Minh-Huy Le ’24

Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Pensacola, FL

This past summer, I was given the opportunity to serve as a Data Visualizations Intern at the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC). My work focused on utilizing the ShaderToy tool to create scenes consisting of interactive 3D graphics. I worked under supervisor Larry Bunch who allowed me to pursue my own independent research and discovered the multitude of graphic programming applications.

Producing 3D graphics within the
ShaderToy application.

The scenes that I created within ShaderToy are known as pixel shaders, which is basically a graphics function that calculates effects on a per-pixel basis. These programs in ShaderToy are created through the WebGL language, which is a JavaScript Application Programming Interface used to render 2D and 3D graphics. Using this language, I implemented Signed Distance Functions (SDF) to mathematically render 3D images. These SDF’s would calculate the distance from the scene’s camera to the pixel coordinate and render 
it accordingly.

Along with the programming that I engineered throughout the summer, I conducted reviews of past research papers as I developed my own deep understanding of these data visualization projects. I scoured open-source libraries to ease the work of 3D programming from scratch. These projects were not just sitting in front of a computer and writing code, but informed and purposeful projects that involved a range of skills that I could incorporate into my research.

My overall experience at IHMC has really opened my eyes to the value of the Williams education system and how significant a diverse set of skills and perspectives can be. Moreover, IHMC was complementary to my Computer Science coursework, and it allowed me to witness how the real world applies the course concepts and theories to research. Although I was not fully prepared for 3D and graphics programming which is not a part of the CS curriculum, I was able to pick it up quickly and add to my knowledge of programming languages. Taking on a challenge outside of my comfort zone enabled me to quickly grow as a programmer and student of Computer Science.

In closing, I would like to thank all the people who allowed me to take on this opportunity which was so rewarding in many ways. First, I would like to thank Ted McPherson ’67 who created this connection between Williams and IHMC. I’m grateful for the work he has done to organize this internship and support the interns along the way.

At IHMC, I would like to thank my supervisor Larry Bunch for the time and effort he put into organizing these projects and providing the resources necessary to succeed. I would also like to acknowledge the IHMC team for being a welcoming environment and always being willing to share their knowledge with me.

Finally, this experience would not have been possible if it weren’t for the generosity of the Estate of James Kellogg 
and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration. I would like to give them my thanks for organizing the Alumni Sponsored 
Internship Program as it allowed me to gain a unique and useful experience to the progression of my career.