Olin alumni work in a lot of different and exciting careers. I found Philip Chung to be one of the most unique and interesting Oliners. Though he's most recently been based in the Moss Landing Marine Labs in CA, Philip talks here about the time he spent with two robots - SCINI and FATTI - while living on the ice in Antarctica.
Philip Chung '11, Robo-E grad
Working with SCINI in Antarctica
SCINI is short for Submersible Capable of under-Ice Navigation and Imaging. SCINI drags its partner robot FATTI (Flourometry and Acoustic Transducer Towable Instrument) along in the dark oceans of Ross Sea, Antarctica to investigate the marine ecosystem there.When Philip joined the team as a young polar bear1, most of the robots were already there. His job was mainly repairing and piloting. As SCINI was a remotely operated vehicle, Philip piloted it at least one time every day. Imagine playing a real video game with sea creatures like the jelly fish below, coming up to you once in a while amidst the darkness of the ocean. 2
Jelly fish in the Ross Sea
The best part of the job for Philip was living in Antarctica, on the ice. Antarctica is the southernmost, coldest, highest, driest, windiest, least populated continent on earth. One of the best things Philip liked about living there was the penguins. Small Adelie penguins would just come up to him because they have no fear of humans.
Riding snowmobiles in Antarctica
To prepare for the trip, Philip trained for one very intense summer. The training seemed kind of crazy to him as they went through hypothetical scenario of what to do if each component failed. He said it was like astronaut training! Their philosophy was: "If you have two, you have one. If you have one, you have none." They had two SCINIs, and materials for three. When he got to Antarctica, it turned out that all the preparations were quite useful! Many things broke under the extreme temperature conditions. They took working parts from one SCINI to replace the broken parts of another.Philip heard about this job from another Olin student when he was a freshman, and applied for the program that first year. His interviewer said he had the right personality, but asked him to check back in 2-3 years. Philip checked in with them each year after that. When he graduated and after he finished his Fulbright in Mongolia, they needed an engineer, and he got the job!
Experience before that, at Olin and after Olin, in Mongolia
Philip had some very interesting summer experiences while he was at Olin. In his second summer he lived in Ghana and worked on a farm for a few weeks as part of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). The farm was like a jungle: because of the tropical climate, plants would grow everywhere and overtake the crops. There was no electricity or running water. The local people had to choose between spending the money on education or on food.
After the SCINI project, Philip did another WWOOF in New Zealand. According to Philip, WWOOF is a great way to explore the local culture in depth and learn a lot about farming while having the fun of travelling.
Philip also did some legendary work with bamboo during his years at Olin. He built a bamboo water pump which used an old bicycle for power. It can pump water from the first floor of the AC to the second. He also built a bamboo bicycle. Bamboo has the advantage of more vibration damping than carbon fiber, and is very light.
Enjoying Mongolia on his Fulbright
Immediately after Olin, Philip earned a Fulbright Scholarship, and taught English to college students in Mongolia for a year. As he really liked the experience, he stayed for another year in Mongolia, teaching engineering and science subjects to elementary school students.
What's next for Philip?
The extreme conditions of Antarctica haven't scared Philip off. For his next adventure, Philip will return there, where he'll be working on a geology project that studies the lithosphere.
- See the blog https://scini-penguin.mlml.calstate.edu/ for why Philip is called a polar bear.
- See video taken by SCINI at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slawv64kWyE