Students’ VTK Google Summer of Code Projects Completed

October 7, 2011

The Visualization Toolkit participated for the first time this year in the Google Summer of Code program as a mentoring organization. This program is an exciting way for students to get involved in open source while being funded by Google to “flip bits not burgers.” Marcus Hanwell, a former Google Summer of Code student participant, acted as the VTK organization’s administrator and mentor, with Jeff Baumes as the backup administrator and mentor.

VTK was given two student slots as a new mentoring organization, which made it especially difficult to select from all of the high-quality proposals received. After a great deal of deliberation, David Lonie’s proposal entitled “Chemistry Visualization” and Tharindu De Silva’s proposal entitled “Implement Select Algorithms from IEEE VisWeek 2010 in VTK” were selected. We were pleased to see both of the students engaging the developer community and using the tools provided to propose changes and take feedback.

David Lonie, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Zurek’s group at the University of Buffalo, has added support for the Chemical Markup Language (CML) to VTK and basic chemical structure representations, which use the efficient 3D glyph mapper in order to render large molecular structures. These representations are able to use the colors, radii and other data provided by the Blue Obelisk Data Repository. Additionally, David worked on integrating electronic structure visualization using contours and volume rendering. These features are available using a simple API.

Tharindu De Silva took on the task of implementing some of the most popular algorithms from last year’s VisWeek conference. The first was “An Extension of Wilkinson’s Algorithm for Positioning Tick Labels on Axes,” and it touched several of the core classes in the Charts kit of VTK. This algorithm optimizes tick label position, font size, orientation and format of axis labels. The second algorithm was the “Fast, Memory-Efficient Cell Location in Unstructured Grids for Visualization,” which was implemented as an alternative to the existing locator algorithms in VTK and used the existing locator framework in VTK to integrate this new efficient algorithm.

It has been a pleasure working with two very enthusiastic students, who have both added tests to cover the new features they added to VTK. The features will soon be merged into master and have already undergone code review. We are pleased to have participated in this program, as it is enormously valuable both to the VTK community, the students and the mentors taking part in the process. Kitware and the mentors thank the students for all of their hard work and Google for continuing to run such a valuable program that gives so many students and projects the opportunity to grow.

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