The crazy thing about Caltech is that for most students, not sleeping is part of the culture :) Maybe this is actually true of college students in general (staying up late doing absolutely nothing) but at Caltech one usually has to stay up late doing problem sets. So, sometimes, on the occasion that you are done with all of your sets early, and have the time to go to sleep at a decent hour, you actually don’t. In my case, I stayed up later than usual (4am, I usually go to sleep promptly at midnight). On top of that, we had to register for classes Thursday morning at 8am, and so I woke up at 7:30. Registration begins at 8, but I think you actually have 2 weeks to go online and complete this task. However, there are some classes which have limited seating (only 20 students are allowed to sign up) and so, in the case that you sign up at 8:15 instead of 8:00, you might not get into that class. In my case, there were 3 classes like that which I wanted. So, I had to wake up early, get my “mouse clicking” skills in top shape, load as much of the website as I could, and countdown the minutes until 8. Luckily, I got every class I wanted (over the terms I have become the master of obtaining limited seating courses), but after that adrenaline rush, I could not go back to sleep (most students wake up, register, and plop back in bed). This meant that by the time I went down to the ME shop at 1pm, I was completely out of it. I was a walking zombie in desperate need of sleep (or caffeine…but I don’t like coffee, unless it is extremely sugary and has lots of whipped creme and caramel).
Now, obviously, zombies cannot operate the machines in the machine shop. They will most likely fall asleep on a spinning blade, or in the very least lose a limb (which I guess wouldn’t be that big of a deal for a real zombie…) or do something in their stupor that would hurt the machine. So, for this reason there is a rule in the ME shop that you cannot be there if you are sleep deprived. If the shop instructor finds you with droopy eyelids looking particularly sleepy, he can send you home. However, the shop instructor was not there (he has been sick all week) and so I just attempted to look awake and did minimal machining. This was not to hard, since over the course of this past week, we completed Hungry, didn’t really have any intense machining to do. All we had to do was put the motors in their holders, duct tape them in some random orientation to the sides, and then go up to Millikan Pond to test how the placement of the propellers was when put into action.
Putting Hungry into the water, and watching him swim around was actually quite cute. Hungry was much more peaceful, with quietly whirring propellers, than Hateful with his big boxy shape and loud splashing paddle wheels. Everything worked out fine, and so Will just drove him calmly around the pond. Yesterday was a very nice day…the sun was beaming down on my face as I was hypnotized by our little creation skimming around the pond. My eyes slowly began to drop, and I laid down on the concrete in a daze. Will saw this, and told me to go find a nice patch of grass, and take a nap before returning down to the machine shop. This seemed like a most excellent idea, and so I found a bench by Millikan, and stretched out for a nap.
After about 20 minutes, I awoke to the sound of my friend’s voice, questioning why there was a hobo with safety goggles sleeping on the bench by Millikan. While I was sleeping, my goggles (which were originally located on top of my head) had slid down over my face, and I did indeed look like a scientific hobo. I tried to explain to her the reason why it wasn’t what it looked like, but she refused to believe me. I got up from the bench to go back down in the shop, and since I was still in a daze, I put my safety goggles on. Once again, my friend commented on my “stylish new look” and I quickly removed them and put them in my bag.
Now, today we have to actually attach the motors to Hungry and then we will be more or less done. We will probably end up doing a lot of testing over the weekend, to see what changes we need to make, but hopefully they will only be minor adjustments. Next Tuesday (March 3) is the “mock trial” where we each run through 1 trial as if it were competition day, and then we have exactly 1 week until the big event (March 10). If you are in the area, please feel free to stop by Millikan Pond (either day, but March 10 will be much more exciting) at 1pm. It is open to everyone, and supposedly there will be news cameras etc. everywhere. I am nervous, but I am so looking forward to seeing who comes out on top (and finally being done with going into the shop every day for hours on end).
As a last quick review of this past week’s activities in the shop… (complemented with lots of cool pictures of the very attractive Hungry Hamster):
We made Hungry’s floaties twice as long, programmed and attached a flap for the net so that it will open and close with a flip of a switch (keeping the balls it gathered inside), and wired up all of the electronics properly. In testing out the net contraption, we placed Hungry in the kiddie pool in the shop. The professors had been promising us all term that they were going to get a simple inflatable kiddie pool to put in the shop (so that we could test simple things, like if our robots floated, without having to walk all the way up to Millikan) and we just got it last week. It is very bright and colorful, but it does its job. Enjoy the pics :)
It’s been over three months since my trip to the Galapagos, and I am still thinking about it. For seven days, we all woke up at 5:30 am on the boat, ate breakfast together, and went out as the sun was rising on our morning hike to catch frigatebirds mating or iguanas spewing salt from their nostrils. Our days were spent snorkeling with turtles, sea lions, and schools of fish, and our nights were spent sitting on the bow of the ship, talking all together under the stars. It was truly a spring break I will never forget.
Four weeks before graduation! While I’m looking forward to the summer and all the fun it promises, I’m also reflecting on my undergraduate experience over the past few years. This is a blog about my favorite classes during my time here, some expected and others less so. As a Computer Science major, no CS classes actually make my final cut, but my top three favorite classes all fall into the realm of Neuroscience, my other primary academic interest.
I remember being a junior in HS and my APCS partner, Brooke, had just gotten accepted into Caltech. She was looking at the course catalog for humanities courses during class (instead of working on our project) and shaking her head at the offerings. When May rolled around, she told me part of the reason she didn’t choose to go to Caltech was how the humanities courses seemed to be “too scientific,” with classes that integrated history with quantum physics, etc. A year later, when I was in the same situation, I decided to matriculate to Caltech for its strong STEM offerings, but felt some anxiety about how my love of the humanities would be fed during my four years of undergraduate education.
One of the most well-known benefits of being a Caltech student is the infamous 3:1 student to faculty ratio, which implies a personalized, interactive undergraduate experience with world-class research scientists. It was a primary reason why I chose Caltech above other schools as a high school senior. Now as my time at Caltech comes to a close, I can reflect back on my interactions with different professors and consider if this 3:1 ratio really “lives up to the hype.” I believe the answer is yes.