For the past 18 years of my life, the extent of my computer knowledge has been knowing how to stream Netflix and scroll through Twitter. I couldn’t download software, let alone learn how to use any of it. Still, I made it a goal for myself to learn the basics of ParaView—and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
My name is Paige Ratsep. I’m a senior at Shenendehowa High School, and starting in the fall, I’ll be attending Northeastern University to work towards a degree in chemical engineering. This semester, I decided to take an internship course for which I’d need to complete 54 hours being mentored at a company. When choosing where my placement would be, I gave myself a couple of crucial conditions. First, I wanted to drag myself out of my comfort zone. Second, I wanted to kickstart my higher education before I entered college. Ultimately, I knew Kitware, Inc. could do this for me because there’s nothing I’m more unfamiliar with than computers, and I know I’ll eventually end up taking computer science courses where I’ll use complex software. Despite my fear of all things technological, my mentors here at Kitware have made it a painless and pleasant experience. For the first time in my life, I can now say that I understand the basics of using software other than Microsoft.
My first day here at Kitware also happened to be the day of the ParaView training course, which I did attend. I remember I was super excited and ready to master everything that came at me. Then, it came time to download ParaView onto my laptop. I had to make sure I was downloading the most recent and stable version of Paraview.
The rest of the day was a blur. The first speaker colored the visuals based on temperature and pressure. I decided to work through the tutorials a few times each so I could really absorb what was happening. I started to become more familiar with the most commonly used filters and how they were able to manipulate the way we view data. It was then that I became captivated by everything I was seeing. In that moment, I was absolutely certain that I’d have a wonderful learning experience at Kitware.
Every day, I write a journal entry about my experience at Kitware, and this quote from my ParaView training experience really sums things up. “I’m beyond excited to keeping learning and practicing with ParaView throughout this semester. Right now, all I can really do is create pretty shapes, but I mean, we all have to start somewhere.” However, those who desire to learn ParaView, fear not. Keep in mind—I am not at all tech savvy, and technically, I haven’t even earned a general education degree yet. So, if I can manage this, you can probably do a lot more.
Over the next few sessions after the training, CEO Lisa Avila worked with me and another intern to go further into depth with the filters and different applications. What I took away from that session was this: Once you put in a dataset and ParaView puts it into a visual format, you are then able to apply filters, and the result is a new, more specific set of visual data. That’s probably a terribly reiterated oversimplification of its function, but it’s how I understand it. After that, we began working with real datasets.
First, we worked with a dataset of Mount Saint Helena. We uploaded the data into ParaView, then had to change the settings to 3D so that our visual gave us the height dimension rather than just showing us a picture with lines on it. From there, we worked with the color settings. Our task was to create the visual so that it depicted what we thought the mountain would look like in real life (rather than coloring it based on temperature/pressure/etc.) Once I finished coloring the mountain, I put topographic contour lines on it using the contour filter and traced it with tubes to allow them to be more visible. We also worked on another mini task. We opened up a file with a dataset for a motor, we applied the connectivity filter to identify where different datasets were meeting up, and we colored it accordingly. Then, we used the clip filter to cut it in half to get a visual of the interior. After that, I really started getting the hang of using the different filters for an efficient and productive purpose.
Eventually, I even dipped my toes into volume rendering with ParaView. It was really interesting because I was able to visualize things like human molars, fish, and even tomatoes. One of my favorite parts, however, was creating 3D molecular structures.
I’m a chemistry fanatic, so I was in my element (no pun intended). I’ve now completed two chemistry courses in my high school experience and never had I been able to see such a complex visual of molecules. I truly believe it helped enhance my understanding of molecular structure and how it affects the properties.
It has been so exciting being able to see how technology is used in the real world. In addition to ParaView, I also worked with a few other types of software such as 3D Slicer and QGIS. It’s been fascinating to see how different programs specialize in manipulating data differently. Kitware gave me a taste of how I might need to use visualization techniques later on in my life for my career. I learned the importance of having different methods and ways to visualize data other than tables and graphs. My experience with learning ParaView ultimately gave me the confidence I need to begin school in the fall and to hopefully begin learning more new, cool, and useful software.
Thanks to my mentors who have taught me not only things about technology and how Kitware works, but also a lot about myself and my true interests throughout this semester—Lisa, Sankhesh, Aashish, T.J., and Sandy. I’m grateful beyond words.