Hopper Night

Hey ya’ll, my name is Luis Francisco Zuñiga. I’m from McAllen, Texas and I’m a first year at Olin College of Engineering. I’ve seen snow exactly twice in my life [as of this writing], so I jumped at the chance to leave my home state and come up north. I’m still a Texan, through and through, though. If you meet me, you’ll likely hear me complain about the cold, call things “purdy” instead of “pretty,” or say “yer” instead of “your/you’re.” In addition to being an OLINsider blogger, I’m currently in the Olin Ultimate Frisbee Club, OPIUM [our improv troupe], and our Baja team, among other things. Thank you for reading this, and I look forward to interacting with all of you.

[THE HOPPER PROJECT: A 6 week project undertaken by first year Oliners in the DesNat** class. The idea is to make a mechanical, bio-inspired hopping device using only parts designated by the instructor. This year, our kit included things like 72 square inches of fiberboard, 2 springs, 1 foot of rubber tubing, and 2 feet of wooden dowel.]

It is 7:30pm on a Sunday. About 15 people, half our class, are in the studio working on their hopper. Some have just arrived and might only be here for a few minutes while others have been here for hours and will probably be here past 12am. I have been here since about 4pm and can tell you that at any given point today there were at least 4 people in here doing something DesNat** related. The room is humid and so we’re all slightly uncomfortable. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.

That’s the situation. It’s not that we’re procrastinators or anything, we just have busy weekends. We have ultimate Frisbee tournaments, soccer games, and multi-hour presentations to attend (free shirts were given out, so it was worth it apparently). 

I finished my hopper earlier than anticipated due to a lucky accident where a friction trigger was built inherently into the overall hopper design, but am still here because I’m DJ-ing the studio. The lack of air conditioning is not enough to drive me away.

Around me, some people are working diligently while others are working and chatting concurrently, and still others are waiting for inspiration. The workbench in the studio and the Woodshop next door always seem to be in use by people needing to correct laser-cut holes, trim down pieces, or cut new pieces altogether. 

If you have the time and inclination, I would wholly recommend visiting friends in the other studios to see their cool hopper ideas. I’ve seen hoppers that look implausible, but hop higher than I could ever expect.  It’s usually a good idea to explore the ideas around you, especially here where we’ve got some very imaginative folks. There is, for example, a hopper whose hopping mechanism is triggered when you roll it. There’s a hopper whose bio inspiration was a squid, so It’s got 4 “legs” (There wasn’t enough build material for six).

Wondering what else happens on hopper night? No worries, I’ve got you covered.

[Note, though, that this an individual’s experience. Yours might be different and/or better. Which will it be? Come be an Oliner and find out!]

8:30pm – Hoppe, an upperclassmen, came into studio 3 and said “Hey kids, you should have managed your time better, but come outside right now if you want some caffeine.” Room population dropped from 20 to 4 within a minute. They slowly trickled back in, looking more awake than when they left and with gummy bears and Oreos in their hands.

8:40pm – Nina, sophomore, and Anil, sophomore, walk in with some warm, homemade cookies. They’re very nice and let us get more than one. Those two made it a good day.

9:15pm – I left the room for a few minutes and came back to a room populated equally by studio inhabitants and visitors/upperclassmen. Hopper Night: where nearly the whole freshman class is in the studio finishing their hoppers while upperclassmen come by to make a hopper in a few hours. I’m amazed these people haven’t gotten tired of the music I’m playing. Every now and then there’s a song that a couple of them know and I hear them sing along to it. “Ow, ****!” a student says, his hopper having just triggered in his hands. “Every time!”

11:11pm – Absent for an hour. 25 people. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is playing much louder than expected. For some reason, that song has a special place in the hearts of Oliners. Dunno why. Someone else has taken up the mantle of DJ, so a different type of music is playing. Much more bass. Only about a handful or two of people are still working on their hopper. Everyone else is just sort of hanging out. The room next to us is playing party music quite loudly. I could hear it from the elevator. In other news, the room no longer feels humid.

11:54pm – Lights in the halls are turning off. We’ve started a rubber band war with someone a few tables away. People are starting to leave. Studio population has dropped to 10.

12:11am – Studio population increased, and so did the music volume. Doing math, which is fun. Kinda tired, but gotta push through. I’m sure college kids everywhere know the feeling.

12:30am – Math is done. There is an ISIM** quiz due tomorrow (technically today) though, so maybe I should stay up to finish that. I won’t, though, because sleep is a precious commodity. Cherish it and take it when you can. Pass/No Record**, I suppose. I should head home** already.

12:50am – Would have left by now, but my one-and-only hopper broke a 3rd time. Remember kids, “print twice, screw up once.” I can’t let go of the hopper since I don’t have a clamp and the wood glue holds best when the pieces are held together. Especially if the pieces fit together oddly, you’ve got to hold them together.

1:20am – Alex Li, sophomore, is DJ. We’re all singing along to that one Eminem song everyone knows the beginning to. Something about Spaghetti. At this point, the glue actually starts holding pieces together so I can let go of the hopper. Population: 8. Still a party. Alex has better taste in music.

2:55am – Came back from a game of pool to an empty studio, so I’ve migrated to Studio 2. We’ve got a nice group of people here, which makes it really hard to leave. We’re funny people, us Oliners.

11:53am – We’ve finished demoing all the hoppers and all the extra hoppers that were made. It was a very fun class with music and laughs all around. This is our first class on Mondays, and oh, was it an excellent way to start the day!

[There might be a term or two that the non-Oliner might not understand. No worries, here’s a small glossary.

DesNat: Design Nature. A class that is mostly hands-on building stuff. The class itself is composed of two projects. The first is a bio-inspired hopper. This one can sometimes drudge because it shows you how to do the design process. It’s generally as fun as you make it to be. The second project, I’m told, gives more freedom and involves creating a physical toy/game that will be tested by actual kids. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

ISIM: Introduction to Sensors, Instrumentation, and Measurement. Lab reports are a weekly thing. It’s basically the only homework for this class, though. Great class, but expect difficulty learning circuits. You dive right into the deep end.

Pass/No Record: An A is a Pass. A D is a Pass. Don’t overexert yourself, but do try to turn things in on time. It’s actually better to turn things in on time and incomplete as opposed to complete and a week late. Also, this is just for the first semester, so do adjust by the second one.

Home: Your dorm is home now. Accept it sooner rather than later.]

Thanks for reading, and until next post!

Got a question about Olin classes or Olin culture? Send me an email at Luis.zuniga@students.olin.edu

Posted in: Luis '21, Class of 2021