Up, Up and Away: Lorenzo Alba’s Summer Internship

LoZo-balloon-volLorenzo Alba, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Texas at Arlington, spent the summer on our Technical Support team. Many of you will get to see his work close-up at the International Meshing Roundtable this coming October. But read on to learn about this contributions to documentation, testing, and meshing. 

Documentation and Testing

All our technical interns start their summer by running everything in our tutorial workbook to get a feel for how Pointwise works. Immediately afterward we have them document their first impressions so we can get unbiased opinions about how the software works. [This often leads to new features.]

Tech support interns also have the added pleasure of keeping a close eye on the tutorial workbook and user manual documentation to ensure accuracy and completeness. Lorenzo’s work here was especially valuable since we recently moved Pointwise’s user manual online and he was able to find a few broken links and other issues. This is why Lorenzo can claim to be the only Pointwise intern to have read the software’s user manual cover to cover. [This seems to have paid dividends as you’ll see below. All the secrets of meshing are in there.] He also helped pave the way for moving the tutorial workbook online, an effort which is currently underway.

Lorenzo was also one of the first to try some of the new features coming in Pointwise V18.2. And by “try” I mean “try to break.” In addition to simply executing each feature’s test plan, he developed torture tests that typically wouldn’t be encountered in everyday use. Some of the new features he tested were:

  • Growth Profiles, a means of customizing how cell spacing grows away from a wall in the T-Rex hybrid meshing technique (growth rate, growth rate acceleration)
  • Domain self-intersection precheck, a test that can be run prior to executing T-Rex to verify that a block’s faces don’t self-intersect (something that happens on occasion when a highly curved convex region has a surface mesh that’s too coarse)
  • Splitting connectors into equal pieces, fairly self-explanatory
  • High order meshing through degree elevation and curving

Mesh Generation for the IMR Contest

Lorenzo’s main task this summer was to generate our mesh for the annual International Meshing Roundtable contest.  We always have fun participating in this contest because the geometry models are usually very challenging and this year was no exception. To celebrate the fact that this year’s IMR is in Albuquerque the week prior to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the two geometry models provided were a hot air balloon complete with gondola and the terrain of the Sandia mountains.


This year’s IMR meshing contest geometries are a hot air balloon and the terrain of the Sandia Mountains.

After importing the balloon’s B-Rep NURBS geometry model from a SolidWorks file, Lorenzo assembled it into a single watertight solid. To simplify the meshing, the rope around the gondola was ignored. The total number of cells in the resulting surface mesh was around 1.2 million.


The surface mesh on the balloon was resolved down to the detail of the burner coils.

The final volume mesh with hexahedral cells in the boundary layer ended up with 37.5 million cells including the balloon’s interior.


Detailed views of a crinkle cut through the volume mesh around the gondola.

Lorenzo also generated high-order meshes of both the balloon and terrain models but you’ll have to attend the IMR to see those.

Keep in mind that this mesh was generated by an undergraduate student with no prior CFD or mesh generation experience.

The Future

Lorenzo will be starting his senior year at UTA soon. After graduation he’d like to attend graduate school with a goal of eventually working on applications of thermal and fluid sciences in the automotive industry.


Lorenzo Alba (center) with Carolyn Woeber (left) and Dr. Claudio Pita (right), his mentors for the summer.



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