Google Summer of Code/Project Ideas

Revision as of 11:46, 14 February 2014 by Jasleen Kaur (talk | contribs) (Project Categories)

If you want to work on open source computer-aided design (CAD), geometry, or graphics, you've come to the right place!

We'd love to have you work on projects that make our software better. The project possibilities range from very simple to crazy hard with intense math and everything in between. Each project idea below links to a page with more details.

This year, BRL-CAD is coordinating with three other open source CAD efforts to help bridge our communities and encourage collaboration. Projects that help us exchange data or share code are encouraged!

BRL-CAD_gear_logo_w_name_256.png Under development for 30+ years, it's big, it's complicated, it's powerful. BRL-CAD will consider just about any project that relates to computer graphics.
logo.png LogoLibrecad_logo.png STEPcode_logo_sm.png
OpenSCAD: rich syntax, programmable geometry. Lots of possibilities to make it interoperate with BRL-CAD and LibreCAD. LibreCAD: 2D CAD modeling, drafting, drawings. STEPcode:A file format on steroids, STEP is a complex standard for geometry data used by nearly every pro CAD system.

Remember that our project descriptions are just initial ideas. You must expand with considerably more detail. You're encouraged to scale the scope up, down, or completely change the goals to fit your experience level and interest. Proposing a hard project does not improve your chances of getting selected.

Unless there isn't a quality proposal, we will be selecting at least one student for each of BRL-CAD's main categories as well as at least one student each for STEPcode, OpenSCAD, and LibreCAD.

BRL-CAD Priorities
There are also many other project ideas that would be interesting to us. Suggest your own. Don't be shy if you have questions!
Be sure to follow our checklist for guidance getting started.

Project Categories


Project: NURBS

BRL-CAD implements support for NURBS boundary representation geometry. Working with NURBS is pretty hard so you'll need to have either a suitable math or logic background, and lots of proposal milestones.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
NURBS Intersections: Evaluate the intersection of two NURBS surfaces. You'll get a 3D curve or a point, line segment, or even a plane depending how the surfaces overlap. C/C++ HARD Yapp, Rossberg
NURBS Editing Support: BRL-CAD doesn't currently have support for editing NURBS primitives. Fix that. C/Tcl MEDIUM Yapp
Vector Drawings from NURBS: Huge impact here if you can update one or more of our raytracers to provide vector output instead of raster. Perhaps render directly to PDF or SVG. C and/or C++ EASY Rossberg
Plate Mode NURBS raytracing: Imported NURBS geometry often does NOT enclose space (i.e., not solid), so add support for specifying an implicit thickness. C/C++ HARD Morrison
NURBS Optimization and Cleanup: We have a fantastic implementation of NURBS evaluation but haven't gone back to clean up or speed it up. Make it purdy. C/C++ MEDIUM Yapp, Morrison

Project: Refactoring

BRL-CAD has more than a million lines of code so we have to continually refactor and clean up code for maintainability. Cruft happens. These projects help reduce the complexity and make things better. They're not very hard at all, but exceedingly valuable to our project vitality.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
MGED to Archer Command Migration: Our next-generation editor (Archer) needs to have the same (700+) commands that are in MGED. Help make our next CAD interface awesome. C and Tcl EASY Yapp
Code Reduction: BRL-CAD is more than 1M lines of code. Approximately 10% of that is duplication. Help reduce that percentage. C EASY Greenwald, Morrison
General Tree Walker: We have a half dozen or more functions that will traverse a geometry hierarchy in different ways. There only needs to be one. C EASY Greenwald, Yapp, Morrison
Rework of libbu/libbn to not require Tcl: Tcl's C API is used throughout BRL-CAD providing great abstractions, but we want our basic utility and numeric libraries (LIBBU & LIBBN) to stand alone. C EASY Morrison, Yapp, Greenwald
Consolidate image processing: We have 100+ image processing tools that independently read and write file data. Needs much reuse love. C EASY Greenwald
Fix Bugs: We take pride in our breadth of functionality and time-tested stability. We still have bugs. Identify some and fix 'em! C EASY TBD
Mesh library cleanup: BRL-CAD has an extensive n-manifold polygonal mesh library that needs some refactoring, testing, and optimization rework. C MEDIUM Morrison, Rossberg

Project: Graphical User Interface

Better cross platform support and improved GUI usability are high on BRL-CAD's priority list, but those developments require some fundamental work on our core display libraries.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
New Cross-Platform 3D Display Manager: BRL-CAD uses display managers for visualizing 3D geometry in a window. We want one that uses a cross-platform toolkit such as Qt + OGRE. C/C++ MEDIUM Morrison

Project: Geometry Conversion

When it comes to geometry conversion, STEP is our priority but other formats like COLLADA, X3D, and IGES are also interesting.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
STEP exporter: We have an importer, we need a comprehensive exporter with support for implicit CSG, NURBS, or polygonal mesh geometry. C/C++ EASY Yapp, Morrison
STEP importer improvements: We have an importer, but it's preliminary. Add support for importing hierarchy information, polygonal geometry, and implicit geometry. C/C++ MEDIUM Yapp
Convert BoT to Pipe: Command line interface to convert facetted fluid/electrical line geometry into BRL-CAD native pipe solids. C/C++/Tcl MEDIUM Morrison
IGES import improvements: We have extensive support for the International Geometry Exchange Standard (IGES) with our g-iges and iges-g converters, but they need updating. C MEDIUM Morrison
Geometry Conversion Library: Probably our biggest open source asset is our extensive collection of importers and exporters. Turn them all into a universal conversion library. C/C++ EASY Greenwald, Morrison, Rossberg
Voxelize command: Convert geometry into voxel data sets by shooting a grid of rays. The finite element analysis and volumetric rendering folks will love you. C EASY Greenwald, Morrison, Rossberg

Project Geometry Processing

As part of our new GUI development efforts, a lot of code had to be moved out of application space into a library. That library is our geometry editing library, LIBGED. A lot of time, attention, and emphasis is going on there to make sure that all of our core functionality is reusable by applications. More than 100k lines of code have already moved, but there's still a lot more work needed.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
Add exec option to search: Our LIBGED library provides a search command very similar to the UNIX find command for scanning through geometry. Implement the -exec option. C EASY Yapp
Geometric Constraint Solver: Our LIBPC parametric constraint library is the work-in-progress foundation of being able to validate and describe geometry relationships. C/C++ HARD Morrison


We are an invested heavily in the ISO 10303 STEP standard for geometry import and export. Collaborating with the STEPcode community, we will be allocating one or more slots to a qualified capable student to specifically work on a STEP project.

Languages Impact Difficulty Contacts
STEP Coverage Test: Write a program that links against STEPcode and generates a STEP output instantiating every entity for a given schema. Goal is a comprehensive program and data file for testing STEP import/export. ANY (C/C++, Python, Java, Perl, ...) EASY Mark, Charlie
STEP Incremental Loading: Basically take a work-in-progress to the next level. Modify the STEP parser to only read what it needs when it needs it, test, clean up, profile, and optimize. C++ EASY Mark, Charlie
STEP Multiple Protocol Parsing: Currently creates a parser that works with a specific application protocol (e.g., AP203, AP214). Make it work with multiple simultaneously. C++ MEDIUM Mark, Charlie
STEP AP 242 Parser: We already parse a subset of AP203, but the new kid on the block is AP242. Make AP242 work with BRL-CAD's step-g importer. C++ EASY Mark, Charlie
STEP Libraries: We took over NIST's STEP Class Library (SCL) project during our development of a STEP importer. SCL has since turned into a larger community collaboration. The code needs cleanup. C/C++ EASY Mark, Charlie
STEP Viewer: STEP is a common CAD file format supported by just about every major CAD system. Given we have an importer and an interface for displaying geometry, a stand-alone STEP file viewer has some great potential. C/C++ MEDIUM Mark, Charlie

Web Development

We have high expectations for web development projects because the developer often does not stick around after development is over. We're not interested in web code, we're interested in people. If you're willing to work on your project long after GSoC is over (i.e., joining the project) and are willing to make a long-term commitment to BRL-CAD, then we absolutely welcome your web development project idea.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
Synchronize Wiki with Docbook: We use Docbook for most of our user documentation but find editing a wiki page much easier to use. Set up a system so the two are always in sync. Depends (likely PHP or Python) MEDIUM Yapp
Benchmark Performance Database: BRL-CAD's Benchmark has been used for two decades to compare performance across configurations. Build a database website. Depends (likely PHP or Python) MEDIUM Morrison
Materials Database: Create a Materials Database web site for collecting, managing, and providing programmatic interfaces to material properties. Depends (likely PHP or Python) MEDIUM Morrison, Yapp

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

The primary environment in which users interact with BRL-CAD geometry is the MGED geometry editor. The "next generation" interface for MGED, dubbed Archer, has been under development for some time but there is a lot of functionality that still needs to be migrated and new features needed by MGED, Archer, or both.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
New Cross-Platform 2D Framebuffer: BRL-CAD uses framebuffers to display 2D imagery. The merits of having a single interface for most platforms is self-evident. C/C++ EASY Morrison, Yapp
GUI Integration of Analysis Tools: There are a lot of visualization tools in BRL-CAD, but most aren't integrated with the GUI. Visualizing directly within the GUI would improve usability. C MEDIUM Rossberg
NMG Editing: Our structured polygonal mesh geometry (N-Manifold Geometry = NMG) is a common export format, but our NMG edit support is non-existent. We need something. C HARD Morrison, Rossberg
Visualizing Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG): CSG forms a directed acyclic graph. Tree view widgets show a simple hierarchical representation, but we need something better. C/C++ EASY Morrison

Geometry Processing

As part of our new GUI development efforts, a lot of code had to be moved out of application space into a library. That library is our geometry editing library, LIBGED. A lot of time, attention, and emphasis is going on there to make sure that all of our core functionality is reusable by applications. More than 100k lines of code have already moved, but there's still a lot more work needed.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
GED Transactions: Migrating functionality from our MGED geometry editor into our LIBGED library provided excellent code reuse, but now we need transactions so that actions can be undone. C EASY Morrison
Add exec option to search: Our LIBGED library provides a search command very similar to the UNIX find command for scanning through geometry. Implement the -exec option. C EASY Yapp
Geometry Selection Functionality: Implement a new selection command that lets you temporarily group objects based on spatial, attribute, or geometric properties. C EASY Morrison
Space Partitioning for Tessellation: Technically an optimization task, make our geometry converters run an order of magnitude faster by using spatial partitioning during tessellation. C HARD Greenwald, Yapp, Morrison
Overlap tool: Resolving geometric interferences (aka overlaps) is a common geometry editing activity. Design an awesome interface for resolving conflicts. Tcl EASY Yapp, Morrison, Greenwald

Rendering & Analysis

Raytracing is at the heart of all that is BRL-CAD. The 'rt' application was the world's first distributed parallel ray tracer, implemented in early 80's, and it's backed by our powerful LIBRT library. We're the best as full path shotlines (shooting all the way through geometry, not just first hit) and can handle crazy big geometry very efficiently, very fast. It's how we perform geometric analysis, generate images, perform simulations, and more.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
Shader Enhancements: We have a functioning custom shader system in BRL-CAD, but there are now folks that specialize and there's lot of room for improvements. C EASY Morrison, Greenwald
Material and Shader Objects: This one is a biggie but easy. Implement new object entities for describing shaders and material properties, use them during ray tracing. C EASY Morrison
NMG Raytracing Performance Improvement: BRL-CAD's structured mesh geometry (N-Manifold Geometry = NMG) needs some time in a profiler. Malloc during raytracing is bad. C HARD Morrison, Greenwald
Generalized abstracted spacial partitioning capability: Need more be said? If you're familiar with BSPs, KD trees, and grid structures, then this one is for you. C HARD Greenwald, Morrison
High Dynamic Range Support: We don't have displays supporting this yet, but that's never stopped us before. Implement support for images with more than 8-bits per channel. C and/or C++ EASY Greenwald, Yapp
Analysis Library: There are various tools in BRL-CAD for calculating weights, moments of inertia, and more. They're stand-alone applications. Turn them into a library. C HARD Yapp, Morrison

Project: Scientific

BRL-CAD has been used to visualize Hubble up in orbit (before it was launched), simulate light transport (multispectral analyses), model Earth's interior layers (education), and much more but there are lots of coding projects that would really help make BRL-CAD more useful for general science a work.

Languages Difficulty Contacts
Astronomical units: We already go "big", but accurately modeling at a galactic scale redefines that notion... C EASY Morrison, Greenwald
Bending light: Think gravity wells and satellite cameras. C MEDIUM Morrison
Celestial mechanics particle system: Simulate solar systems and galaxies. C/C++ MEDIUM Greenwald
Non-vacuum gravity simulator: Simulate falling to earth. C/C++ MEDIUM Greenwald, Morrison, Yapp
Polarization: We already do multispectral ray tracing, but don't simulate polarization effects. Implement ray splitting and filtering. C HARD Morrison, Rossberg
Density functions: Accurately represent everything from atmosphere to bone. Implement support for parametric density functions for homogenous materials. C HARD Rossberg, Morrison

OpenSCAD Projects

Languages Difficulty Contacts
Issue Handling: Description... C++ EASY Marius

LibreCAD Projects

Languages Difficulty Contacts
Issue Handling: Description... C++ EASY Dongxu Li

Other Tool Projects

Some of these project ideas aren't as detailed or elaborate as the ones above, but would be interesting and useful nonetheless. Please discuss with us before proposing one of these ideas.


Do you have an idea of your own? Let us know and maybe we'll like it too. We're very open to new ideas, areas of academic research, industry applications, and any other ways that may help get you hooked on BRL-CAD development. Just remember that BRL-CAD is a solid modeling CAD suite so keep that in mind when scoping your project.


  • Passion for the task being suggested
  • Buy-in from one of the existing developers


BRL-CAD operates under group mentorship. That means you can contact anyone, not just the person assigned to you, for assistance. The mailing list and IRC channel are the preferred communication methods.

  • Christopher Sean Morrison
    • brlcad on
    • Org admin, core dev, open source project lead
  • Erik Greenwald
    • ``Erik on
    • Org admin, core dev
  • Cliff Yapp
    • starseeker on
    • Mentor, core dev
  • Daniel Rossberg
    • d_rossberg on
    • Mentor, core dev, math expert
  • H.S. Rai
    • hsrai on
    • Mentor, math expert
  • Mark Pictor
    • mpictor on
    • STEP Mentor
  • Charlie Stirk
    • cstirk
    • STEP Mentor
  • Marius Kintel
    • kintel on
    • OpenSCAD Mentor
  • Dongxu Li
    • dli on
    • LibreCAD Mentor
  • Jose Rallaz
    • rallazz on
    • LibreCAD Mentor
  • Ries van Twisk
    • ries on
    • LibreCAD Mentor
  • Jasleen Kaur
    • jasleen on
    • LibreCAD Mentor