Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

What I've been working on: ENG4K, Communications, grad school, Small-satellites

This week has mainly been spent spinning my tires. Thankfully, I do not have that much actually due this week, so it's less anger-inducing if I go from task to task without completing any. Nevertheless, I have been working, and here's what I've done this week.

Monday's Space Hardware class was a review of binary, hexadecimal, and an introduction to something new to me: Single precision floating-point format. Basically, it's way to store standard scientific notation in a 32 bit format. It took awhile to get used to it, but now I can quickly and easily convert numbers from one type to another.
Tuesdays' Payload Design class started a new unit in Communications Payloads. I have to say, we in Canada, especially those at York, are proud of our communications satellites. I mean, it makes sense, Canadians were the first to establish telecommunications satellites and networks, and they are a major source of business and competition in this highly tele-communicative age. Unfortunately, I had already seen the material before in several other classes so it was nothing new and difficult to concentrate.

Had a group meeting for my 4th year Engineering Design class. This class is great because instead of listening to lectures about theory, we actually get a chance to put it into practice by making a product and demonstrating it in April. Sadly, none of my ideas were prepared enough or feasible enough for an 8 month project with a budget of $1 000. I really wanted to do something that would impress everyone, including myself, but I'm still working on bridging the gap between my dreams and reality. I will not settle too much, though, so I'm looking forward to grad school to give me options to chase my dreams.

Anyway, the project my group is working on is an autonomous navigational unit. Simply put: we are combining an expensive, high-powered GPS, and an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) into one platform which will automatically track our movement and overlay our trajectory on Google Maps. It is nothing really new; many people have done similar things in the past and there has even been some previous work done at York before, but it is a good project for getting our hands dirty, getting some experience with the hardware and with the integration of its software. The group meeting went well; we have a PDR (Preliminary Design Report) on the 23rd so we are gearing up for that. For more information on our project, please visit our website, Pathtracker. (It's a work in progress; we are working on getting the website up to professional standards by the date of the PDR)

After that, I had a meeting with Professor Brendan Quine. Director of Space Engineering at York, Prof. Quine is certainly an individual worth knowing. Having worked in the space industry for over 20 years, Quine is best known for his enthusiasm, radical ideas, and ability to hypnotize you. That last statement owes to the fact that he generally is so enthused about his topic of lecture, that he draws you in and before you know it, you want to work in the space industry. My parents and I came to York for the March Madness, the year before I started there, and during the tour, Prof. Quine talked to us. My dad, skeptical of York before, was now so fully impressed and interested that he told me he now wanted to go to school here. Anyway, for more objective information, you may go here: Professor Brendan Quine. The meeting went well; I was basically checking in, as I haven't seen him in a while because he was on sabbatical. Also, I was asking about grad school, getting information on the process and his advice. His advice was reassuring and I felt a lot better about the next step in my education.


On Wednesday, I started working on an assignment for my Mechanical Design class. Using a program called, Unigraphics NX, we have to create a beam of aluminum and run some tests on it, observing how the results compare to the theoretical. I've had trouble with this software every single time I use it. Every step has to be meticulously checked to make sure you don't screw anything up, and even then, things generally don't work out. Everyone in the class has had so much trouble with it, that we were given an extension.

Later that day, I had to go to a lab session on RS-232 serial ports. Another lab about data transfer, it was an annoying foray into getting two different machines talking to each other. To make matters worse, there wasn't a whole lot that two people could do for the lab, so when one was working, the other could only sit around and think about why it's not working. It was a frustrating experience, but I am hoping to make up the session at a later date.

Thursday, I only had one class, Payload Design, and we continued the review of Communications Satellites. Friday, my Space Hardware class did a review on digital logic, which was nice, and I had a meeting thereafter to work on the flowchart/data workflow for my ENG4000 (now to be referred to as ENG4K) project.

It was a great meeting! We were able to work out the finer details and come up with a viable, and approachable, architecture for our project. I also realized that this is something at which I excel. I am able to foresee and follow all applicable paths a project could take. I can come up with different scenarios and follow them, splitting again and again at the different choices. I realize now that this is a unique and valuable skill. A lot of people have to focus on one thing at a time, but I can imagine every choice in a "choose-your-own-adventure/design" and understand what work might have to go into every choice.

That being said, we worked out a design route that we think will work best for us and gets us one step closer to that PDR presentation I told you about last time.

Additionally, I had some help from some friends of mine, Marco Barrettara and Meredith Thompson, concerning a video to be made for my PDR presentation. I really want to make a good impression and prove that I can make any project worth considering, so this video is to get things started in a manner as intriguing as possible. A basic format for the video looks as such, but with a little less humour. I want to make something that shows people what we are working toward, and gives them an idea of how it will work. Marco and Meredith assured me that they could help come up with something that, may not have the same production value as the video just referenced, but will get the job done. I thank them both, and look forward to seeing it. I will post it and perhaps the entire presentation here, at a later date. If you'd like to check out some of their work, please do at and

Finally, I met up with the CSDC (Canadian Small-satellite Design Challenge) team. The magnetorquer I am working on is part of their satellite and so I met up with them to see if I could help. The meeting went well, if a little unorganized, and I volunteered to write an article for York's Excalibur newspaper promoting the group and asking for volunteers. Again, I will post that once it's completed.

And that's it for this week. I apologize if it wasn't all that exciting, but sometimes, between the introduction and the finished product, the work is necessary and boring. Thank you for reading, and I promise next week's should prove more exciting. In the meantime, wish me luck, as I wish you well in your endeavours!

No comments:

Post a Comment