Showing posts from September, 2016


I decided to skip the update this week, it was much too disjointed and just felt blah. So rather than that I will write a rant, much more exciting, and outward focused.
In Elon Musk’s talk on September 27th he commented during answering questions that the first people to venture to Mars will have to accept the risk of death. A perfectly reasonable risk as they will be even further away from Earth than Apollo 13, but still possibly disconcerting.
What surprises me is that Elon Musk’s age, he is nearly the perfect age for some of the biggest psychological impact from the Challenger disaster. To put it into perspective he was a year or two younger when that happened than I was when 9-11 happened. A teenager dealing with a disaster that may have injured or scarred that generation watching as a teacher was going to orbit. It is possible that this group of kids, now grown, could be reticent to embrace risk for space travel, just as my generation is quite heavily scarred from the subsequent wa…

Dealing With the Last Few Weeks

This past week was the 15th anniversary of Sept 11th, I will always remember it, mourn those who lost their lives, and wonder what type of world we live in. Although we need to remember we must not dwell on it, but push forward each in our own way. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Why am I writing again so soon? Because I need to start chopping on my writing. Not just that but I sort of need to remind myself of happenings and learnings. I wrote weekly updates for NaNoWriMo last November to keep myself on track, but to some degree it was a release, an exercise to see what had gone well and what I had learned. So this is sort of like a diary, but not.
This week I came in to find that the meetings project is not on the Road Map. All the team was moved to other teams and it will probably languish until someone just rewrites it en totale. I don’t think I could have finished on my own and with the sporadic schedule of the intern team that I was “…

After Defeat

A bit lighter after the last post: After the robot competition my parents, in-laws, and my wife and I went to the New England Aquarium in Boston. It is quite an interesting building and just amazing how many different tanks they had. By the time we finished just before lunch the crowds of families pushing strollers was so pervasive that it was tough to move freely through the building. Still enjoyable.
We went back for a social for the teams, West Virginia was the only team to make any money out of the competition. I certainly envy them a bit, however, it is a large team (40+?) and most of the 750k is probably going to pay expenses and supplement a scholarship fund. They also had a bit of continuity having won 100k last year.
After the lunch the next day with Administrator Charles Bolden from NASA giving a speech, Jessie and I drove to Ithaca, NY. My In-laws also came with. Not too long of a drive from Worcester, but after a late lunch we arrived after dark. First impressions of the tow…

NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge Post Mortem

Relief and disappointment all in a few short moments. Our robot MandI, named for our team Mind and Iron, seemed to be stuck on the marble slab in the sunny, grassy park, but then it ramped up and over. Quite a feat for a wood-framed robot, but also not so great for our team as it smashed into the bright orange perimeter fencing.
The one and only run came to an entangled end. The team set out from the band-shell full of NASA folks to clear the field, our shot at a million dollars over.
Do I blame myself? Certainly, if I only checked this, or checked that… It just becomes a jumble of what-ifs. Writing this is mostly to get down my thoughts and observations, hopefully not too much blame.
Unfortunately the vision system was not communicating with the rest of the the robot system. That was totally not expected, it should have been sending photo coordinates to the robot’s state system. In the post mortem I found that some of the vision script had been modified on the robot without pushing it b…

Robots and Birds

Or: Why haven't I posted since January?

Quick answer, I said that finding objects in a photo should be easy. That was the end of December, by mid January I was on a team for the NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge. Needless to say it was a tougher project than originally thought. The competition was last week. I will post a post mortem about what I learned.

With that post I am also planning to start summarizing weeks with posts. Interesting things I did, new encounters, and what I learned.

Oh yeah, I also accepted a new job with Cornell Lab of Ornithology, specifically all the media coming in from to Macaulay Library

And I just can't help but look at the next NASA challenge... Why?