At the end of my SURF, we’d made quite a bit of progress. We had a working prototype which we coulddemonstrate! My mentor arranged for us to present at the Smart Grid Symposium, which was sponsored by Southern California Edison. They were interested in our work because they would like to be able to protect the electric grid in the event of an earthquake.
I’ve mostly finished my SURF. By this, I mean that I’m no longer being paid. The thing about research projects, I’ve discovered, is that they never really end. You can always do more experiments, or refine your data, or go in a new and different direction. It’s one of the jobs of the professor in charge to call a stop to the work once there’s enough to publish.
The adapters that I spent so long getting were immediately put to good use. One of my friends had just bought a copy of Rock Band 2 (marked down because of the new Beatles Rock Band), somebody else had a XBox 360 we could use, we borrowed some controllers, and the house had speakers and a projector. It’s a bit like stone soup, if you remember that fairy tale, but we made it work.
The other day, I wanted some cables. What I needed were two 1/4” Stereo Male to RCA Female adapters, so I could hook up an X-box to the house speaker system.
While I was home, my parents and I took a trip up to visit my sister at college. She’s a freshman at Carnegie Mellon and she had just finished her second week of classes.
When I came to Caltech, I had never surfed before. It was always something that I wanted to do one day, but the beaches in Maryland are crowded and the waves aren’t very good. So, I had no experience surfing and no idea how to start. Luckily, Caltech has a Surfing and Windsurfing Club.
My SURF took quite a bit of work at the beginning, getting everything working. We built our whole system from scratch, so nothing actually worked until several weeks in. Now we have a working system! Currently, we only have one working client, a laptop in my SURF mentor’s office. We have ten of the accelerometers, though, so we’ll soon have more clients. The day after I installed everything for my mentor and got it running he came back with a list of improvements he wanted, so that will keep me busy! Our server had a bit of trouble towards the end of last week. Because of the construction in Annenberg, the power was going to be switched off, so we had to shut it down overnight. Unfortunately, the only people with root access to the server were in Norway for a conference! So, we had to turn the machine back on first thing in the morning, then wait for them to finish eating dinner (since they’re nine hours ahead), sign in, and set everything back to rights. Then the next day, do the same thing again! What a hassle! No matter. The SURF students working on the server side of the project whipped up a snappy little application that puts the data received by the server onto a Google map. Now we can see it all the way from thumping on the table to showing up as a dot on the map. Very gratifying.
A week ago, my friend Mike (a fellow Darb) gave me a heads up that his new band was going to have its first real gig soon. So, Tuesday night I went downtown with Max, Perrin, and Stephanie to check it out.
So why did he come to me? I mentioned in my first post that I’m a Health Advocate (Health Ad) for Dabney House. Each of the undergraduate houses has a few Health Ads. We get 90+ hours of training in First Aid, Emergency Response, Bloodborne Pathogens, Peer Counseling, etc. and we get a big bag of medicines and bandages that we can replenish from the Health Center supplies.
On Saturday, I went surfing! Max, Sly, Andrew, Erin, John, and I all headed down to Bolsa Chica beach in the morning (I’m told that it means “Bag Lady” in Spanish, but it’s a really nice surfing beach, especially for beginners). We assumed it would be warm, so none of us brought wetsuits. There were a few tense moments when we first got there, as the sun was behind a cloud and it was freezing cold (Erin had to huddle under some towels), but it warmed up soon.