REU Experiences

Week 9 & a Few Days of Week 10

Hi everyone! I realized that I forgot to write my blog (yet again), so keep reading if you want an update on the past 3 weeks of my life.

I’m home now, and it’s really great. I missed my family and friends, but I’m really missing UNL right now. Traveling home was rough. No one slept because the first shuttle to the airport left at 3 am, so we stayed up for hugs and goodbyes. My flight departed at 7 am, but I passed out as soon as I was buckled into my seat. I don’t even remember the take off.

I mostly spent week 9 writing my paper. Then I spent a lot of time practicing my presentation because after the practice run with Dr. Duncan, I kinda just wanted to crawl under the table and stay (due to my lack of public speaking skills). On Monday, we presented in Othmer Hall with other engineering students. After talking about my research for 2 hours, I was ready for the Poster Symposium. Later that night, we had a banquet for everyone in the research program. I got to hear about all of the other students’ research from their professors, and I learned who the poster finalists were. Shout out to Jason and Shannon for repping Team Nimbus!

After the Research Symposium, we went back to Nimbus Lab for goodbye cake. It hit me when I told Ajay and Ashraful goodbye. Ajay said, “goodbye ex minion”, and that just set off the water works. I told him they were happy tears but I lied; I really didn’t want to leave. I had the most incredible time this summer. Ashraful 3D printed me a mini drone, so I’ll remember my time here forever. I made great friends. I worked with field robotics. I flew drones. Some of the drones were even bigger than me. I learned so much from my mentors. I kinda figured out what I want to do after I finish my undergrad thanks to Ajay and Ashraful. I rode a motorcycle for the first time. I sat in a tractor. I petted a cow. I road tripped to Colorado. I hiked mountains and sand dunes. I spent a lot of time out in the field. Trust me, I’m not an outdoorsy person, but by the end of the summer, I was washing my hands in a puddle on the side of the road. I swear, every year, I think I peaked, but life just keeps getting better.

I can’t wait to come back in October for the Women in Physical Sciences Conference and see everyone again.

REU Experiences

Week 8

Hey guys, it’s Amy. My blog post totally escaped my mind last week. I’ve been busy working with the data that we collected on the trip to Colorado. The odroid stores data in in bag files because we use ROS. But to plot and organize the data, we had to convert each bag file into a Matlab variable. Needless to say that was a lot to convert since we flew over 100 flights, and each flight’s data was stored in its own bag file. I’ve also worked a lot on my poster. Trying to sum up my entire summer on a 39″x29″ poster was challenging. I feel like I’ve learned so much. From learning ROS to writing cpp, then learning about sensors and how to read its data from the terminal, I learned different methods of serial communication for many sensors. Especially bus protocols for the Arduino, like I2C, (and programming in Arduino) to communicate with other sensors like the BMP and SHT. Then I learned how to parse my data from the text files I collected using Python to separate data according to sensors, then writing Matlab functions and scripts to read in the data and plot them in helpful ways to analyze the data. Besides the software I’ve dabbled in this summer for the sensor assessment, I learned how to 3D print using solidworks. Ashraful, my mentor, taught me and Jason how to design stereolithography designs. But I visited Dr. Duncan and she has a 3D printed hummingbird drone on her desk, so thats pretty neat. We learned how to print most effectively in relation to time and material how to remove support from the pieces. Ashraful designs the housing for the drones to allow aspiration over the sensors, so we learned how assemble the housing. I’ve used a drill more times this summer than I probably have in my entire life. Well I’ve finished my poster and I presented it today for Dr. Duncan and the other REU students so that’s hard a weight lifted. I’ve still got a paper to write, but I’m gonna go clean out the cooler now. Bye!

REU Experiences

Week 6 & 7

Hello all! It’s Amy. I’m currently sitting in a car on my way back to UNL. I’m sorry I missed my last blog post; I’ve been crazy busy. Since Thursday, Jason and I have been in Colorado participating in the LAPSE RATE conference as part of Team NIMBUS. NIMBUS teamed up with the researchers from Earth and Atmospheric Sciences to profile and collect data from the valley. All week we’ve been out in the field at the crack of dawn to run test flights. Our team split up to cover more sites. Besides the excitement from flying drones all day, I really enjoyed the sites I tested at because one of them had a field of over 1000 sheep (I will include pics) and the other had a crater the size of what was probably made when Superman crash-landed onto Earth. Also, turns out I’ve been spelling Matrice 600 wrong this entire time. It’s Matrice not Matrix. I thought it was something like Beatrix… Opps.

Something incredible happened on this trip. I went hiking for the first time, well in America. I’ve been to the Great Wall, and there are mountains behind my village in China but that was nothing compared to the trails in Colorado. Our hiking trails included the Willow Lake Trail and the Sand Dunes! I don’t think I can say I’ve ever felt more accomplished than the moment I dragged myself to the peak of the sand dunes concealed in sand from head to toe. Most people probably wouldn’t consider the climb to be challenging, but as a couch potato who only participates in runs for the free shirt, I’ve never felt a physical challenge comparable to this in my life. I’ve also never felt more as one with nature until the moment I watched Jason drop his cliff bar onto the trail of dirt, pick it up, blow on it and continue to eat it, then he offered me a bite and I ate it too. After the hike, we went to the banquet to eat bbq and play outdoor games. Dr. Detweiler and Matt destroyed me and Ashraful at corn hole, at one point the score was 13-0, what an embarrassment. Well I’ve gotta work on my poster and paper now so I’ll update you next week! Make sure you check out the pictures though especially the insane packing job we tetris’ed into the pick up.


REU Experiences

Week 5

Hey y’all, this is Amy. This week started off great! The university crafted a GRE prep session that took place on Saturday. I was really excited to learn more about what it takes to better prepare myself for one of the most important tests of my professional career. The downside of the session was that the temperature in the room was super hot and so I kept getting distracted by how much I was sweating during the presentation. All in all, it wasn’t what I expected, but it still turned out to be helpful. I’ve started to do research on my middle four grad school picks. On the fourth, we went to the lake. Football, volleyball, frisbee, we played them all. I can’t really swim, but I jumped into the lake anyway.

Friday was probably the best day though. We had a field trip. We completed 11 missions today using the Matrix 600 (that’s the hexacopter). Now we have lots of data files, so I need to write a script to process through it all to plot automatically or else I won’t be sleeping next week when we’re at the conference. The problem is that my virtual box doesn’t have enough room to install Matlab, so I will need to allocate some more disk space for my box. Okay bye guys! I’ll let you know next week if this happens for me!
REU Experiences

Week 4

Hey! It’s Amy.


Weekend: We went to the Omaha Zoo! It was raining, which I thought was super inconvenient, so I complained all Friday about it. My mentor even bought an umbrella to shut my whining up. But because there was rain, they had to move the elephants and giraffes indoors. I saw a giraffe from 10 ft away! It was incredible.


Day 1: For this week, I was given the task of connecting multiple sensors to a microcontroller to output a text file of the data being logged. Once the sensors work, I can run tests and see which sensors are most responsive and most accurate.


Day 2: I don’t know how to connect them all at once, so I started with the SHT31 sensor. I found some pretty neat directions on the company website. It worked! I wrote an Arduino program to collect the data I needed to compare to our current sensor. Now it’s times to get the BMP280 sensor working. I installed some libraries for it and then poof, the data was streaming in at like 100 Hz.


Day 3: Today I did things. They dealt with drones, which by the way are super cool. I was tasked with putting some thingies together, mainly cords and wires. I had to connect both the SHT and BMP to the Arduino. Nothing was working, so I decided to use the good old rejuvenation technique, which involved a moderately complex process of pressing a restart button on my laptop and then waiting for the laptop to reboot. The result of this 3 minutes process yielded a working program. But really, I was just missing a curly brace. But now it’s capable of being uploaded into Arduino that could then be translated into controlling the sensors that measure temperature, pressure, and humidity of the environment that our drones would be exposed to.


Day 4: Now that everything works, I ran tests to compare the sensors. The ones I put together always had an extreme offset of 10 degrees in temperature readings, so I’ll have to research the operating regions of these. As for humidity, there was an offset of 10 millibars. Is that significant? Who knows? That’ll be some googling for tomorrow.


Day 5: Turns out 10 millibars is about a 250 ft change in altitude. Not good. We’re only going up to 1000 ft at the conference, so a quarter of the way is significant. Maybe I’ll try to run some tests next week to see the pressure changes. Okay bye! I’m going to go find some tall buildings on campus.

REU Experiences

Week 3


Day 1: I went over the code for serial communication packets again. We met with Dr. Elbaum to go over this week’s goals. Our end of the week goal is to be able to publish and subscribe in ROS using sensors. I went to see Ashraful after the meeting. He showed me the iMet xq sensor. We can use gtkterm to see the data currently being read in by the sensor. Now we just have to find a way to get to the data in ROS.

Day 2: I played with the xq sensor more. I learned about piping. Piping is a method used to send the output from one program as input to another program. I’m trying to send the output given by gtkterm to a program I’m writing in ROS.

Day 3: We had a meeting with members of the Cloud Map Project. Dr. Detweiler, AJ, Ashraful, Jason, and I met with members from the Earth and Atmospheric Department to go over our agenda for the Conference in Colorado. We will be using the our hexacopter to survey the lower atmosphere such as cold air drainage, atmospheric transition, air flow modification, and thunderstorm initiation.

Day 4: For the Cloud Map Project, we will be working with many sensors. We are deciding between using the iMet xq, xq2, or xf. I’m going to be running tests to compare the sensors to see which has the best step response time.

Day 5: I ran more tests to compare the sensors, and I used Matlab for data visualization.

REU Experiences

Week 2

Hey hey hey! Update: I PASSED MY FLIGHT TEST :)

Weekend: I learned how to charge the big batteries. AJ gave me an extensive lecture on battery characteristics and safety procedures. I flew my flame wheel more. Flying these make me nervous because they are much bigger than the little Hubsans. Bigger drone == Bigger crash. I was flying at one point and the drone started drifting closer to me, so I panicked and thrusted down completely. I crashed into the ladder, loudly. AJ laughed at me. After lab, we went to the gym where I was introduced to Sports day. On Saturdays, people from Nimbus would all go to the rec after work to play sports. We played volleyball, undergrads vs grad students. They owe us ice cream and chocolates now. I went to Omaha with my roomie and some other friends the next day and petted about a hundred puppies. Then we went to the outlet and bought matching flannels because why not?

Day 1: We met with the directors to learn about our research projects. Sounds like I’ll be working on collecting data from the sensors. I was told that we needed to have turtlebot running, complete the certification on research with humans, and talk to Ashraful about the drone project by the end of this week. AJ and Ashraful are my grad mentors. Time to go find Ashraful. After work, I went to the gym to swim. I have no idea how to swim, but I need to learn so I can go on the lake day trips.
Day 2: AJ gave me an assignment to write a couple functions in cpp to increment a number and multiply the number by some constant. I took Data Structures nearly two years ago, so it’s been a minute since I’ve seen cpp. I struggled for a few hours, then moved on to my human subjects research (HSR) course. That took forever, but I was certified by the end of the day so I left with some slight feeling of accomplishment.
Day 3: I WENT ON A FIELD TRIP TODAY! AJ and Ashraful took me and Jason to the field to run some tests. They even let us fly the big hexacopter. I found the best youtube tutorial for ROS. I learned all about nodes and topics. The video helped me install turtlebot gazebo, and it’s the coolest. My simulation had a bookshelf, dumpster, and some other random objects surrounding my turtlebot. I was running gazebo on my virtual box on my mac, so even though the screen said the real time factor was .99, there was about a 5 second delay (I think I know why it’s named turtlebot now). The next video was supposed to teach me how to publish and subscribe to whatever object my bot was closest to in the simulation. Okay, I lied. The best video turned out to be too complicated to I returned to the booked AJ referred us to. The day started at about a 10, but now I’m felling a solid 2. One of the grad students showed me the funniest video in regards to machine learning algorithms in bipedal robot control, so now I watch that when I’m sad, stressed, or bored. Here’s a link to 3:25 minutes of good laughs.
Day 4: I learned how to 3D print today. Can you tell I’m doing everything I can to avoid time with ROS? Ashraful gave me a lesson in Solidworks. Then we designed a piece to connect the anemometer to the tripod because the current setup included about six layers of duct tape. A bunch of us went to see Incredibles 2 after lab. It was definitely a 9/10.
Day 5: I learned how to publish and subscribe today. AJ sent me home with about 500 lines of code to go over, so I could understand how the data packets were transmitted from the sensor to CSV files. I took Computer System Design last semester where I had to decode RS232 and USB signals by hand, so I’m excited to see how a program will do all the work for me. Hopefully we’ll take another field trip once I understand how the code works, so we can collect more data. In the mean time, I’m gonna go enjoy my weekend. See ya next week!
REU Experiences

Week 1

My name is Amy Guo, and I am a senior studying Computer Engineering at Saint Louis University. I enjoy electronic circuit design, digital design, and computer system design. I’ll be spending my summer at UNL doing research in the NIMBUS Lab. In my free time, I like to paint, bake, and eat good food.
Our weekly objective is to learn how to operate vehicles manually and programmatically. I hope I pass my flight test with the Hubsans, so I can move on to flying bigger drones. I’m really excited to go out into the field to see the hexacopter fly.

Day 1: We went on a tour; this campus is ENORMOUS. I normally average 5,000 steps a day. I nearly reached 20,000 steps today… The new people I met in lab are nice. AJ (my mentor) explained the basic concepts of drones. ie… pitching, rolling, thrusting, and yawing. We were introduced to the flame wheels.

Day 2: I flew a Hubsan. It was hard. I kept confusing yaw with roll, and the drone kept drifting so that didn’t help. We started putting together the flame wheel. After lab, a few of us went out to play sand volleyball. Then we watched Children of the Corn.
Day 3: I tried to install ROS. Turns out I needed a Linux machine to make that happen, so I got a virtual box on my Mac. After installing ubuntu and ROS to run on my box, I got a pop up warning that said I’d run out of space on my hard drive. Then Dr. Duncan gifted me a laptop for the summer. Sadly, I had trouble getting ubuntu on the virtual box on the new laptop. On the bright side, I finished the hardware aspect of piecing together the flame wheel. Then I went to the picnic at the park. I ate really good fried chicken, and took cute pics with all my new friends. We watched the Babadook later that night.
Day 4: I began the software portion of the flame wheel. I downloaded Mission Planner on the new laptop because it needed to run on Windows. I connected my drone and calibrated according to the manual. We played sand volleyball again after work. Then we watched Teeth and 1922.
Day 5: I practiced flying more, and I took my flight test today. Did I pass? Stay tuned to find out!