unicorns and laser beams

As part of my computer science studies I needed to work on a research project which I finally finished not too long ago – the title: “Planning of 3-dimensional complex cutting trajectories for robot-assisted surgery”. I worked on a program for a robot-assisted laser surgery on bones (in particular the human skull). It’s written in C++ using Qt and VTK. My task was to work on the planning module. The surgeon can mark points on a model of the patient’s skull and then connect them either with straight lines on the skull or create more complex connections. This was then used in another module to calculate positions and movements of the robot that was handling the laser. Laser beams ZOMG! All this will hopefully help make skull surgeries safer and less invasive as well as allow surgeries currently not possible due to tool limitations.

Despite having contributed to KDE for a few years now pretty much all over the place this was my first really big C++/Qt coding experience. I’ve not really touched KDE code in all those years except a few small changes here and there. Unbelievable right? Not really. On the one hand I think that so far KDE was better served with me doing community work – and maybe always will? And on the other hand it was damn scary. Oh and of course there was no pressure to climb that rather huge imaginary mountain and learn all the stuff I’d need to actually be any useful in that area. This university project helped quite a bit with both now ๐Ÿ˜‰ This is btw also one of the reasons why I think GSoC is so invaluable: It gives the needed pressure and incentive to not give up when things get tough that some people (including me) need.

The robot, laser head and a plastic skull:
setup spline cut (circle) after

Cut on the plastic skull:
finished spline cut (circle)

Cut on a part of a pig’s bone:
finished spline cut on bone

And the actual planning program:

Thanks to Jessica, my advisor, for having patience and letting me screw up a few times. Thanks to everyone working on Qt and VTK for letting me do amazing stuff.

Guess it’s time now to find a good KDE project to get my hands dirty on. Be warned ๐Ÿ˜€

Oh and next time a new contributor vanishes: Nudge them a bit. They might just be standing in front of that huge imaginary mountain and need someone to tell them it’s not actually that huge or give a helping hand. And if you’re standing in front of it yourself right now: Don’t give up! Take it step by step. You’ll get up there.

teaching the KDE way

(more akademy blogs including write-up of my talks will follow later – just need to get this out before I leave to Portland to join Jeff, Valorie and Knut for the CLS and a bit ofย OSCON)

Not long before Akademy Tomaz told me about the awesome Qt/KDE courses he and his team are giving at Brazilian universities to a few hundred students each. (They seriously rock!) At the same time he was working with a student who wanted to do his internship that is required by university with KDE and I was in a similar situation looking for a topic for my diploma thesis. And I’m sure you’ve all heard about Kevin ruling French university students and giving them KDE projects to work on to help them learn how to work in a large distributed team and develop software in the open that is actually getting used by a lot of people. (Unlike a lot of the code I have written so far for university…)

So there we have a few KDE contributors doing awesome stuff – teaching students about KDE, KDE software and how we develop it. We sat down at Akademy with a few more people and talked about how we can adapt what Tomaz and Kevin are doing to other universities (and maybe schools?). And the first step in that direction is the creation of the kde-teaching mailing list. If you’re interested in helping out or are already doing something similar please subscribe. There is a lot of awesome waiting there (and maybe some cookies) ๐Ÿ˜‰

GSoC info session in Karlsruhe

Since Google Summer of Code is coming up again very soon Sven, Phil and I will be doing a short info session at the University of Karlsruhe on Thursday at 4pm in room HS -101 in building 50.34 (Infobau). We’ll be giving a short intro to GSoC and tell a bit about how GSoC works in KDE and Debian and of course answer lots of questions. If you’re planning to apply this year you should definitely show up ๐Ÿ™‚ Please drop me a short email if you want to attend at lydia at kde org.

If you’re not in Karlsruhe or anywhere near there are info sessions in other cities around the world listed in the GSoC calendar.