I’m Brian Mack and This Is How I Mesh

Brian Mack, Intern on the Product Development Team.

Brian Mack, Intern on the Product Development Team.

I am currently a junior attending the University of Texas at Arlington majoring in Aerospace and Electrical Engineering. Many people ask, “Those are two distinctly different majors. Why both?” Well, I have found that I truly enjoy both. My passion is in the aerospace industry but I would be lying if I left out my passion for electronics and what makes the things we use every day work. With an education in both degrees, I can see a near complete picture of how everything works.

I grew up in Austin, TX and I absolutely love the atmosphere there (though not the traffic). I have since moved to Arlington to pursue my desire to work in the aerospace industry and I have found this city has a cool atmosphere too. It’s nice to have Fort Worth and Dallas within such close proximity without actually living in either city. In Arlington, I get the best of both worlds.

  • Location: Fort Worth, TX
  • Current position: Development Intern
  • Current computer: Intel® Core™i7 CPU 860 @ 2.80GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GT 220, Windows 10
  • One word that best describes how you work: Focused

What software or tools do you use every day?

As a development intern I do a majority of my work in Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 or the 2012 version. I have grown accustomed to the layout and the features in those software packages that allows me to more efficiently program. From scripts to C++, I love and use Visual Studio.

What does your workspace look like?

Brian's current workspace.

Brian’s current workspace.

My workspace looks fairly neat. I always keep a pad of paper and a pen/pencil handy to look at concepts on a piece of paper as opposed to on the screen. It often helps with visualizing a problem.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on expanding portions of the plugin SDK to allow for more functionality for our end users. As an example, I have finished expanding our TAU plugin to export 2D grids as well as other minor changes to other plugins like variable precision for data in OpenFOAM. I am also working through different wishes and doing my best to make any reasonable changes to allow the users to accomplish any tasks they need to with Pointwise. These wishes mostly deal with adding functionality to different plugins or adding new plugins in general. One of the new plugins I am working on implementing is an exporter for ABAQUS.

What would you say is your meshing specialty?

My meshing specialty deals more with the utilities for meshing as opposed to actually meshing. I specialize in writing Glyph scripts and plugins for different solver formats. These tools are important skills to have when meshing as they can greatly reduce the time to complete a mesh and export the final grid. If you are using a solver not supported by Pointwise officially, I can write a plugin for Pointwise to allow for the export. This would allow a company to streamline a process without having to change software.

Glyph scripting is also very important in that it allows you to perform tasks that are repetitive with very little work. Further, there is significantly more functionality when using Glyph as opposed to the GUI itself allowing you to create very complex meshes without as much work.

Any tips for our users?

Learn the shortcuts for the Pointwise interface and also learn how to produce Glyph scripts. This can save you an enormous amount of time and even allow you more power than the GUI provides. Using the GUI calls, making a helical connector around anything would be a near insurmountable task but with the help of a script, I can now make a helical connector around any axis.

My next bit of advice would be to spend some time learning C++ in the off chance you need to write a plugin for a particular file format. Writing a plugin is not exceptionally difficult and can save you a lot of time.

What project are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of writing a script that would allow a user to create a helical connector around any arbitrary axis including a spline curve. The current script, hosted on GitHub, only works on a major axis, but the second revision should be getting the finishing touches shortly and will work on any arbitrary axis or spline curve as mentioned before. The connector created can have a variable radius and is also a constant pitch. I am proud of this because of the versatility of the script as well as all the information I had to learn in order to make the script function for the most general case. In order to allow the connector to be created around an arbitrary axis, I first had to rotate the axis so that it was collinear to the z-axis and then do a conversion to polar coordinates. After the new point was calculated, the point was then converted back to rectangular coordinates and the operations were reversed so that the point would be located back around its original axis. With a line, these operations were very simple. With a spline curve, this required a lot more thought. Tackling this was one of the more math intensive projects I have done to date and was definitely the most technically challenging.

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

I am currently reading a paper concerning the advancements of CFD in the future called CFD Vision 2030 Study: A Path to Revolutionary Computational Aerosciences written by Jeffrey Slotnick, Abdollah Khodadoust, Juan Alonso, David Darmofal, William Gropp, Elizabeth Lurie, and Dimitri Mavriplis.

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

When I am not generating meshes (or in school) I tutor people in their course work as well as work on personal programming projects of my own. I also build model cars with the idea that after I graduate from school, I can restore/modify old classic cars.

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

I would go to BJ’s or Cheddars Scratch Kitchen. I love the spinach and artichoke dip from Cheddars and have even made pretty successful attempts at creating a mimic of their recipe.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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3 Responses to I’m Brian Mack and This Is How I Mesh

  1. jdrch says:

    I’m envious you get to use Windows 10 at work. Using Windows 7 is hell.

  2. Pingback: This Is How I Glyph – Helical Connectors | Another Fine Mesh

  3. Pingback: Summer Internships at Pointwise | Another Fine Mesh

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