Week Two

I really enjoy how organized the streets are in Lincoln, perfectly straight lines intersecting in neat orderly grids. I grew up in Boston and am accustomed to the opposite. My hometown has a lot of charm but is also known for it’s narrow and chaotic roads. For me, walking in downtown Lincoln is a breath of fresh air.

“Organization” has been my keyword this week. We only have eight weeks left in the program and that time is going to fly by. So, I’ve taken time this week to make sure I’m organized and ready to maximize the experience over the coming weeks. In general, my approach is to break a project up into parts, each one leading to the ultimate goal. Then I position each part on a timeline and try to overestimate how long each task will take me (underpromise, overdeliver). The most pressing issue at the moment and throughout the week has been training on ROS (Robot Operating System) and I have to say, it’s been pretty awesome.

ROS is an open-source set of libraries and tools that help developers build robotics applications. In general, ROS applications are built in C++ or Python. Initially, I worked through the tutorials using C++ as I haven’t worked in Python before. However, after the initial tutorials, I tried working in Python and have found it to be pretty straightforward (and I’m really enjoying it!). A large piece of the ROS tutorials involves working with a turtlesim node (a turtle visualization that functions similarly to a robot). This week, I spent time creating custom paths for the turtlesim node in both C++ and Python. We also wrote scripts that leveraged two XBee radio modules to send and receive control signals that move turtlesim nodes on different computers!

We also had some great discussions this week. Dr. Detweiler led a meeting on how to identify research questions that are worth asking. We talked about the value in communicating with people across industries and disciplines as well as keeping up with journals and papers within our field. The discussion was insightful and made me think about the value of interdisciplinary communication. Outside of the lab, we attended an interesting presentation on research writing. The presentation was thoughtful and interactive and encouraged us to consider the story arc of our research in our writing. Included in the presentation were research findings that suggested that scientific papers were cited more often if they followed a story-like structure.

Overall, week two has been great! I’m totally thrilled to be here!

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