artificial color 3D point cloud of a room

New (old) project!

I've finally added a page about my summer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 2011! I worked with over forty interns at Mike Comberiate's Engineering Boot Camp. The project I worked on was called LARGE: LIDAR-Assisted Robotic Group Exploration. Essentially, a small fleet of robots were designed to autonomously explore and map novel areas. Check it out!!

Finished year one!

I've recently finished my second semester of grad school at MIT! It was amazing. Updates soon -- my summer plans include revamping the website, adding more recent projects, and documenting some of the exciting things that have happened this year. We'll see how I do.


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My summer lab at NASA GSFC included a high school media team, who continuously had the rest of us on film. They compiled a great documentary describing the two main projects going on in the lab -- the Greenland ROVER and Lidar-Assisted Robotic Group Exploration:

Engineering Boot Camp Documentary 2011

There are some other videos up now, too -- click over to the GSFC robotics youtube channel; there are more than I'm linking here:

GROVER on the beach: The Greenland ROVER during a test run on the beach, during our trip to Wallops.

LIDAR image test: Watch a 360-degree image from the LIDAR sensor on one of my team's robots as it's formed.

I encourage you to take a look!

EDIT

Looks like these videos are no longer up. Whoever was hosting them has taken them down. Alas.

You can find others videos and articles about the summer here!


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Wallops photos!

Earlier this month, everyone in my lab took a trip to NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Assateague State Park to test GROVER2 on the beach. There's a video of some of the lab's preparations over on Geeked on Goddard - take a look! Although I'm not specifically working on GROVER2 (I'm working on the LIDAR-assisted robotic group exploration project, as briefly mentioned earlier), it was a good trip.

A few photos:

wall of old DOS computers, monitors, drawers, printers, cables

A control center we saw while touring the Wallops facilities

a large pumpkin-shaped, translucent balloon

One of the ballons constructed by the Wallops balloon program researchers

tall backlit tree with evening clouds and sky in the background

We spent the night at Wallops; I spent three minutes outside taking photos of the sky and was bitten at least five times by mosquitos

pastel beach and ocean with the glowing morning sun

We were on the beach bright and early! I took a bunch of photos of the sunrise

tracks in the sand made by GROVER2's tank treads

GROVER2's first field tests on the beach.


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_a group of people leaning over stuff_

Questions vs answers

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about the key difference between science and engineering.

As a computer engineer, my friend found that the more advanced his coursework got and the more he learned about electronics, circuits, and microprocessors, the better he understood the subjects as a whole.

Which shouldn't be too surprising. That's the point of a college engineering degree: learn how stuff works and how to make stuff work.

But me, I find that as I learn more about brains and minds, filled with complex interactions between neurons, glial cells, neurotransmitters, and hormones, the picture gets steadily more complicated. The universe is one big dynamic system, full of chaotic pieces, and I keep finding more questions. The more I learn, the less I know.

That's the scientist's perspective on the world: more knowledge means more questions. More astonishment, more confusion.

(This is not a novel pronouncement, merely a recent observation supporting previously suggested differences between the two disciplines.)


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a laptop, textbook, and piles of papers and notes on a carpeted floor

A month after graduation, I'm well on my way to learning all sorts of crazy new things. This summer, I'm learning about...

  • HAM radio. On Tuesday, I attended the first of a summer-long amateur radio FCC licensing class. I know very little about radios and their components - the president of GSFC's amateur radio club told a story about how easy it was to build a circuit to convert 5 volts down to 3.3 volts, and kept throwing out electronics jargon. I'm looking forward to increasing my knowledge of the subject!

  • Computer innards. On a similarly technical note, my laptop's hard drive stopped spinning up last week. With the help of a computer engineering friend, I opened up the laptop and replaced the drive. Didn't even lose a screw! It's a small step into the world of computer hardware, but that was the first time I've opened up a computer, so it counts for a lot.

  • Multiple realizability. That is, that people can take entirely different paths to the same place. People with ridiculously different beliefs can still be thinking exactly the same thing at exactly the same time on ridiculously frequent occasions.

  • Tae Kwon Do. An activity I'd never done before: martial arts! All the interns/apprentices in my lab this summer were encouraged to try it out, since the GSFC club is so friendly. We've learned miscellaneous self-defense maneuvers and more ways of kicking than I remember names for - I even got to kick through a board!

  • And software... My lab group is using a variety of software tools and open source code libraries that are new to me: ROS (the Robot Operating System), a code repository via SVN, the MRPT libraries, the point cloud library (PCL), and many more. I'm remembering C++, delving into path planning algorithms, and reading up on SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). Yes, it's a whirlwind of acronyms.


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