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.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

IMUs, Arduinos, Assignments, Aikido, Friends, Fencing, and Food!

My life moves pretty quickly. Sometimes, I wonder how I could accomplish so much, but then I remember that I take long steps and enjoy being busy.

So, what's new this week? Well, Monday, long day of classes, followed by a 3 hour lab. Got to control a radio antenna, ~1.5-2m in diameter, on the roof of the Petrie building today. By the way, did you know there's a 5th floor to Petrie? It's a secret only the few who take the class, or read this blog, will know. I won't tell if you won't.

Fencing was fun; we suited up, meaning face-mask, jacket, glove, and foil. It was fun, but also a lot different, wearing the full attire. It was a great lesson though, and I'm really looking forward to competing. Also, there were quite a few new members, and I'm quickly getting to know everyone.

Random tidbit of trivia for you: my name, Dallas, was taken from the book, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. The book, later turned into a movie, features a coming-of-age story from the lives of teenage greasers and thugs. My mom was reading said novel before I was born and liked the name. Why did I tell you this? Well, one of the new girls in my Fencing class, Megan, after hearing my name as I introduced myself, quickly asked if that's where I got my name. It was a pleasant surprise, and we spent the rest of the lesson talking about books in general. I'm hoping to get everyone from class out to the Absinthe pub next Monday, for a chance to get to know everyone better.

Tuesday was a good day, albeit a straight-forward one. I spent the entire day studying for my Basic Amateur Radio Exam, which I eventually got a 90% on. Getting this, and doing so well on it, means I now am licensed to operate amateur radio equipment and send/receive information over a variety of networks. It's pretty cool! I mean, it's something to add to my résumé, and it means I can listen in on any public satellites and do some other cool stuff. It was nice to devote myself to one project and have the payoff be that immediate and fulfilling. Although, I'm sure a friend of mine will jump in here and say it was the fiii dolla footlong from Subway which helped. (inside joke, or watch Chuck)  The examiner was even nice enough to take us around the CBC building and check out some of the infrastructure and we even got to play around on the green screen in the weather station room. Afterward, we all went out to a pub and had dinner together. It was really nice, and I especially liked hanging out with both students and professor outside of class-time. I had a good time, and came home feeling only slightly apprehensive about the rest of the week.

Wednesday-tonight (Saturday) have been an absolute blur. Honestly, it takes work to even remember what I did and when. Thursday was my low point of the week, pretty much the lowest point yet this academic year. I have been working really hard to get the hardware going on my engineering project, and the process has not been very productive. I had all of Thursday off, and after receiving some advice from a friend and rather intellectual colleague, I took the hardware home, ready to get nerdy.

Well, I broke the connector, I broke the ribbon to which the connector goes to, and I stripped the screw on my voltmeter's battery pack meaning I had to struggle for more than half an hour to get the thing open. Thankfully, the parts are not expensive, but they can be rather difficult to come by. It was very frustrating. I rarely get upset, and I rarely get that upset over school work, but I was steaming mad. I felt like a failure; unable to get anything done, and the stress was getting to me.

I went out that night to Aikido, not so much because I wanted to, and not even because the exercise helps relieve stress, but mostly because I had missed a week of classes and wanted to see my friend. I am thankful that I went, because seeing my friend was quite nice and the exercise really did help. I forgot, for a short time anyway, all about my school stress and learned some cool self-defense moves in the process.

Friday and Saturday I worked like crazy. I found out that I didn't have to be too upset about breaking the connector because the grad student from whom I received the parts also broke 2 connectors in much the same way I had. He was nice enough to keep the last one until he found a method of connecting the cheap plastic part without breaking it.

Here's a little look at what I've been up to. In the picture below, you'll see the Arduino UNO, the PCB evaluation board, and the IMU (inertial measurement unit) from left to right.

The IMU is a rather expensive device which contains 3 accelerometers and 3 gyroscopes. For a quick reminder, my big engineering project is to design a system which uses this IMU and a GPS to track and plot a moving platform's path onto Google Maps. The GPS is great for spot-positioning (exactly what it sounds like) but isn't so good between spots, especially at higher speeds. The IMU's job is to fill in between the GPS locations but also act as a backup in case the GPS loses signal. Additionally, we are hoping to configure the IMU to the point where we could reliably use it indoors. Because of its sensitivity, the IMU is susceptible to drift, and it doesn't take long for the IMU to think it's moving super fast when really, it's not moving at all. That's why we have the GPS, to correct the IMU.

Anyway, the IMU is connected to the evaluation board, that little green piece there in the middle. The little black thing connected to it is like the kind which I broke, but with which I was resupplied. The 12 pins on the green board, to which the black connector is currently attached, run through that Gorgon-like slew of grey ribbon to the ports on the Arduino UNO. I had heard of Arduino microcontrollers before, but have found them to be quite handy. The hardware is relatively cheap, and all the software is free and available from their website,

My next task, one which I know shouldn't be difficult, but is proving a challenge, is to get the Arduino to talk to the IMU, and collect the readings from the IMU. I am hoping that some colleagues of mine can shed some light on that subject Monday.

In the meantime, I have been working on two other assignments, as well as the report for the engineering project. Today, I finished my write-up for my 3rd of the report, and started and finished an assignment for Space Hardware. Conceptually, the assignment was actually kind of useful: we had to generate a simulation of a coaxial cable (like the old kind which your cable television or Super Nintendo used) and compare the simulation to actual lab experiments. The program I used to simulate the cable was called Altium Designer, and it's not too difficult to work with. However, this professor is known for giving tough assignments and after working on it for quite a long time, we decided to hand in what we had and hope for the best. I hate doing that, but sometimes it is the best you can do.

Friday and Saturday night, I was treated to lovely dinners, first fish and chips, then roast beef, by a very amazing friend. My friends are very sweet and sometimes worry about whether or not I eat. In my defense, it's not that I'm lazy, just that I get so involved with work that sometimes 8 hours passes before I even realize it. Anyway, I am thankful for my friends, and thankful for the food which they so regularly cook for me. Yes, I am spoiled.

Anyway, the dinners were great and so was the company. It was nice having a chance to hang out with some friends and to actually be able to do so without worrying or being grumpy. I have a hard time letting go of my thoughts and sometimes have a hard time enjoying my downtime. As both my mom and another friend told me lately, if I don't take some time for myself, I won't be very productive otherwise. I grudgingly agreed, haha.

Finally, I have an assignment due Monday, which is what all of Sunday will be. I thank you for reading, and I am sorry for the lengthy post, but honestly, I've been working really hard and it's nice sharing it with you.

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