For E88: Critical Making, our class took a Techlab orientation in order to make 3D prints for homework. The orientation is open to all students and it’s basically a free 3D printing lesson, help with setting up the software on your laptop, and also opens up access to free 3D printing!
The Techlab is a 3D printing studio right inside the Sherman Fairchild library. Once you go through orientation, you get a little sticker for your ID card that lets you access the room after hours.
We have 9 printers, two which are in a separate room that students can reserve. The filaments also come in myriads of colors, including glow in the dark! Our Techlab uses mostly the very common plastic PLA filament, but we also have metal and other materials!
During orientation, we learned how to use Cura to slice 3D models. The software basically lets you do some simple edits on the model, gives a print time estimate and turns the model into Gcode so the printer knows how to print it. We also learned how to change filaments on the machines.
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.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.