Burning Silicon

Networking with Carnegie Mellon

Hello World!

Hello World!
I am back from the dead! I took a very long hiatus because having 19 units of upper division course work, 5 of which are for a graduate class, and two research positions while leading the HyperLoop team took WAY more out of me than expected. Who knew, right? I'm fine though now that I've gotten the hang of things. I'm not getting all that much sleep and have gone insane to the point where I am writing my class notes in $\latex{}$ but hey, there are worse things in the world than insanity!

Circuit Bord

OneLoop has now attained enough status that startups are reaching out to us with requests to sponsor us! We just got a contact from a brand new circuit board startup, Gerber Labs, has offered us free electronics equipment which will be useful for designing the battery inverter for our power system. Interestingly enough, this was not at all my doing. Last year our brilliant new business lead, Annanya Tyagi, had the idea that we should me more active on social media. As a very tech-centric programmer with not much interest in business (I acknowledge its importance and value but will never enjoy it) I wasn't to keen on the idea at first. However, I decided it couldn't hurt and said that she could work on it so long as she focused on getting actual funding. However, it ended up leading us into getting a big presence online which got the attention of sponsors! So I guess it's a good thing that I have members who sometimes have better ideas than me.

Robot Hand

At BEAR labs, I've switched tasks! The astronaut arm thing was kinda cool, but my professor is unfortunately less interested in it now — he's mostly prosthetics focused. While this is a bummer in terms of coolness of the overall project, the portion that I am working on is actually a lot more fun. I'm programming a video game for children to use so that while they play the game, they make hand signals. It's basically a rocket game where if you make certain gestures that are shown on the screen, the rocket will turn the correct direction and not hit a meteor. The kid will wear a myo-ultrasound thing which is different than the primarily commercial myoband which we deemed inadequate. How did we decide it wasn't good enough? Well, they gave it to an expendable source of labor (me) for a summer and the expendable source of labor said that it was no good. Worth a shot though! Anyways, the child will wear the ultrasound which detects muscle signals by doing the soft tissue equivalent of an X-ray, and we will learn more about how children move their arms! My grad student will then make this into a prosthetic for children. And best of all, I'm programming a video game! Making a simple video game (not a hardcore one but a simple one) is basically the programming equivalent of eating potato chips. It's not all that significant or life changing, but it's nice to do after a hard day of work. And I am applying for the PUF grant for undergraduates at Davis which looks really good on my resume! Professor Schofield is so amazing, he literally goes out of his way to make my resume look better, I love working for this lab.

As I am still under the nondisclosure agreement for Professor Tagkopolous's lab, I can't really go into the paper that I'm going to potentially publish in the spring. However, I can tell you that I'm getting five units of elective credit for it, with a grade as well! I am taking Professor Tagkopolous's computer science class for graduate students, since at UC Davis you are allowed to take graduate student classes as an undergrad if the professor signs off on it. There is a big final project, and I'm going to do my research project as part of the class! So rather than having 19 units, OneLoop, and two research projects, I have 19 units, OneLoop, and only ONE research projects! Hooray!!! So that's been fun.

Carnegie Mellon
The CMU Campus

On top of all of that, as mentioned in the title, I am most likely going to get a research position for the summer at Carnegie Mellon! For those of you who don't know about CMU, it is an university founded by a robber barron and a fruit. It's interesting because most schools that are fantastic in CS are fantastic in other things as well. This is not really the case with CMU. It is pretty good for most fields, but not really a top school. However when it comes to computer science, it's suddenly the best in everything and I have no idea why. It's not as if it's situated in some big tech hub, it's literally in Pittsburgh. What happens in Pittsburgh? But in any event, it's now #1 in AI, Cybersecurity, and Software Engineering as of the 2020 rankings. Why? I have no idea. But I'd still really love to go there for my PhD.

Carnegie Mellon

I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to the virtual Grace Hopper Celebration over the summer. While there, I met a graduate student who worked at CMU. She set me up with her professor, Professor Aswin Sankaranarayanan who works in computer vision which is the field I want to go into. Like all professors, I had to bug him a couple times before he responded, and surprisingly he then asked for my CV! Shortly afterwards he set up a zoom call. I expected the call to just be him telling me about his lab, and maybe giving me some advice about how to put together a good application. Turns out I was completely wrong.
He first asked me to talk a bit about myself, and before stumbling a bit by saying what was already on my resume which he had presumably already read and I probably should not have recited, I spoke a bit about the research that I was conducting for Professor Tagkopolous. I mentioned that I wanted to go into computer vision, but the only professor at Davis who works in computer vision, Professor Yong Jae Lee, only offers positions to students who had taken his class. By the time I had completed the prerequisites, he had moved to for Wisconsin! Very unfortunate. Professor Sankaranarayanan then asked me what exactly I wanted to do in computer vision, and I told him that I wanted to work on applications in space travel. He asked me how I thought that would work, and I told him my thoughts on the matter. My thought process is basically that living on Mars is going to be a bit like the current pandemic situation: so many things that you took for granted are going to be very hard. In a world where you can't go outside without a pressure suit, robots are going to be doing a lot more work than they do on Earth. We will need the equivalent of self-driving cars, but for nearly every computerised system imaginable.
The professor than told me that his lab wasn't super focused on the machine learning side of computer vision, but rather the more material based side. I mentioned that after looking at his papers (which I had done in a panic less than five minutes before we spoke) that he seemed to take a more physics based approach to the field, which he appreciated and agreed with. Then, he proceded to completely blow my mind.

Tepper Quad
Tepper Quad at CMU

He said that I seemed like a fantastic potential student, and there were a few different ways we could go about doing 'it'. What was 'it'? He said that since this summer might still be virtual, we would have to find a project that could be made virtual. I still wasn't sure what project he was talking about. He kept talking, and then it clicked. This whole time, he hadn't just been talking with me to teach me about his lab so I would be more interested in applying to it in the future. This man was a CMU professor, and didn't have that kind of time. This whole time, without me knowing it, he had been interviewing me for a summer position. And while nothing is yet official, it seems like I have it.

Looking at the site analytics, my attempt to merge a tech site with various forms of outreach was not all that successful at least in terms of link clicks, so I will stop for now. Hopefully I will find some other method, but what I have been doing is not it so I'll give it a rest.

May you be ever victorious in your endeavors.
M.E.W