To Infinity & Beyond! (but don't forget about Earth!)
So I’ve mentioned before how JPL lets us tour some of its really cool facilities. I’ve gotten to see the Lunar Surface Operations Testbed (LSOT) and the clean room where MSL was being packed. Well, last Friday, I got to see some more cool things! I actually got to go on two lab tours. The first was the Planetary Robotics Lab (PRL), which is where I saw that funny Godzilla sign that I showed you in my last post.
The PRL facility is where a lot of the prototypes are generated for missions like MER and MSL. The prototyping includes design, construction, and testing for mobility and manipulation. I’d like to work in a lab like this next year! When we went, the JPLers were working with FIDO (Field Integrated Design and Operations), which is almost a generic, “first step” kind of rover. It acts as the prototype for many of JPL’s Martian Missions, including MER and MSL. In other words, JPLers use FIDO to test a lot of the technology they want to use on future Mars Missions.
Right now, JPLers are using FIDO to test prototypes of the Mars Sample Return Mission. We had one of our “Thursday Talks” on this mission (which will be launched pretty far in the future) and the technology being developed for it, so it was cool to see some of that technology right in front of me!
^ FIDO’s drill and the rock that it drilled into!
I also found out about this cool project that JPL worked on a while ago (more acronyms!): TRESSA (Teamed Robots for Exploration and Science in Steep Areas). It’s so cool! They’ve tested it not only in the JPL Arroyo Seco area, but also in Norway. The purpose of this project was again to develop technology that would be used on future Martian (and Lunar!) rovers. In this case, the technology would allow the rovers to maneuver on different types of terrain – especially steep terrain, if you couldn’t tell by the name. xD
After checking out the PRL, I got to see the Atmospheric Kinetics Lab. This is a lab in which JPLers study chemistry, notably how ozone depletion happens and if there’s anything we can do (besides just stopping the use of refrigerators/air conditioners…) to prevent it.
So this lab was pretty sweet too, even though chemistry isn’t really my thing. It was nice to hear that JPL not only works with deep space science, but also with (seemingly) plain old Earth Science! I think it’s important that we learn as much as we can about our own planet while we explore the vastness of outer space.
It was also cool to see this in the lab:
I didFIRST Roboticsin high schooland for my junior and senior years, I was the lead programmer. Those were the years during which FIRST made the HUGE switch to the “cRIO” control system and LabView as a programming language. It was cool to work with such a graphical language, though I didn’t like it at first. FIRST told us that it was making the switch because the cRIO and LabView had become industry standards. I didn’t quite believe them until I saw this awesome stuff at JPL! :) I was excited and the JPLer was a little surprised when I asked to take a picture of their control system. xD
Anyways, those two tours were awesome. And I learned a lot! (Well, that’s really nothing new…I’m at JPL!)
And finally, my presentation! :) It went super well. My mentors were happy with it! After my presentation, one of my co-mentors took me for some sightseeing around JPL. And next week, I’m going to Houston for the 2011 NASA Cost Analysis Symposium! I’m superrrr excited. :D Not too many people get to go to a national NASA symposium after their first year in college! I’m so lucky to get an opportunity like this! I love JPL. (and Caltech!) I’ll tell you about what I saw around JPL with my co-mentor and details about the Houston symposium in my next post. :)
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.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.