Crunch time- second semester projects at Olin

Hello from Olin! It's been a long while, and now things are even busier (I feel like I say that every time I make a blog post?). With half the semester left, classes are moving into project phase. Since projects are all I can think about right now, I'll just detail a couple (meaning all) of the cool things I'm frantically working on. Our human powered vehicles team is going to competition in two weeks and there's still plenty to do- I'm working with a subteam that's building iceskates/skis to attach to our vehicle. You read that right, our trike is going to have skates. We're hoping to build it and test it out on a ice rink soon. It's pretty rad.

In RWM, our electronics/data measurement class, the team I'm in is working on an EEG to try to read brainwaves. In Software Design, Mike and I are programming a chess AI and we're hoping to train it using Machine Learning. In Markanics (Mechanics taught by our lovely instructor Mark Somerville), Michael and I are modeling and simulating wheelies on a motorcycle. 

Meanwhile independent research is coming along- I'm working on computer vision for a quadcopter that we want to use to track whales. It's not an easy problem, so a lot of my research so far has been preliminary work learning about computer vision and object detection. It's been a lot of weeks learning about algorithms and wrestling with Labview (and then switching to OpenCV). I'm hoping to get a few demo programs up and running that can track objects (with consistent lighting and a stationary camera) by the end of the semester, and building a robust program that can track whales is an aspiration that'll probably have to be left to this summer or the next year of research.

In the Machine Learning reading group on campus, I'm working with a subteam of students who are working on building a vision system for a robotic tour guide that we're envisioning. We're taking baby steps right now, so our first goal is to get a waffle detection program up and running. Why waffles? Well, they're relatively symmetric to rotation, generally the same color, and easy to find features the features of. Also, waffles.   

"Well, hold up there Dennis!" You might say. "That sounds exceptionally busy! Are you even able to do good work on all these awesome projects?" My answer is that I really hope so! Part of being a freshman at Olin is finding that you're overcommitted and trying to balance everything. So only time will tell, but drinking massive quantities of caffeine is helping. By the way, I know multiple people who are taking more classes than me and doing more extracurriculars. If you're wondering how they do it, I don't really know either. But a phenomenon I've noticed is that upperclassmen scoff at you and think it's cute when you say that you "don't have enough time" or "have too much work". So it looks like things are only getting harder from here, and I'll have to start narrowing down extracurriculars next year.     

What else is going on with my Olin academic life? (If you were hoping for non academic details I'm sorry, it's just about all my fried brain can write about right now). Well, "oh crap, I have to choose a major" is looming somewhere in the future. You'd think that Olin makes it easy for you because there are all of about 5 majors, but the more I think about it the more unsure I get. I've gone from thinking I'll be an ECE to a ME to being an ECE who's actually a computer science major. Turns out I like programming, as you might guess from all the stuff I'm doing with computer vision and AI and machine learning. (By the way, never dismiss a field because a subfield of it isn't your cup of tea. After spending a few months learning Rails and web app development I just wasn't too into it, so I thought I couldn't be a computer engineering guy. But computing is a huge interdisciplinary field with a lot of cool schnaz, and I've since changed my mind).

So this is what Olin is for me right now- lots and lots of cool projects and work. Tune in next year (I believe this is my last blog post of the semester) to see the results of it all and what major I finally chose! Or just email me or something if you're truly curious (yeah right). By the way, prospective students who might be reading blog posts, never be afraid to email and talk to anyone at Olin! Oliners are a friendly bunch and would probably be pretty happy to talk to you. Just about everybody here stays on top of their emails. And...that's just about it for this blog post. Bye friends!

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