This week Oneloop, the UC Davis hyperloop team, had a meeting in the Chevron lab! The Chevron lab is an enormous engineering lab filled with projects, tools, and junk from UC Davis’s many engineering teams. It looks like a warehouse crossed with a mad scientists lab crossed with the basement of a guy who really likes wires. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with the company Chevron other than the fact that they funded lab’s construction, and the rule that any blog post about the lab has to contain the word “Chevron” at least five times. Chevron.
It was a meeting of all the team leads, and all the former team leads, discussing how we are going to make this year different from last year. One interesting decision we made was about our goals. You see, each hyperloop team must make a decision on whether it’s going to focus most on educating it’s engineering students, advancing hyperloop technology, or winning the competition. These don’t always go hand in hand, because in order to win you need to buy most of the equipment rather than having undergrads design it. Last year it had been decided that our focus was going to be winning the competition. So I decided to re-establish that. Yes, we’re going to try to teach our engineering students, and it would be nice to help advance technology, but we’re going to try to win this thing. Also I saw a shell that is supposed to be covered with cow print and put over the chassis.
I also figured out why we’re using that terrible Rockwell programming language! You see, in order to use a regular language like Python or C++, you’d have to use something like an Arduino. Those suck. Don’t get me wrong, I love messing around with Arduinos as much as the next programmer, but you aren’t going to see an Arduino in a professionally built product. The Hyperloop competition is won by the team that passes the safety tests and is allowed to race in the tube, and then reaches the highest speed at one point in the tube. The issue is, very few teams (~3 teams each year) get to race because all the other ones don’t pass the safety tests. So we’re going to try to get in the top three who get to race in the tube. One of the cool things about hyperloop is you can keep reusing your pod. So instead of starting from scratch every year, you can improve on the mistakes of the year before. So trying to get into the tube doesn’t mean abandoning the goal of getting first place internationally, it just means that we won’t be focusing on that this year. So after we get into the tube, we’ll focus on speed.
Getting into the top twenty teams is already pretty difficult (we beat Stanford’s team) but obviously we want to do better than just top twenty. The three teams that usually do the best are MIT (which has roughly the same funding as us), the University of Munich (funded by Boeing) and Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands (funded by the Netherlands). The issue is that the last two have millions of dollars in funding, and we have a few hundred thousand. So, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage, but MIT did well with less funding, so hopefully we can to!
I learned a bit about what I would have to be doing as president, which thankfully is mostly administration rather than mechanical engineering. I’m not as experienced as the other engineers on the team, especially in mechanical engineering, so that would have been very difficult. However, my job as power lead will involve a bit of electrical engineering, which is my minor! Our battery is very low power (24 volts 28 amp hours) which works because our pod uses cold gas propulsion which doesn’t require that much energy. There have been some people who want to possibly switch to high energy because that’s what most teams do, but this year we simply didn’t have the time. We might be able to do that next year though, in which case my job will be much harder than previously anticipated.
During our controls team meeting this week, we were trying to see if the temperature sensors worked. For that, we had to use a thermocoupler. The issue is, for whatever reason our thermocoupler kept saying it was -30 Celsius in the room, and since we were all living mammals, that didn’t seem possible. So, in order to test if it worked, we took a soldering iron and pressed it to the tip. It didn’t react. So we’re still confused with what happened, but hopefully we can get the wiring diagram from the guy who bought it.
One of the many wonderful things about UC Davis is has a serious focus on making startups. There are five classes held every quarter dedicated to studying different aspects of startups, and in one of them you literally found and launch a startup by the end of the ten week course (that’s how Japa was founded). I’m in one where you study different aspects of an existing startup that you select. Anyways, there’s a student startup center where I like to study, but the only problem with studying there is that random events take place around you. One time I spent a few hours before a midterm playing with an Oculus Rift. This time, I had two people who had founded this one company (no idea what it does) practice this pitch they were giving to a bus company. It was distracting, but pretty interesting.
So I got into the world of cybersecurity mostly by accident. My first programming professor was primarily a researcher in cybersecurity, so when I asked him for a research position he gave me some research in cybersecurity. I did that, but it was mostly researching things that other people had already discovered and analyzing it rather than actually researching new stuff. Later on I told him I was hoping to learn more about cybersecurity, so he suggested I go to weekly meetings he has with his graduate students, and cybersecurity club which is led by two undergraduates. After a month or so in cybersecurity club, they asked if I could become an officer, and then suggested I join this group working on fixing the voting machines in Yolo county. So at this point, I have a research position in cybersecurity, attend meetings with graduate students about cybersecurity, am an officer in the cybersecurity club, discuss ways to improve the cybersecurity of voting machines, but don’t know the first thing about cybersecurity. I told all this to my professor, and this week he lent me a book on cryptography. It’s a very good book.
After that though, I talked with some of the better
hackers cyber security specialists in the
school, and was told I should download metasploit. I’ve heard it’s a great toolkit for hackers,
so I’m excited to see where this is going to go. Also, when downloading metasploit on the
terminal, it has some pretty cool ascii art. I guess I’m a ninja now? I mean it already says
“codeninja” on my LinkedIn, so I’ve been a ninja for a while, but it’s nice to know that now,
Also, just a bit of UC Davis pride, we have by far the best zombie preparedness policies in the nation.
May you be ever victorious in your endeavors!