Python bindings for the DUNE grid interface

Since we are at the end of the Google Summer of Code 2016, It is now the time to write a final post to talk about what I have done during this summer.

But let me re-introduce myself first: I am Michaël Sghaïer, french third-year student in Software Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal, Canada. I am mostly interested in C++ programming, Python and algorithms and this is why I have taken part in this Google Summer of Code 2016 as developer for the DUNE organization where my project was to implement Python bindings for the DUNE grid interface.

What I have done

As described in my proposal and in the first post of this blog, my project was to export to Python the grid interface that DUNE provides. This grid interface is the core of the DUNE project since each grid implementation has to fulfill it to provide a specific discretization of space, in a transparent way for the user who can then solve partial differential equations using the grid of his choice.

To achieve this project, I dived myself in the huge C++11 codebase of DUNE, learnt how to use pybind11, discussed a lot with my mentors, worked with sub-milestones and finally did a lot of debugging. You can find the final result as a DUNE module named dune-corepy just here: and see all my activity (commits, issues, merge requests) here: (entirely related to this project). The project is in a useable state and you can test it after a few steps, as explained in the README.

With the help of my mentors, I implemented bindings for almost all of the concepts listed in my proposal:

  • (hierarchical) grid
  • gridView
  • entity
  • geometry
  • iterator
  • intersectionIterator
  • indexSet
  • grid construction
  • parallel computing/communication
  • load balancing

As you can see, I did not export any mechanism to use adaptivity (which is the name of the process of refining a grid) in Python. Indeed, my mentors would like to provide a more advanced mechanism that the one provided by default by the grid interface, so they asked me to not care about that.

Regarding the unit tests and the build system I talked about in my proposal, there have been some changes. Indeed, I did not provide unit tests but instead I implemented the finite volume, finite element and parallel finite volume schemes described in the grid-howto.pdf document in Python, using my bindings. It gave me sub-milestones to achieve and that was crucial to know where I was going, in addition to helping me debugging my bindings. As for the build system, I simply used DUNE’s so I did not develop anything new.

Finally, I maintained this blog to give regular feedbacks about my project (see the archive here).

What is left to do

As the end of this GSoC was coming, I did some cleaning and gave a thought about what is left to do (or at least, what is left to think about):

  • providing a mechanism to use adaptivity from Python
  • fixing the bugs listed in the GitLab
  • maybe developing a system for testing grid prototypes

A final word

It have been a real pleasure taking part in this adventure! I learnt a lot: about C++ (11 and 14), about the possible interactions between C++ and Python, about how to manage an open source project and finally about myself. Indeed, after this GSoC, I think I am more interested in computer science itself rather than a scientific field that uses computing capabilities (like computational science in the case of DUNE, for example). So I am not sure I will continue to contribute to DUNE, although I will maintain dune-corepy.

Anyway, It has been definitely a great experience and I warmly thank Google, DUNE and my mentors for having given me this opportunity! :-)

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