I saw fliers all around the cafeteria announcing “Amphibious Clean-Up” during lunch.
Every time I see someone, they always ask “is your robot ready?” or “how is your robot doing?”
5 days left until the big day, with only 2 days and 1 morning left in the shop… I’ll tell you how our robots are doing…
I’ll try to be as optimistic as possible…but with so few days left until the competition, and so many things randomly going wrong, it is really hard to look someone in the face and say “oh, our robots are fine, and they are definitely going to win the competition!” The truth is, we are still struggling to complete the course, never mind competing against the other teams. But here is a the most optimistic quick run down on where we are at as of this morning:
Hateful is done, we should not have to do anything more with him, except practice practice practice. This weekend, my goal is just to drive him around everywhere I go, until I can drive him in my sleep. The thing is, on contest day I am going to be so panicked and stressed, that I want it to be instinctive how to drive Hateful. I want to be able to navigate him with my eyes closed!
Hungry…well, as of yesterday evening it was able to get into the water without flipping over, but this afternoon we will have to do more testing and tweaking with that, to guarantee it will not flip over. We are also unsure if he can get out of the water…
Now for a few stories leading up to this point…
Tuesday was the mock competition, so Monday we slaved away in the shop to prepare everything. The goal was to have both robots “competition ready” by Tuesday at 1, and then see how they did compared to everyone else’s robots. That way, you can take the next week to make minor changes to your design so that it is unbeatable. However, we were even struggling to get both robots working. Tuesday morning I went down to the shop as early as it was open, but Will did not show up until 2 hours later (her alarm didn’t go off…) and so I went to class while she stayed down in the shop to finish things up. During lunch, we did a few quick things and then took the robots up to Millikan Pond to test. That is when we found out that every time we tried to push Hungry into the water with Hateful, Hungry flipped upside down. Some other teams joked that we should just start Hungry off upside down, so it will flip right side up…but basically Hungry could not enter the water. We started freaking out and trying to come up with a solution when…Hateful stopped responding to the controller! The wheels wouldn’t turn! Only 20 minutes until 1pm, the mock competition and Hateful just stopped working! WHY?!? I know I tell him I hate him, but I thought deep down he knew I didn’t… It turned out that the green battery simply ran out of power.
I swear, it is ALWAYS something! Every time we have a deadline, something crazy always goes wrong. Last time we broke off the tip of our controller so that the robot wouldn’t respond to movement, and before that I had a concussion and our last minute foam backing was too thick and so Hateful sank… I’m sure many more things went wrong, I just can’t remember. Anyways, I ran down to the shop right as the shop instructor was closing the doors, and grabbed a charger. I then had to take Hateful into the nearest building (Sloan, the math building) and charge him in the hallway (see picture below). I didn’t want anyone to mess with him (or anything else to go wrong) so I just sat in the stairwell and waited for Will to call me and let me know when it was our turn to compete.
When our turn came, I grabbed the slightly charged Hateful, and went to see what we could do. We told the professors that Hungry flipped upside down when entering the water, so they just let us start him off in the water. The first trial, Hateful drove into the lane roping and got stuck! AH! Then, Hungry just went to block the ramp, since there was nothing else he could really do. The next trial, Hateful did not get stuck, but went up on the ramp and guarded it so that the other robots could not get any points, but neither did we…EPIC FAIL! But I guess, if we are going to go down, we might as well take someone else down with us!
After the mock competition we took a break to go eat food (we didn’t eat lunch, since we were preparing our robots). We went to the C-store (convenience store) and bought junk! haha. We bought a container of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream and a bag of gummy bears, and sat in the sun eating the 2 mixed together. After that we went to the bookstore liquidation sale and bought a bunch of random things, before heading back into the shop…
When we went back into the shop we immediately set Hateful to fully charge, and then we started analyzing Hungry’s flotation and we made a list of what we had to accomplish, and then we left for the day (it was 5pm and we had to clean up and leave).
So, that whole day I was pretty distracted from the competition since I had something else on my mind. Like I said, I was down in the shop all morning, and there is NO reception in the subbasement of Spalding. So, when I emerged to head for class around 10:30am, my “you have a voicemail” sound started beeping. So, before I headed into class, I decided to listen to it. I expected to hear Will’s voice telling me she was going to be late down in the shop, but instead it was someone else. This person was asking me what my response was to the internship offer…I never had an internship offer?!? I had applied for a bunch of different summer internships, and I went to 2 interviews, but I hadn’t heard back from anyone yet. Since it was time for class, I just had to be extremely curious for the next hour and a half. All I could think about during fluid mechanics was this “internship offer.” Time could not go by any slower…
Finally, class was over and as I ran outside, towards the machine shop, I called the person back. It turns out, the emailed me with a summer internship offer back on February 3rd, however I never received it, and now they were looking for a response! Oh my gosh! I was in such shock! Luckily, she told me she was going to resend me the email, and I would have until the end of the week to make my decision. For the rest of the day I was thinking about it… even when our robots were epic failing…I couldn’t help but wonder what the offer entailed. Finally, I rushed back to my dorm, pulled up my email and read the offer. It sounded super amazing! I was going to get paid A LOT (at least in my opinion…almost twice the amount I was paid for SURF, and when I was a frosh I thought that was a large amount of money…) and on top of that, they were providing housing and utilities! I was originally just happy to have an internship offer. Even if I was getting paid half of that, I would be happy since having an internship on our resume gives you an extra advantage when applying for jobs after college (which is probably what I am planning on doing). The only problem was that it started June 4 and ended August 21. Problem 1, school doesn’t end until June 5, and my brother’s graduation is June 6 (he is valadictorian and making a speech, so I have to be there), and problem 2 I was planning on going to Taiwan with a program which is the entire month of July! I had applied for a study abroad scholarship that Caltech offers to pay from my trip to Taiwan, and just last week I was notified that they were willing to fund my trip! Wednesday afternoon I was going in to sign my official acceptance of the prize money, but now I didn’t know if I could go…
So, Wednesday during lunch, I got a call from Will saying that she was not going to be able to make it in the shop at all that day. She was still not done with her Physics set, and probably wouldn’t be until it was due at 5. I said that was ok, and decided to head back to Avery to check my email, call the internship people, and then go down to the shop. I called to talk about the dates, and much to my dismay they could not negotiate with me about the month in July. They were more than willing to bump the start date back a week, but the problem with leaving for an entire month right in the middle of the internship, is that I would be assigned a project, trained for the first 2 weeks, and then only have 2 weeks to work on it before leaving and then return again a month later. It would be too disjoint. So, I had to make a decision…Taiwan or internship, but not both. I called my mother and talked to her about it. She told me what I didn’t want to hear, but what I knew deep down was the right thing…take the internship. We are in the middle of a recession and I have a job offer, and I can’t just turn it down to go study in Taiwan. I was very distraught, and by then it was almost 3:30, time for me to go sign for the prize money. I sadly walked over to the Study Abroad and Fellowships office to tell them my dilemma. Luckily, they told me that if I could come up with an alternate program after my internship is over, and I could write up the budget for the new program and submit the paperwork by this Friday, I could still keep the prize money! I was so happy and relieved, that I rushed back to Avery to start looking into programs. Basically, neither Will nor I made it down to the shop that day…
Yesterday we were down there 1-5. Tweaking our robots and fixing things. When we took them up to Millikan to test, we were able to come up with a strategy to slowly push Hungry into the water from the side, so that he would not flip over. We had to adjust the flotation, and add metal supports underneath so that the propellers would not scrape on the ground, but it works. More things went wrong with Hateful…2 of the paddles on the paddle wheels broke off, so I had to make new ones and fix that…and then the gear/wheel combo came loose and so I had to rip open the bottom and fix that! I was so angry at Hateful for always messing up, but now we have to bond over the weekend and become one! Hopefully, all will go well and nothing more will go wrong. Everything has already happened to us, that maybe nothing will happen on contest day…as least that is what I keep telling myself :)
Enjoy the pictures of the mock contest! Once again, I used my cell phone camera so the pictures may be kinda bad, but they are still visible!
One trial of the mock competition…each team puts both of their robots in their assigned square and on “go” they drive off into the water…(see picture below)
In the blue box: Hateful, Red box: Hungry, Purple box: the contraption the other team made to stack their 2 robots.
The other team’s robots stacked together
Everyone enjoying the competition :)
Hope to see you contest day!! (Even though I will be totally stressed out, and I probably won’t actually see you :) March 10, 1pm, Millikan
Like many students at Caltech, I suffer from a slight boba addiction, where side effects may include over caffeination, minor sugar highs, and of course, a large toll on one’s wallet. This addiction is not helped by the fact that there are at least three boba shops within walking distance of campus. So, after an entire term’s worth of boba runs, I came back from winter break with a new year’s epiphany: it was time to get a job. Rather than try to curb my addiction, I decided to find a way to subsidize it.
Research at Caltech looks different for every student, and can often vary term by term. As a chemistry major, my course requirements are on the lighter side for a Caltech major, and many chemistry majors take advantage of the lighter course load to join research groups. This can be whenever the student wants, but many people join labs during their freshman or sophomore years. Some may work in one lab only, and some may switch between labs during the course of their undergraduate studies, depending on if their interests change.
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.