Patrick’s Point – Camping 2008

This is the first time in three years I’ve been able to go camping to the redwoods with my family. I missed one because of my NASA internship, and last year I was saving vacation time for a honeymoon I never got to go on this year…..oh well.

I drove the vette this year and the drive was pretty nice. On the way home, via 299, I was behind another C4 vette. It was pretty fun chasing him through the curvy hills. I only stayed four nights, then drove home and caught the plane to Vegas(making this post out of order).

Overall, it was a pretty nice trip. I got to get away, finished reading Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and caught up on some sleep.

Defcon 15 and Autonomous Sentry Gun

Sentry Gun
This is a little out of date, but I thought I should add it for historical purposes.

Since November of 2006 Kevin and I had been working on an autonomous sentry gun for Defcon 15. The gun was supposed to autonomously shoot down white targets on a black background as fast as possible. Kevin and I worked a long time to get the gun working, and several weeks before completion Zack joined in to make the gun look like the original sentry from the video game Team Fortress Classic.
After months of development, we finally finished the gun a week before the competition.

The competition itself was in the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. We shipped our gun to the Hotel a week in advance, and flew down on Friday. Jamie went with us, and for the two of us it was like a little vacation (Since my internship I hadn’t really had any time for anything that resembled a vacation. I skipped an annual family trip in order to roll over my vacation time for a honeymoon after I got married).

When we took our gun down to the conference room where we would compete, we got a lot of weird looks. We were the only people at the event that had themed our gun to make it look like a video game gun, so it really stuck out against the other competitors.

Saturday was the actual head-to-head competition. We only went two rounds, and lost both. The biggest problems we had were the slowness of our gun and lack of reliable accuracy from the servo motors. Even though our gun wasn’t that great, we had an incredible time and definitely planned on competing next year.

The rest of the trip went pretty good. The competition only lasted several hours, and we were in Vegas for about two and half days. Jamie and I took the time to walk the strip and go out to eat. I had wanted to see some of the presentations at the event, but only go to see one…most of the time I spent with Jamie out on the town.

When we got back we took some time to clean up the gun and make a video of it. We put it on Metacafe in hopes we would get some money for it. We didn’t get a high enough rating to get any cash, but got over 30,000 views within a month or so. We got our gun on a lot of technology blogs, and are now the number one result for googling “Stage 1 Sentry.”

Link to the video: Stage 1 Sentry

I graduated

Grad photos

All in all, it took me five and a half years to get my Electrical Engineering Degree. To finish everything up I had to take two classes over the summer. They had to be night classes since I’ve been working full time since June, but they were easy GE so it wasn’t much of a problem other than the long days and commute.

RoboGames 2007

So Kevin and I competed in Robogames this year with a 30lb robot named "Big Bloom."  The idea was, we would make a robot that would spin at a high speed and translate as it spun.  This would make our entire robot a spinning weapon, and seems like a neat idea if you could get it working.

To attempt this, we had some pretty neat stuff on the robot.  Since we needed a little more control over the electronics than the average battlebot, we needed a better wireless system.  So we ended up getting a bluetooth transciever for the robot, and interfacing it to my laptop.  From there we could have used the keyboard or mice to control the robot, but kevin thought it would be cool to use the WiiMote, so we used that.  On the robot, we had to interface the wireless through a controller, so we used an atmel 8bit microcontroller, which is pretty standard on most of our projects.  Everything worked pretty good, but we had some issues in actual fights.

The day of the competition, we had our first fight against a vertical-disk-weaponed robot named billy bob.  The frame I welded held up very well, but everytime we would take a big hit the bluetooth connection would die and we’d have to reset it.  Needless to say, we lost that fight, and the next fight that was against a wedge.  Overall, it was pretty fun, and I got a lot of welding experience.


Maker Faire 2007

Kevin, Zack and I went to the make fair this weekend.  It turned out to be much funner than I anticipated.  We got to see a lot of web celebrities like the Woz, Bre, Grant from mythbusters, and the guys from the  diet coke  and mentos website.  On the way back, we had dinner at a chevy’s in berkeley that was right on the water…it was awesome.

I got a job.

This semester I’ve been putting away little bits of time to look for a summer internship. I interviewed with a few companies, and went to the school career fair to try and find an intern position for the coming summer. I was hoping to find a company I wouldn’t mind working for after graduation, work for them over the summer and transition into a full time position after I graduated. Honeywell was at the career fair, but since they don’t currently hire interns, I simply dropped off my resume and carried on. A few days later, I get an email from an engineer at Honeywell who got a recommendation from my senior project professor. He wants me to interview for the full time hardware design engineer position.

A week later, I nervously go to an interview that lasts from 8am-1pm. A lot of material was covered in the interview, and I actually had fun answering a lot of the questions. A lot of questions were on op-amps, which is right up my alley. I’ve spent the last few months brushing up on all things op-amp, pretty much going through my old circuit design book and doing every problem I could find (this is what I do when I can’t get to sleep at night). Also, since we senior project was basically a series of op-amp filters and amplifiers, I have a lot of permanently-burned-into-my-brain op-amp information and experience.

One question they gave me was an inverting amplifier with a resistor in on the positive terminal.

They asked me to find the gain of the amplfiier and explain the purpose of the non-gain-affecting resistor.Funny-enough, I had gone to one of my professors with the exact_same_question about two months ago. I ran across this in a book, and didn’t understand the purpose of the resistor. Needless to say, I knew why it was there, and even why it was the parallel combination of the other two resistors.

So a week later, I get a call offering me the job.They are going to work around the fact that I still have two classes to finish before I graduate(I’m going to take night classes over the summer), and I start work as a hardware design engineer June 4th.

Winter work, and spring semester

Over the winter break, I took a winter class and worked a little. I was working for a professor on campus making an autonomous imaging robot. The class went fine, but the robot faced a different fate. The professor was applying for a patent based on the imaging technique that was supposed to be implemented on the robot. As it turns out, someone else had a similar patent that was awarded last year, which became the death cry of that particular robot.

The new semester has started, and I’m taking 17 units. Four EEE classes, the last engineering classes I’ll have to take, and japanese 1B. Also, right after the semester started one of my professors was looking for students with hands on experience to work on some biomedical sensors. I was familiar with his work, so I took the opportunity and have started working with him. The particular project I’m working on will be the miniaturization and optimization of a sensor to detect when children with cerebral palsy fall, and records it to an SD card. I’m only making $11/hour, but it’s great experience and I’m sure it will look great on a resume(which is getting pretty packed now-a-days).

Also, the robot that initially died over the winter break has been semi-resurrected. Instead of using the robot to implement the experimental imaging, he now wants me to continue work on it with the goal of making a remote-controlled video platform. Since I’m going to be working with the other professor on the biomedical project, I’ve decided to bring in another engineering student to work on the robotics project with me. It should be fun, and will take a lot of the workload off me this semester having another person working on it.

Overall, it should be a pretty fun semester. I’m taking three elective EEE classes, including a graduate class that is pretty interested(non-linear control systems).

Senior Project: Completed.

A year ago I started work on a year-long project to make a wireless electro ocular-based eye tracking system. After a very long year, and an especially long winter semester finishing the project, I can finally say it is done. I finally finished the main sensor circuit, interfaced it all with the atmel atmega8 microcontroller, finished the desktop software to display information input from the microcontroller(with a lot of help from Kevin), designed the PCB for the project, had it manufactured, and hand soldered the final boards which were 99% surface mount. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the microcontroller losing its device ID and not programming correctly(but the sensor-circuit worked good on the pcb), so I had to demo the circuit on the proto-board….oh well. The project was a definitely a learning experience, and I learned a whole lot from it…but I’m very glad it is over.