Winter Quarter

Hello World!

Winter quarter has officially begun! It is now horribly cold, rainy, and depressing on campus and I am sleeping under my sleeping bag as well as my blanket. Yes, I know I have been spoiled by California weather but I don’t like biking in the rain when it’s cold.

Aside from the horrible weather, things have been looking up! My research for Dr. Schofield is about to begin, which should be fun. I met with him a week back and spoke with him about my research goals and got a cool new project! He is currently working with Professor Robinson, UC Davis’s favorite astronaut/guitarist, to design a third arm for astronauts. When Robinson was fixing shuttle damage, there was an astronaut who had to leave the ship just to hold a flashlight, which is a waste of labor. So the two of them and another professor are working together to make what is essentially a prosthetic astronaut arm. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This does NOT sound like undergraduate research! This sounds like stuff that is actually kind of cool! To which I respond: yeah that’s not what I’m working on. I’m working on something related that he finds kind of interesting that he doesn’t has time for any more.

Professor Robinson
Professor Robinson

Basically, he found this wearable tech item called a myoband that has been discontinued because nobody wanted it. Is was a device that a person wears on their arm that detect their muscle movements using electrical impulses. And to my shock and horror, it was used to allow the wearer to control a freaking POWERPOINT with their hand movements! That is a worse waste of good technology than using a supercomputer to stream a cat video. So he wants me to take the thing apart, figure out how it works, connect it to a raspberry pi, and see if it could be of any use for the robot arm. And he told me that if he has any ideas for research that would be helpful for grad school, he’d let me know! Unfortunately, I have to go through a bunch of safety training before I can begin. It’s mostly for stuff I will never encounter, such as dangerous chemicals and lasers, but as long as it’ll get me into his lab I’m down!

Hyperloop’s preliminary design review is fast approaching! The PDR is when we are supposed to have a reasonable idea of what the pod is going to look like. The teams are supposed to have basic diagrams of their systems by now, and at the PDR we will discuss them and figure out if any of the designs are unfeasible or incompatible. The teams should have come up with designs that work well with each other, but this is the time when we make sure. Some of our teams have been having issues figuring out what they are going to do, but we should have most of the design finalized, or at least enough of it so that we can move forward.

One of our brilliant propulsion leads discussing the Linear Induction Motor

Unfortunately there will probably not be a competition this summer, but that isn’t stopping us from designing our pod. In order to boost interest for those who were doing it mainly for the competition (ie: literally all of us) our brilliant Chief Engineer, Abhinav, came up with the idea of possibly submitting a research paper, since many of our people have come up with some pretty brilliant ideas that would probably be worth publishing in a journal.

I am no longer part of the cybersecurity club, but I am taking a cybersecurity class. It’s taught by the amazing Kevin, who is the workshop leader in the cybersecurity club. One of the most interesting tools I’ve learned about is pwntools.

Pwntools is a Python library. That means that once you download it, when you are programming in the python coding language, you can do certain things that you couldn’t otherwise do. For example, pwntools allows you to speak to a server. Typically when you talk to a server, you ssh through your terminal (terminal is an app that all Mac, Windows, and Linux users have). To ssh into a server, you just type ‘ssh’ and then the url of the server into your terminal. Sometimes, you want a script to interact with the server rather than yourself, because the script can do things more quickly than you. For example, it can try every possible password combination for a certain number of password digits. So it’s quite useful!

I’m taking a course from a professor named Sean Davis this quarter. He isn’t a PhD, so he goes by ‘Sean’. He retired two years ago so that he could travel around the world, but after two years the university wanted him back and it is very obvious why! He is one of the most highly rated programming professors at the school, and most students really love him. However, his class is is also extremely difficult. He is teaching 36C, a class on data structures, and all the students who take him have either gone through 36B, the class on C++, or the equivalent community college course. When he taught 36B, it was extremely difficult, but now that he isn’t , it was pretty easy. So the entire class is very underprepared for his course! Now that the first two weeks are over we’re all pretty much caught up to where we were supposed to be, but not quite. Hopefully I will survive!

I had some readers email me recently asking for advice in getting into research as an undergraduate. My advice to them was this:

  1. Go through a list of all your university’s professors
  2. Email all of the ones working on interesting stuff asking for a research position
  3. Hear back from ~10% of them
  4. Go to the ones who wrote you back, and see if they give you cool stuff to do

It’s honestly that simple. It’s really more about being willing to work hard and fail horribly than it is about anything else.

May you be ever victorious in your endeavors!