression of power of that setup is what drew me in. Or maybe it was the confetti and the flashing lights.

I attended the University of Missouri-Rolla in the early 80’s earning a BS in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Computer Science and an emphasis on numerical methods for engineering. Looking back, I would have liked to continue with more education, but financial constraints required that I get a real job and off the family payroll (remember, six sisters, plus a brother by now, supported on an engineer’s salary).

Out of college, I was lucky enough to land a position as a wind tunnel test engineer at General Dynamics-Fort Worth Division where I had the opportunity to help design and test models for several advanced aircraft. It was here that I learned to love to code in C and work with Unix, writing routines for various data acquisition, reduction, analysis and archival systems. Lucky me again, the wind tunnel group was situated very close to the CFD group which is where I first met and became friends and occasional golf partners with John Chawner and John Steinbrenner. This is also where I came to realize, after only seven years, that wind tunnel testing was not the end for me, much like playing golf was not for John Chawner.

Since I wanted to explore programming more fully, after I left GD/FW in 1991, I spent about 15 years moving between consulting engagements, designing and writing code for advanced systems in natural gas trading, electric transmission scheduling, travel services, and one of the first multithreaded debuggers for hp-ux. I learned and became obsessive-compulsively proficient in the C/C++ and Java programming languages. I also learned how to properly classify a problem domain so that it could be turned into usable software. And oh, during this period, my wife decided to further her own career though education, while at the same time starting our family of two boys and a girl. All of this kept me moving around, but also opened up more opportunities to learn and grow professionally.

Also during this period is when Pointwise came into existence, initially offering Gridgen on Unix platforms only, but wanting to extend support to Windows. Fortunately for me, I had stayed in contact with Chawner and Steinbrenner and was offered the opportunity to port Gridgen as a consulting project. The main challenge of this was simply to get the existing code compiling with Microsoft compilers, followed by replacing an event loop here and there. So, I have the dubious distinction of being the first to see Gridgen run on Windows. The pride I may have felt about that quickly evaporated after I started full-time at Pointwise in 2007 and realized that virtually none of the code I added still remained. Thank you, Chris Fouts.

Since starting in 2007 as an Engineering Specialist, I’ve become the manager of the Product Development team. There are not enough good things I can say about my team and the rest of the staff here. These are easily the smartest and most fun people anybody could know, let alone work with daily. My philosophy toward personnel management is utopian: good people don’t need to be managed, just encouraged and supplemented with soda and snacks. The reality is, though, that everyone needs somebody to coach them along from time to time, even if it’s just a simple acknowledgment that they’re heading the right direction. That’s probably another thing I absorbed while spending so much time with my dad at work.

On an average day, I am probably interrupted 20 times for various things from virtually everyone on staff. But I like it that way. From responding to questions about the product plan or the product itself, to fixing bugs or reviewing code and requirements, I like to be involved both technically and non-technically in the advancement of the product and the company.

  • Location: Fort Worth, TX
  • Current position: Manager, Product Development
  • Current computer: Windows 8.1
  • One word that best describes how you work: Fragmented

What software or tools do you use every day?

gvimVisual StudioPerforceOutlook, and Chrome.

What does your workspace look like?

Patrick's current workspace.

Patrick’s current workspace.

I have a dual-monitor setup where I generally run administrative tools (Outlook, Chrome) on one, and edit code and run Pointwise on the other.

What are you currently working on?

The development team has been working on various features for the next major release of Pointwise for over a year and a half. Currently, we’re trying as hard as we can to get the code tested well enough to release a limited beta, followed closely by the general release.

What would you say is your meshing specialty?

I don’t have a meshing specialty, as the meshes I make are the simplest possible, intended to ensure that the various features of Pointwise work in a consistent, well-designed manner. In recent history, however, I have become most familiar with the inner workings of our unstructured surface mesher.

Any tips for our users?

Most of the nagging issues our customers face pertain to poorly defined or improperly sized geometry. So, if there’s any one tip I’d give to a user, it’s to obtain the cleanest geometry possible, and fix what isn’t clean in Pointwise, before starting the meshing process.

What project are you most proud of and why?

I don’t have any special feelings for any particular technical project over the course of my career. I’m not good at self-promotion; I had a difficult time just writing this article. If I have to choose something in my life to point at as a success, I’d say raising my kids to be humble and respectful but at the same time intelligent, independent thinkers.

What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?

I’ve never run a flow solver or postprocessor on anything but the most trivial cases. While the solution space interests me, it’s never really been a focus of mine since the development team works tirelessly at improving the mesher, and thus the mesh.

Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?

It’s been a while, but the last papers I reviewed with interest dealt with quadrilateral surface meshing. The authors and titles escape me.

Do you plan on attending any conferences or workshops this year?

I may attend AIAA Propulsion as a representative of Pointwise, mostly to man the booth and hear first-hand what kinds of problems and ideas customers are having.

What do you do when you’re not generating meshes?

When I’m not coding or coaching my team, I help my wife manage her business by doing the books, payroll and some of the IT. Beyond work, I enjoy an active life that includes about 75 rounds of golf per year, racquetball, and basketball (to the extent I can run with the younger players). We also like to travel and attend Broadway shows and concerts, although we don’t have as many opportunities to do those things as we’d like.

What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?

I’ll toe the company line and say that a good mesh might not lead to the ideal solution, but a bad mesh will always lead to a bad solution.

If you had to pick a place to have dinner, where would you go?

My favorite places all serve dry-aged cuts of beef. These include Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House or Capital Grille in downtown Fort Worth, and Fearing’s in the Ritz-Carlton near the Dallas Arts District. I really miss the old Blades restaurant that used to be downtown Fort Worth, which closed abruptly in 2005.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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6 Responses to I’m Patrick Baker and This Is How I Mesh

  1. Pingback: This Week in CFD | Another Fine Mesh

  2. Bobby Z says:

    Impressive – and a nice guy! Sense of humor could use some work though…

  3. Hosseyb says:

    Hello brother….
    I need to know how i can measure my first Boundry layer (Y+) in T_rex mesh?
    Please help me…. I were confused

    • John Chawner says:

      Hello:

      Do you want to set the spacing value T-Rex uses at the wall? Or do you want to use Examine to see what spacing value is actually on the wall? Or do you want to take an existing mesh and compute the Y+ value at each point off the wall?

      If the latter, you’ll need to do that in your postprocessing software (e.g. FieldView, Tecplot, Ensight, Paraview).

  4. Pingback: I’m Rick Matus and This Is How I Mesh | Another Fine Mesh

  5. Pingback: I’m John Chawner and This Is How I Mesh | Another Fine Mesh

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