My first week at Nimbus

Friday, June 8th: I have big news. I found the most comfortable way to sit in Nimbus Lab, which is important when you have more than a few ROS1 tutorials to get through. The real trick is to claim a chair early to put your feet up on; being proactive is important in research.

The first week in Nimbus has been productive: my2 drone flew on this fine Friday in June, overcoming a misconfig that made the thing fly like it had too many cups of coffee and not enough water. Adam, who calls all the drones birds which I find very endearing, auto-tuned my drone and it flew stably with the correct PID values. Turns out, the same problem had shown up in another undergrad’s drone and setting some variables to the magic numbers a single drone figured out while auto-tuning fixed that problem, too. Technology is cool. Assembling the drone was pretty sweet, too; soldering can be pretty relaxing, grad students were very helpful, and the directions were clear enough. The body of the ‘bird’ is DJI with a Pixhawk ‘brain.’ Really, the only frustrating part of the whole process (besides the shaking problem, fixed by Adam) was programming the Pixhawk flight controller with this software called Flight Planner. Flight Planner only runs on Windows (I <3 my Mac); so, hello, VirtualBox. Thankfully, I only had to connect and reconnect my drone to my computer – including manually selecting the usb device I want to connect to in VB – about a million times, so it wasn’t finicky at all.

Adam was also generous enough give us a control-theory-in-a-nutshell walkthrough this morning and explained proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controllers to us. I should really invest in a comp book to write down all these notes. I really wish I could learn it all faster; I can’t wait to start writing code and helping out my Grad student. They are in Costa Rica and get back on Monday. I’ve been told I’ll be helping them with telecommunication robots, which is pretty fortunate because my drone flying skills must still be at lunch or something. Also, as much as I enjoy soldering, I’m excited to write some code.

I’ve really liked the people I’ve met so far, too. Just today, a grad student got back from a conference and introduced himself to me. We chatted CS for a bit and it reminded me what an opportunity this is to figure out if I want to stand in their shoes. So far, I’m thinking maybe I do.


Shannon Drew

  1. That’s Robot Operating System, for all those #plebs out there.
  2. The digging team’s

Leave a Comment