I had an incredible time speaking with the scouts about R2 during their 100th Anniversary Council Camporee. There were hundreds of scouts, so I had to do the presentation multiple times in order to accommodate the crowd, but each group of scouts was enthusiastic, polite, and willing to learn. We spoke about the design and build process, the STEM fields, and the many ways a project like R2 can expand your knowledge and imagination. We talked about the importance of teamwork, and I also suggested that they reach out to professionals for help. I encouraged them to challenge themselves to complete a project that takes months to complete and is outside their comfort zone. The lessons that can be learned with such a project go far beyond the technical skills. Soft skills like tenacity, networking, organization, and budget are also important skills that one learns when taking on a large, complex project. Any difficulties encountered during the process are certainly outweighed by the sense of accomplishment upon completion, and that feeling carries through all aspects of life. It was an honor speaking to such an impressive group of students, and I am certain that all of them will go far in life.
Last night's award ceremony at the Indiana State Fair was bittersweet.
The sweet part: I ended my ten years in 4-H by winning Best of Show (grand champion of all the grand champions in the exhibit hall), and it came with a generous stipend!
The sad part: I will miss 4-H very much.
I am so grateful to everyone who made such a positive, lasting impact on my life: my 4-H leader, my club, my county extension office, and the State Fair Board and Foundation. This stipend is helping to make college possible for me, and the myriad lessons I've learned through 4-H will continue to help me in every aspect of my life and career.
For my final 4-H computer project, I thought I'd go out with a bang. Well, hopefully not a "bang", but given the materials I was working with, there certainly was that possibility!
I made two videos describing the particle accelerator I built, along with the supercomputer (Beowulf cluster) that runs the accelerator - a simple video and a very technical video. This is the simple version. I'll post the technical version in a few weeks.
Despite my absence, my project won Grand Champion at the county level and is heading to the Indiana State Fair! My fingers are crossed that I get a blue ribbon at the state level! Regardless of the ribbon I receive, this project was a ton of fun and I learned so much! I'd highly recommend this project to anyone interested in physics and engineering.
Happy Fourth of July! I am spending my July 4th living a dream. I have had the rare honor and privilege of working as an Electrical Engineering intern for NASA Langley this summer! The work has been fun, challenging, and exciting, and the time has flown by. I am already near the halfway point of my internship!
In addition to working on fantastic projects, I was also asked to give a presentation about my R2-D2 to the Office of the Director, the Engineering Directorate, and the Science Directorate. After a long, bumpy ride through the mountains, R2 suffered a slight malfunction during his first few minutes in front of the Virginia crowd. His controller stopped working - this was a malfunction that had never occurred before. Fortunately, I always care spare parts and a full toolkit, so R2 quickly recovered. It was both humbling and thrilling to give a presentation to many of the most brilliant minds in America.
Working at NASA this summer has surpassed all of my dreams and expectations! It is a summer I will never forget.
Below is a very brief video of R2's visit at NASA.
Just a quick announcement before I sign off and dance for joy. I got a 4.0 this semester, so that means I have a 4.0 for the year! Woot! Now, I'm off to celebrate and pack for my NASA internship. Getting paid to work on digital designs by NASA - what could possibly be better? And I leave in just a few days! I couldn't be more excited!!!
I haven't posted in a while; I've been extremely busy at school and with my community service projects. My engineering projects have also been cruising along.
I did have an interesting opportunity to assist a fellow droid builder with some programming issues. While buying some LEDs at a DIY store, I noticed this gentleman purchasing what appeared to me components similar to those used in most R2-D2 units. I struck up a conversation with him, and as it turns out, he is planning to build a BB-8 droid. He wasn't at all familiar with Arduinos and he asked if I'd be willing to help him with programming. As it turns out, he is using a board similar to an Arduino, and his board has a number of jumpers which are not easily identifiable. It takes a bit of research to identify the jumpers and then to program that brand of board.
What I learned: whenever possible, use well-known products. There is a cost savings when using off brands, but there are more resources available with name brand products - more people with experience using them, more support from the manufacturer, and more information online.
I now have a "garage" for my R2-D2! The front door features a beautiful stained glass portrait of R2 made by Ron Hessert whose artistic talents are surpassed only by his technical skills at Harris Corp. The garage keeps the dust off of R2, and since it's only a few feet from the front door, it's easy to roll R2 in and out of his garage. I love it!
During my recent presentations at Barnes & Noble, Sci-Fi Central, and 4-H, I have discovered that my R2’s speaker is very difficult to hear in a large crowd. Therefore, I have created an amplifier board to pump up the volume.
The amplifier board uses a car stereo amplifier chip which can handle up to 20 watts. All the other parts are rated similarly, which means that all the components are huge compared to what I have worked with before. The capacitors alone are the size of a tootsie roll!
Thanks to the ratings of the parts, I made this board to be entirely through-hole instead of partially surface mount as I usually do. The board layout was fairly simple as the board only has one IC and otherwise passive components. I designed the board to have two planes - a ground plane and a power plane - and to have much thicker routing than any previous board to be able to handle the immense strain of 20 watts of power.
I normally also have my boards made at OSH Park, but this time a new opportunity presented itself. Professor Rumsey at Indiana Tech invited me to use their new milling machine for my board, and it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had! I was, for the first time, able to watch as my board was made and each of the holes was drilled and the traces made.
Once my board had been fabricated, I hand-soldered each of the components in and found that the board worked! It has more than doubled the volume of my R2 so he can be heard in even the most crowded rooms.