Monday, December 20, 2010

I may be taking this blog down in about 5 months.

This blog was essentially created to talk about stuff I was doing in school and stuff I was doing on breaks from school. Sometimes I just posted random stuff, too. Either way, I won't really need this forum for too much longer.
Next semester I may or may not be taking classes, for I really only have a senior design requirement left to meet. Right now my GPA is sitting at about 3.83, but this may go up or down as in roll the final grades for this semester. Now all I need is a job.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Agency Rides Again!

My band of aging rockers has been invoked to bless a friends day of birth and to mourn the ten-year anniversary of the release of our beloved CD Engines. I received a call from Klaus (guitars) about doing a show in September, but I told him the likelihood was low that I would be able to fly down and avoid missing school. To my chagrin, the Richmond to Miami round-trip price was $117 + tax, so Sonya booked it, and away we go. You can't really beat that price for an early-Friday-morning departure and a late-Sunday-evening return. Now I am left with re-learning how to play our songs, and some of this stuff is 15-years-old. Some of our songs could be in high school now!This show really has us all inspired to be creative again. Its a welcome change. Mike (drums/vocals) has been hard at work in his studio remixing Engines for some form of re-release, and he's also mixing the CD we recorded but abandoned in favor of Engines. Our 1998 recording - tentatively titled Monkey In A Spacesuit - will finally see the light of day! Mike has sent mixes of a couple of the songs, and the results have been stunning. First, we really were a very tight band, and second, Mike is a really good engineer/producer/mixer. I don't expect people who weren't there in our little scene to enjoy this stuff, but its really great in its context. Various horrible mixes of these songs have actually leaked to our fans, and we always get requests to play those songs, so I know this will be well received in South Florida.
Believe it or not, we really draw a crowd down there, and I think we'll be giving these folks something to remember. Unfortunately our rehearsal is painfully limited. We may be reduced to Google-video-chat-rehearsals and one 5-hour marathon dress rehearsal, but I'm confident we can pull it off. Most of this stuff just comes from muscle-memory. That's a term we've been using a lot since we all seem to be able to just pick up our instruments and play these songs without fail.The only material that has me nervous is the new stuff. We recorded it, played some of it a couple times at shows, but we never toured on it. Playing a song a few hundred times leaves an indelible mark on the psyche and nervous system, but the songs from Turn don't have that benefit. They are a bit simpler, so that's a blessing. Either way, this show will be fun. Its a very quick visit to Miami (which is a good thing), and we'll spend some very quality time with friends. I can't wait.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Summer Research

Lung bifurcations are all the rage at VCU this summer. There are several PhD students working on different aspects of this project, and I was lucky enough to avoid these complicated structures for a while. Unfortunately, my project got bogged down waiting for part-orders to arrive, so I was handed my own little segment of the bifurcation drama. These models are all being constructed in a CAD package called Gambit, and Gambit is really just the design structure for a CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) system called Fluent. Design for CFD requires building the negative space of a structure since the model is really meant to study the fluid in the structure. Hyper-accurate measurement of the trachea and the fist few bifurcations are used to build the fluid volumes, then the real work begins. For CFD to be effective, the volume must be broken down into tiny cells called a mesh. Each cell in the mesh usually takes on a regular geometric shape like a solid polygon where each vertex (corner) of the polygon forms a node. Specific information about flow conditions (boundary conditions) are calculated at each node, and the whole set of nodes forms a massive matrix equation. Luckily, we build the model, but the software solves the matrix. In high school algebra, most people solve simple linear matrix equations, but these matrices are usually higher order, nth degree differential equations.
If you are having a hard time reading this than you should pity those of us who took Finite Element Analysis, for these cumbersome equations are solved by hand in the FEA class. Nightmare.
Anyway, my portion of this project was adding a ribbed-shape to the tracheal section before the lungs. This slight change in geometry has the potential to create a very noticeable change in the behavior of the fluid (air) traveling through the lungs. We'll see what the model tells us pretty soon! Here's a close-up of what I've done thus far. I sent these images to Sonya, and she said, "Gross!" I sent these same images to my dad, and he said, "at first, I thought this was a cobra."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Grad School Trip

I have been toying with the idea of going to grad school ever since I started my undergrad at VCU, and the time to make a decision is upon me. Sonya has made it her mission to put the many pieces of the process together on a spreadsheet. She has organized the next few months of our lives in order on a handy checklist. Sign up to take the GRE - check! Find out application fees - check! Mark the application deadlines on my planner - check! Figure out where I want to go to school -check, check, and double check!!!
My friend Rachel and I have been on a mission to narrow the grad school options to a more reasonable list. We've been researching the research, and I've got my list narrowed enough for Sonya and I to take our campus-visit road trip. We're hitting The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, The University of Wisconsin - Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN, and I just added the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL. U of I is on our way home and is highly ranked, so it would be foolish to drive past it without a visit. These schools all offer excellent programs in alternative transportation and energy, and they are not in California or Texas. California and Texas are over-represented in the list of top 50 schools, and I neither like endless heat nor the periodic shaking of earth, so the Midwest is my focus. There are a couple interesting programs in New York, but I really want to get back to the Midwest for a while - even if only for a few years.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Research

I'm lucky enough to have a paid internship this summer which should cover the difference in tuition since it was raised by 20%. This will be my foray to CAD modeling and using the Stereolithography Rapid Prototype Machine. Here's a picture of my design:
I wish I could describe the purpose of this design, but my boss might hang me out a window by my fingernails. The rest of my time has been spent learning some new software and reviewing Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, and Thermodynamics. Fun, Fun, Fun.

I do feel privileged to be receiving a paycheck, for there are a bunch of students doing this garbage for free.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Senior Year

I have registered for my senior year! Here it is.

Friday, April 2, 2010


A week from today I will be registering for the first semester of my senior year. However, I should stay focused on this semester because I am struggling. My grades haven't suffered too much, but I am just physically and mentally spent. I'm not sleeping, my confidence is struggling, and I'm finding myself sensitive to dumb comments. I have heard from multiple sources that the junior year of Engineering School is the toughest. I pray it's true.
As for next semester, I am truly excited about the classes. I remember when I first looked at the curriculum, I was most intrigued by a class called Mechatronics. The description seemed cryptic, but now I'm getting ready to register for that class and I know exactly what it's all about. I'm also taking Vibrations, Sensors and Measurements, and Senior Design. One more semester, then I'll need to find a job. Crud.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The US (and maybe Canada) is my oyster .

The time of graduation is rapidly approaching, so this summer will be my last summer in which to find an internship that could lead to employment. I first visited the VCU's Engineering and Business Career Center and was highly disappointed to discover that the title of that office is somewhat of a misnomer. In fact, the Career Services Office merely helps you with your resume and then directs you to a website. The school is nice enough to provide a password for what would otherwise be a pay-service site. I'm glad I did not pay for that garbage because half the internship links are filled, over, dead or misidentified as engineering.
The next avenue I ventured down was to contact professors for advice. Just to be clear, professors do research and have very little idea of how to find an actual job. After that fruitless endeavor, I started asking friends and family. This seems to have been the best option.
The Atlanta family has found several interesting leads for me, my dad has sent an email to my brother's godfather (an engineer in Salt Lake City and dad's best friend since childhood), and I could always go back to NASA (a friend here in Williamsburg brought the LARSS program to my attention last year.)
Some may wonder, "why not just go back to NASA?" The answer is I'm not really sure what NASA is all about anymore. I'm not sure people really want NASA. I direct you to this news story. At any rate, the free market folks are very excited at the prospect of letting private companies take the lead on manned space-flight; however, I would suggest that if there was immediate revenue in such a venture, we would already have McDonald's on the moon. Private companies already do all the engineering, so I would have to go get a job with Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman anyway. Of course, with the Constellation program cut, and no other plan for returning the US to space, the private firms won't be working on this stuff either.
So, there you have it. I'm looking anywhere and everywhere for internships. Ford, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and friends and family all have my resume. Hopefully I'll find something really great this summer.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010