Tag Archives: diary

I made a video about hexapods.

I made a video about hexapods! yay. I’d estimate it was a full 4 or 5 days working on it, learning final cut pro along the way. It basically covers my journey through 2.007 two years ago, and is meant to be a resource for students in the class.

Note to self: shortcuts: < > ctrl-= alt-w

Meanwhile, I think an instructable a week sounds like an excellent plan for Spring semester senior year.

what is a “competent engineer”? (possibly this is just part 1)

mumble academic success mumble

Thinking back, I can’t remember accurately how I felt freshman year. Now if I’d written things down in a blog post… So here I go, reporting on how I feel now as a senior.

Lately, it seems like my conversations with people outside of bland filler (well, actually useful filler like knowing what is going on in my friends’ lives, but I qualify filler as things not really interesting to people in general) is focused on theorizing about how people learn.

I feel like I’ve been lost the entirety of my time at MIT. About all I can say for myself is that I can graduate and I am competent enough to… to? I honestly don’t know.

I’ve always been trying to find that missing something that would let me have a happy pset / general academic experience. When I say that I don’t learn well in the traditional academic model, I’m resigned, not “too cool for school”. Maybe if I were more confident in seeking help. Maybe if I trusted that if I asked my friends questions, they would make the correct judgment call for themselves about their level of hosage versus their obligation to me. Maybe if I studied the material better so that I could ask credible questions (instead of my general “?___? what is everything” that I know can’t be answered effectively) at office hours. Maybe if I didn’t care if I should have tried harder, should have read the textbook, should have attended lecture, should have not taken a class without the prereqs, and spoke up in office hours anyway.

But maybe all I needed to do all along was be optimistic enough to bug people to help me. Maybe I wasn’t missing anything except believing, trying, not flailing around and simply thinking things are doable.

I don’t know. I had a pretty wonderful psetting experience recently. And thinking back, I can’t remember a single instance where I had an experience like this. Even given my terrible memory, it can’t have been more than a handful of times. I’d given up. I’d concluded that the only thing to do is muddle along and build things and try to figure out — if I could do it over again, what I would try to do to get the most out of my classes. What if it wasn’t that I was incapable of learning from school, but rather that I just never figured things out? That would mean that to help other people like me, the key isn’t to make cool things to build, but rather to figure out how to learn the most from lectures and not flail around and get lost and lose self-confidence in the meanwhile.

So much for being secure in my goal to remain excited about everything and defiant about not digging deeper into a subject.

Lately an MIT admissions blog post title Meltdown has been making the rounds. It’s really popular because it strikes a cord in most / many students here, but not everyone. Is it better or worse to experience extremes of emotion? As usual, I suppose there is no single optimal Kp for the relationship between amount of stress and drama / emotional response in a person — but I can still wonder if there would be a more optimal one for me. How do I become competent? Yet even the competent people I know feel inadequate to some extent. So what hope is there?

I know, I know. I’m focusing on negatives again.

Maybe I can try that as an experiment — not care what people might think, just care about what makes me happy. For just a few weeks, not care about the fact that I’m never on time either to meetings or with homework, take that as okay. This is something I am working on. I am just a person with flaws, which is okay. (At least I haven’t killed anyone). YAY more experiments! 😀

I think other people would find this weird. But it makes me feel better, so what the heck. I’ll be that weird person with the weirdly personal blog. Because it’s my blog.
edit 11/1/12 AHHHH i am such a terrible group person person.  i… i’ll leave this up here because i think everyone else deserves a reminder that you’re lovely.

what are real engineering

A lot of my confusion stems from trying to understand what counts as being a real mechanical engineer. Or what I would define as success.

Here are potential answers:

  • Having the confidence to build parts that people can rely on and won’t fall apart
  • Creating a start-up that reaches the injection-molding stage and is cash-flow positive
  • Being able to use and even more so maintain and fix mills and lathes and other shop equipment
  • Being able to competently TA a class and answer technical questions
  • Getting As in my classes
  • Being knowledgeable like Amy and Shane and Charles in being able to tell you how to build and source almost anything
  • Being internet famous for technical things
  • Being able to fix anything that breaks
    • Knowing about cars
  • Being able to make awesome things from trash
    hi nick
    you should update your blog even more, i swear you’ve made at least three more instruments since then. of course I’m one to talk…
    • Being able to identify useful things from trash
    • Having professors like you and think you are competent (or at least not disappoint them)
    • Being able to help underclassmen
    Basically this is a compilation of thing I wish I were better at.
    One thing at a time, I suppose.
    Oh nyancat. This has turned into another of those whining about incompetence posts. It’s interestingly hard to convince myself to tout my competencies. I can only do it when I feel really angry or snarky. I remember Amy and try to convince myself to not constantly focus on my incompetency, but rather accept it and work to remedy it. So that I can be that competent female engineer that the younger me could point to and say, that is someone I would aspire to be. Which is another annoying thing, competency is inseparable from the issue of gender disparity for me. -___-;; It’s kind of distracting and rather useless in terms of actually becoming competent.

    possible competencies

    Things I am good at:

    • I’ve traveled. A lot. I will always have a fascination with cultures around the world.
    • I’ve worked with biology
    • Wanting to fix things. Being angry yet entertained at the state of the world.
    • Being enthusiastic about people learning to build things
    • Thinking in absurd ways
    • Having lots of different interests
    • I can speak and read Chinese
    • ?___? I have no idea. Nothing on here is technical competence…
    I’ll leave it an open question for now. In the meantime, I am going to go sleep in the sofa under my loft, which somehow makes me feel better (except then I don’t want to get up), and then wake up and finish my overdue essay. Oh, and talk to facilities about washing trash cans at 8:30 am.
    segue! hello there, trash cans behind the student center.
    something is really off about my solidworks dimensions. oh well.
    i felt silly for spending hours CADing nyancat. but after spending hours CADing a trash can (yes, I suck at CADing / CADing efficiently) I would happily go back to internet meme engineering. Also then I don’t have to look at my teammates’ CAD and feel terrible. Oh right, I’m supposed to feel inspired by other people’s work.
    speaking of nyancat, 2.009 professor wallace shows up in a nyancat shirt sometimes.
    speaking of nyancat part 2, one of my hallmates (ben katz) got contacted by the creator of nyancat. He legit engineered nyanhat thing.
    Speaking of classes…
    Strobe Lab 6.163
    Lab 5: Bullet Photography
    In other news, I have been making shiny strobe lab pictures, even if I’m neither building high voltage strobe circuits nor going to get more than a bare minimum B in that class.
    Bullet going through a stream of water. GIMP composite of four images, flipped horizontally.
    this was the setup for the water stream photos
    this was the setup for the LN2 carnation shots and shows location of the rifle (which we didn’t touch, the professor shot it)
    These pictures were with: Andrew Schlaepfer, Merritt Boyd, Monica Ruiz, and Prof. Bales
    They’re so pretty! This class doesn’t make me feel any more technically competent though.
    Well, anyway. Aside from classes and wondering how other people define competency, I’ve been mostly unproductive in terms of projects. My immediate project will be the persistence of vision poi project, and then I have two major goals (aside from getting a job or getting into grad school).
    • Help make sure the open source hardware bootcamp in China happens this summer
    • Implement my kits idea in some form, where a concrete engineering curricula is implemented using physical kits combined with online delivery of content
      (eek. I have to talk to a professor about this. Also this is my one chance of getting into grad school. Also, remind me to braindump about 2.007x sometime, which is the alternative to implementing this as my own startup…).
    • Actually document my projects. I harp on people to document their projects, but I don’t really have my own cohesive documentation scheme ^^;

    With respect to thoughts about school, here is a pretty well-known TED talk:
    A transcript can be found here:

    party plotting, also braindump of things to blog about

    Back from fitbit. Which was a freakin’ awesome internship. More on that later. When I catch up with my 5000 backlogged blog posts (such as, f*** I’m an old senior now, what do I even tell freshman, oh how far I have fallen, also f*** I realized I want to go to grad school but grade fail, sometimes I hate myself, wait maybe that’s all the time, my adventures around San Francisco, the Coultier fashion exhibit was awesome, also Hardware Startup Meetup at Lemnos Labs, random Chinatown restaurant was awesome, I went to the Crucible and made glass tiles,

    I did not live on a yacht nor at the Crucible this summer :'(, I should write up our startlabs experience, did I ever talk about weird Chinese social network stuff I learned last semester, I want to do hall murals, did you know paint is really expensive, emergency Europe trip, three countries in three days is terrible idea, how to avoid falling prey to corruption in Europe, did you know if you wear henna you will get to have random conversations (yay thanks to Annie Shin friend in East Bay)

    , the results of hackNYancat err hackNY

    I think it says “most APIs used.” Yes, we were also known as All the APIs.

    , did I tell you I’m blond as of this morning and hopefully rainbow tonight, this person I met coming back on BART from the SF Pride Parade


    , did I mention I went to Jamaica too, I am an awesome spoiled person, f*** being technically competent if everyone envies the fact that I get to fly for free, did I mention sleeping for two nights at airports before I got home from San Francisco to Atlanta, updates on the diy nanofabrication class, updates on the 21w.789 android class with Victor Youk and Sherry Wu,

    , spontaneous presentations with diyBio olin Avery at barcamp boston

    , also there was Iron Man cosplay created at the hobby shop at Anime Boston 2012, also there will be epic MITERS seminars this semester covering Solidworks and Eagle and microcontrollers, updates on hexarideablepod (yay youtube video!

    also drill trigger motor “controllers”), scheming to finish vending machine, scheming to make a new hexapod because I killed the $50 pololu serial servo controller, I knew I should have gone with fewer outputs, how to get strange things through airport security (it helps to be female and Asian), POV poi scheming, Josh Gordonson made a more awesome spiral on the lathe for Maslab, I learned many things like strain gauges in 2.671 but not as much as I should have, I am an excellent pseudo scientist, did you see the “science” in my inkscape scientific poster caffeine study thing, open source hardware bootcamp in Shanghai likely this upcoming summer, according to David Li, khan academy + adafruit mashup is my latest Grand Vision for Becoming a Good Person and Convincing Myself Slash Others That I am Technically Competent, oh the hexapod reading group and origami hexapod making

    Go check out Katy Gero’s blog! Right now! 😀

    , obligatory post on origami nanorobots, tinkerCAD CAD in browser is interesting, so is nclab Online STEM library, I am crazy and dumped $600 on a solidoodle 2, crap I should get around to making Instructables for the make-ten-instructables-and-get-3dprinter-or-CNCrouter-thing, make-ten-instructables-and-get-3dprinter-or-CNCrouter-thing, Ace Monster Toys was my summer makerspace, I should blog about controls so I actually learn it before I take a grad class).

    Okay, some of those belong in my head, others belong on the MITERS blog, and some belong on the nouyang blog. Anyway.

    Right. As it turns out, I am now 21. (No, I had work, I didn’t do anything on my birthday).
    Also, as it turns out, my hall hosts the first EC party of each semester. Which would be this Saturday. This clearly needs to be the subject of a qualitative scientific experiment to determine what number of drinks I need to reach a desired level of intoxication. Or maybe the I’m plotting to get so drunk that I never want to drink again experiment.

    1. Alcohol takes several minutes to reach your brain. Therefore I should wait several minutes between datapoints. Perhaps twenty?

    2. However, then it is unclear whether at the “two drink” mark I will have two drinks in my system or 1.8. However, since alcohol is known to metabolize very slowly, perhaps over the span of an hour or two we can assume that the effects of metabolism may be ignored. The small drink approximation?

    3. Ideally I could consistently measure something proportional to how much alcohol I have in my system. However, there are no good DIY blood alcohol content meters that I can just whip up in the next week. See http://nootropicdesign.com/projectlab/2010/09/17/arduino-breathalyzer/.

    4. Also make sure I have a friend who will make me drink lots of water.

    5. Also this is probably an even worse idea than the caffeine experiment.


    [update] So I didn’t actually conduct my experiment, because I’m a sane person and I’ve always been a bit leery of alcohol. Also according to advice from friends, a drink an hour or two is much more reasonable. I did figure out how I feel (what state of mind I am in) prior to feeling terrible / nauseous. My curiosity is satisfied now.