Porous Media Visualization and Data Reuse Challenge

Maša Prodanović (The University of Texas at Austin) & James E. McClure (Virginia Tech)

Main sponsor:

South Big Data Innovation Hub

“Enchanted Rock” sponsor: Object Research Systems

“Town Mountain Granite” sponsor: Kitware

“Austin Chalk” sponsor: Dassault Systèmes


From October 2020 to January 2021 we hosted challenge to promote visualization and reuse of 3D images of porous materials that are stored in the open data repository Digital Rocks Portal (DRP).

You can read about it in our February and March 2021 newsletter, or see a related poster. You can find the links to the mini-course videos and code below. Many thanks to our visualization challenge judges: Prof. Lauren Beckingham, Prof. Charlotte Garing, Dr. Maria Esteva, Dr. James McClure and Dr. Masa Prodanovic (thanking myself here, sorry, but it should be clear I was one of the judges). 

VISUALIZATION (CHALLENGE) OFFICE HOURS (PAST EVENT): On November 17, 11am central time, we will have office hours to answer questions about data, visualization or the challenge itself, sign up here.  

Visualization mini-course (past event): Oct 22, 2020, 10-1pm Central Time

Videos available: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7QcRCNp33XA7BBvpNbwsDZjLB-mezkUu

GitHub account with related notebooks:  https://github.com/dr-masha/drp_visualization_mini_course

The course will be taught by Drs. Prodanović and McClure and cover the visVISUualization basics for potential competitors, as well as set up with Jupyter Notebook and Python notebooks that instruct them how to directly download or resample data from Digital Rocks Portal. Participating in the mini-course or using exact same tools is not the requirement for the Visualization Challenge, but simply a preferred and scalable option of the course instructors. The course will be recorded (and available on Dr. Prodanović’ YouTube channel), and the material posted on GitHub, and both will be linked to Digital Rocks Portal webpage. 

Visualization challenge (PAST EVENT): Deadline Jan 17, 2021, 11pm Central time 

Submission link: https://forms.gle/Le2mZUCUQbG5TRy29

The challenge will have three categories, and each category will have three awards:

  1. Video challenge: a video visualization of any chosen data set in Digital Rocks Portal. Three awards in the amount of $1000, $750 and $500, respectively.
  2. Static image challenge: a single image or poster visualization of any chosen data set in Digital Rocks Portal. Three awards in the amount of $750, $500 and $250, respectively.
  3. 3D printed structure based on any data set in Digital Rocks Portal. Three awards in the amount of $1000, $750 and $500, respectively.

In all cases, the applicant needs to submit (by Dec 10, 2020):

  1. Description (up to 300 words),
  2. Source files (a script with commands that create the submission in a visualizer of choice and related data which will be publicly posted), and
  3. The image or video of the final result. Due to COVID-19 restriction and potentially problematic access to a 3D printer (universities and schools often have one), we do not require the final 3D printed structure photo, but encourage it. Stereolithography (STL) file (which can be visualized with commonly available software) can be submitted instead.

ELIGIBILITY: Applicants have to be students or young researchers (up to 5-years post PhD degree) affiliated with any U.S. educational institution, company or potentially currently un-affiliated but residing in the United States. We cannot pay the prizes to anyone residing outside to the United States (this is a legal/tax problem).  A single applicant may submit an entry in each of the three categories, but is limited to receiving only one monetary award (the top award the applicant is eligible for after the all submissions are reviewed).

PUBLICATION OF WINNING RESULTS: The winners’ data and code will comprise a new project on Digital Rocks Portal and we will submit a related paper to SoftwareX or Geoscience Data Journal to promote the educational materials.


Porous materials have a wide range of applications and control essential aspects of the physics in geological systems, fuel cells, transport in tissues and other biological materials, and others. DRP has images from a variety of imaging modalities (e.g. x-ray microtomography or medical computed tomography scanners) of many types of soils, granular materials, rocks and micromodels. In addition to images of porous materials (microstructure), there are many examples of fluid velocity fields, particles and multiple fluids configuration within pores, both experimentally captured and simulated (browse here). Visualization algorithms of cross-sections, volumes and surfaces of 3D data (e.g. marching cubes algorithm) are well-known and available in a number of advanced visualizing platforms (e.g. Dragonfly, ParaView, MayaVi, ImageJ). However, the complexity of the pore structure and processes captured within pose a challenge in visualizing the data, both from memory and computational perspective. That said, while this challenge is meant to reuse data from geosciences and subsurface engineering, all of the concepts that it is meant to educate students about are very much applicable to any scientific visualization endeavor: for instance, in biomedical field, heart or blood vessels in a human body, are often imaged using computed tomography (or simulated based on those images) and have particulate flow (blood flow, that is) within.

WHAT Inspired Sponsorship level names?

Austin Chalk and Town Mountain Granite (also known as “pink granite”) are formations that both outcrop near Austin, TX. Texas Capitol  building was built from the latter. The granite outcrops in a beautiful granite dome/monolith in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.