So far, my gap year has been super educational. I've learned how to make excellent coffee, take out the trash, curse at code when it doesn't work, and became the butt of every 'young person' joke around the office.
In other words, I'm an intern!
My original plan for my gap year was to get as much work experience as I possibly could. After shopping around for an engineering internship in my area, I managed to score one at a local firm called Industrial Measurement Systems (IMS) which was small enough to let me lead design on a product. My baby, the iETEK, is an automated version of IMS's flagship product, the ETEK. It's designed to ultrasonically measure the modulus vs. load curve of a car brakepads by compressing them while passing an ultrasonic signal through. The idea is that by measuring how squishy brakepads are, we can control quality and eliminate squealing brakes.
The IMS iETEK. Designed, built, and programmed by interns.
Sometime after all the hardware had been designed, fabricated, and assembled, I found myself sitting at my desk with a mug of coffee, cursing at three screens worth of code bugs. It was then I realized that I'd made a startling transition from mechanical engineer to programmer. While I've really enjoyed my time at IMS and liked having a chance to broaden my skillset, I'm leaving IMS on the 25th to develop my own software. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do, but I'm looking forward to having a chance to work on my web programming abilities.
One of my biggest motivators for taking a gap year was that I could continue to work with FIRST robotics teams in my area. Robotics was most of my highschool life - I was head of Mechanical Engineering on my team and a Dean's List finalist. This year, I'm continuing to work with my old team, 3061 (prompting many supersenior jokes) and also mentoring with a couple of second year teams in my area, 5125 and 4979. Right now my teams are in the offseason, so we're working to teach LabVIEW, CAD, and basic electronics to our new members before the season starts. We're also working hard on outreach - 3061 is conducting a workshop for middle schoolers where we'll be building quadcopters (four bladed electric helicopters) with them.
My (triplet!) sister and I at the FRC Midwest regional last year.
In order to help the team prepare for our outreach program, I built a quadcopter about a month ago. Learning to fly is hard; I've spent a lot of time since then rebuilding my quad to recover from crashes. I've learned a few things the hard way - for example, flying in winds above ten miles per hour is a bad plan. As soon as I'm confident that I won't crash too often, I'm planning on adding a camera to my quad to take aerial video.
Doing flips is fun if you avoid the ground. The quadcopter has since been repaired.
My Gap Year has been tons of fun so far, but hearing about all the fun that my triplet sisters are having at school (Tufts and Caltech) has made me anticipate enrolling at Olin next fall! I hope to use the rest of my year to learn as much as I possibly can.
Until next time,