I’m Brian Ta and This Is How I Mesh

Brian Ta, Product Development Intern.

Howdy everybody! I am a Vietnamese born American originally from Fountain Valley, California.  The only memories I have from there are of the beach in addition to being robbed…the reason why my family moved to Texas.  I have been living in southwest Fort Worth for almost 16 years (I’m 21 now) so I can say that Fort Worth is where I’ve been truly raised.  My life story includes some twists and turns and I have been able to find solidarity through a couple of key moments:

  • Using my first computer (a Compaq Presario 5000 series). When I was around 9, I developed a strong fascination with computers and the internet.  My first memories were of Limewire, early YouTube, making friends from the UK through internet games, and infecting the family computer with viruses and malware.
  • Becoming a Texas A&M Aggie. I was graciously offered full tuition to Texas A&M through different programs. One of them was the Regents’ Scholar Program, given to low-income, first-generation university students.  WHOOP!  Before that, I was considering trials for D3 tennis at Sul Ross University, and believe it or not, passed on a full-ride offer to attend TCU with hopes to study engineering at A&M.  At A&M I had initially enrolled as a physics student after being inspired by some books and videos by Richard Feynman (in addition to applying late to the Engineering school).  I moved on in my second year to pursue computer science, something that I’ve always been fascinated with growing up.  My favorite course so far has been in Computer Graphics taught by Dr. Shinjiro Sueda.
  • Location: Fort Worth, TX
  • Current position: Intern, Product Development
  • Current computer: They call him Dooku. Specs:
    • Windows 10
    • Intel i7 860 @ 2.8 GHz
    • 8 GB DDR3 RAM @ 1333 MHz
    • NVIDIA GT 220
  • One word that best describes how you work: Curiously

What software or tools do you use every day?

  • The main tool I use nowadays is Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2015 for debugging and compilation. It’s great tool and the feature set enables me to complete my tasks efficiently.
  • For scripting, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with vi. I was one of the 1 million views of the Stack Overflow post, “How to exit the Vim editor?
  • Outlook for email.
  • Spark for chat.
  • Microsoft Teams looks promising for collaboration. Even though I haven’t used it much, I like to keep it open just in case.
  • And of course, Pointwise for grid generation.

What does your workspace look like?

It’s fairly simple and unorganized.

What are you currently working on?

This summer I am working on grid import plugins for the different CAE solver types that are currently unsupported.  We are adding grid import support for the following solvers: FUN3D, CFD++, SU2, CFX, OpenFOAM, Fluent, and Star-CCM+.

In addition, I am also working on a Glyph script that generates automatic nearfield and farfield blocks around a user defined group of domains to be used for automotive and aerospace applications.  Admittedly as a first time user, learning a lot of these meshing techniques for scripting have been over my head, but I find it really cool that there is so much control built into Pointwise. And a huge thanks to David Garlisch for helping me through the process.

What would you say is your meshing specialty?

As a computer science major, I don’t have much meshing experience.  However, I like to think that I can help others by working behind the scenes on the meshing software.  That said, being able to understand how to generate high quality meshes goes hand in hand with understanding the use cases of the software itself, so I am trying to keep a holistic mindset and learn as I go.

Any tips for our users?

Learning how to use new software can be quite intimidating. However, when it comes to learning Pointwise, there are a number of great resources out there you can use.  For example, Pointwise’s YouTube channel has a number of tutorial videos you can watch to help you quickly come up to speed with the features and meshing best practices.

I like the basic nature of the organization Pointwise provides for meshing.  For example, you can work on different parts of a complicated mesh using the layer manager in addition to using selection masks to select the different entity types you desire.

Mesh automation with Glyph is very useful and powerful.  Pointwise’s GitHub repository includes several example scripts you can run to get started.

Also, the support team is great a group and are always willing help and to take your feedback. User input is always welcomed and greatly appreciated.

What project are you most proud of and why?

I have completed the import plugin for the FUN3D solver, which will enable users to import their exported FUN3D grid files back into Pointwise.  This project involved efficiently reading in data represented in binary and ASCII formats and stuffing the data into importer API calls.  David had set up the API quite well making it relatively straightforward.

Apart from the other Pointwise projects I’m assigned (that are in progress), I do want to share some of the projects I’ve completed in school.  The first is a Software as a Service full stack web-application developed with the Ruby on Rails platform. This project was a Course Assignment Submission System (email me if you want to login info) to be used locally by the Computer Science & Engineering department which gives instructors, students, and teaching assistants a multitude of functionalities on courses and assignments.

The second, which I particularly enjoyed, is a project where we implemented a heartrate monitor using a microcontroller.  We used a TI-MSP430 and a Bluetooth chip to capture an electrocardiogram signal and then perform the necessary calculations on the data to output the user’s heartrate in real-time.  In retrospect, I realize that it is quite basic, but this gives me a stronger appreciation of the commonality and the impact of embedded systems in day to day machinery like automobiles, aircraft, medicine, and so much more.

A fun personal project I worked on was a Python script (repo is very outdated) which grabbed data from the Fantasy Premier League website.  I am a big follower of English football (soccer) and I compete in a fantasy league with my friends where we pick our team and get virtual points depending on how well our teams do.  The script gets a JSON response on different links of the website, parses through all of the competitive league data (team info, players picked, captains, previous points) that I’m in, and outputs it nicely in .csv files to give me a useless edge on my fellow competitors.

What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?

I don’t directly use any CFD solvers or postprocessors, but I do change solver types in Pointwise to export test grids to be reimported.

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

I read an interesting ACM paper earlier this year, First Steps Towards a Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of Wiki Discourses, which details the collaborative nature of Wikipedia.

This isn’t really technical, but I like the story of the ENIAC, (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) which is a computer developed by six brilliant women for the U.S. Army during the WWII era who recently received credit for their work.

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

Probably not.  I’d love to attend Apple’s WWDC one day though.

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

Video games (old console emulators), watching Netflix, hurting myself skateboarding, tennis, listening to 80s rock, and questioning the meaning of life.

Recently I’ve been planning and looking up things I can do to help out low-income communities bring computer science into their schools.  This is a long term goal, but I hope I can help out someday.

What is some of the best advice you’ve received in your field?

“Developing software is like building a doghouse, sometimes you just do it, if you fail you do it again, in the worst case you annoy your dog, but you can always get a new dog.” – Grady Booch (check out the talk he did at ICSE 2015).

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

Cousins Barbeque, Pho 95, or Whataburger.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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1 Response to I’m Brian Ta and This Is How I Mesh

  1. Pingback: Introducing Pointwise’s Summer Interns | Another Fine Mesh

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