Does anyone else smell burning?

I hope I didn’t say anything out-of-line or upset you. Please tell me if I did? =/

All the fun, all the time! Get settled in, and play it as many times as it takes lol.

Undergraduate symposium happened this past weekend. If you remember, I had presented before, two years ago, for P’s M-GITM project. As part of course requirements, the entire Capstone class presents at symposium as one big group about the high-altitude weather balloon project (although this year there was a wind tunnel team too, so two separate talks). I talked for about four minutes about the atmosphere, “why build a weather balloon,” and “what we can expect.” Nobody had any questions for me that were relevant to my presentation, because I am the only person in the class who was not forced to specialize in either a sensor or an Arduino or fucking anything. Pretty sure P just thinks I’m an idiot – I had time to figure out what I wanted to say prior to my talk, so he accused me of practicing a lot because I could calmly and clearly address a room of people after three years’ teaching classes. That’s okay. At least I’m not the idiot who wore X-Men Chucks with a shirt, tie and khaki pants to the fucking symposium. Should I mention that the idiot was his own research student? Sure? Okay, consider it done.

dean fuck the police

Speaking of Capstone, our assigned launch window is, like, right now for another two weeks or so. Are any of the teams ready? Nah, probably not. Except maybe Hans’ group, since he is German and obsessive and a 40-year-old grown man and the only student with any experience using sensors because of a career and all this shit, so he’s built everything for his entire team and wrote most of the coding used by the other teams. My own team apparently rewired and then messed up our sensor setup, seeing as we burned out an Arduino, so [the culprit] is taking the setup home, fixing things and then soldering them onto the board as they get them correct. So I don’t even get to do that anymore.

Hopefully we won’t be ready to launch this weekend. If Saturday ends up being nice enough, I’m afraid he’ll make us launch regardless of whether or not we’re ready, and I won’t get to be there for the end of it (payload retrieval) because I have an appointment for my taxes in the afternoon. I’m going broke, and rent is due tomorrow, and I need money more than my team needs me.

dean destroyer

Oh – check this hilariously frustrating shit out. We have a pressure sensor on board the payload of the weather balloon so we can measure how, y’know, atmospheric pressure changes with increasing altitude. The sensor P had us using has a minimum range of 20kPa. This will get us roughly halfway up our vertical climb until the pressure drops below that value and we can’t trust any data we get from the sensor anymore.

While that is certainly a big deal, it isn’t the big deal. Our balloon is supposed to go to a height of about 30km and then be finished climbing. FAA regulations require any unmanned balloon to have at least two cutdown systems to make sure the balloon’s flight is controlled and ends before such things as going too high, becoming a danger to other aircraft, entering restricted air space, etc. The balloon itself is made of latex, which will expand as it climbs higher in the atmosphere until it finally bursts from the lack of air pressure outside the balloon. We know this happens, and we know roughly where it will happen in the atmosphere, because physics and material engineering. This counts as one cutdown mechanism.

The other cutdown mechanism for each balloon is a flight-termination unit (FTU) located between the balloon itself and the parachute (here is a picture of a balloon; you can’t see an FTU but you can see the parachute beneath the balloon and then two payload boxes suspended beneath the parachute) consisting of a strip of nichrome wire rigged to an Arduino. The Arduino will be programmed to send an electric current through the nichrome wire, which is characterized by having a super-low resistance to current and will immediately burn and snap, detaching the balloon and sending our payload and parachute system falling but hopefully not recklessly plummeting back to the Earth. Exactly when the FTU is activated depends on how each team decides to program their Arduino. We know the flight should take about an hour and a half, so my team has set our Arduino on a timer to activate the FTU once ninety minutes has passed. If the balloon reaches 30km before 90 minutes, the balloon should burst somewhere around there anyway.

One other team had not employed such methods. Since we know how high our balloons are going in general, we know roughly what the atmospheric pressure should be as the balloon approaches 30km in altitude. One team was all set to program their Arduino to activate the FTU once the pressure sensor spit out a pressure reading from that point in the atmosphere. The problem is, the pressure up here drops below 1kPa. Twenty times less than the minimum rating of the pressure sensor. Who knows what would have happened or even if and when the Arduino would have been activated by the pressure sensor. P could have gotten the university in trouble with the government by having teams send up balloons with malfunctioning and potentially dangerous FTUs because he didn’t do his research and had us using pressure sensors not suited for our project.

But he can stand in front of the room and tell the entire class to “get their fucking shit together.”
It’s okay. Someone in E&M today challenged something he wrote on the board, and he happened to be right. When he complained that “that was a waste of time,” I laughed, oops, which prompted him to take it back.

I have spent the majority of this semester teaching myself E&M. He had been entirely uninvolved in Capstone until like two or three weeks ago when he suddenly became a control freak because we were all behind schedule, because that’s what happens when we spend all semester trying to construct this shit without any guidance.



EDIT: Brandon also tells me he mentioned the tape incident aloud at about the same time as I laughed. I didn’t hear him, but he thinks P did.


~ by Ashley on March 31, 2015.

2 Responses to “Does anyone else smell burning?”

  1. I’m really sorry. I’ve tried many times to reply to what you sent to me, and I always either end up writing something total shit or just end up not being able to get the motivation to do it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to finally respond within the next day or two. I really want to try addressing it in length, but, In the meantime, please be assured that nothing you said in there upset me or was out of line.

    I could probably pontificate for a long-ass time on how much of a douchewaffle this guy is, if I had the energy. I don’t know if your prior experience with him was this bad, but the stories you’re giving just seem to be getting increasingly horrifying. I’ll probably post another (better) reply when I’m not short on time, just so I’m not touching on just the general theme of douchewafflery.

    • No, it’s okay – I wasn’t expecting you to respond to it in-depth or anything. I just wanted you to know that, either way, I am supportive of whatever you decide. I want you to get to a point where you can be okay. I hate that you’re suffering so much. And I did start feeling bad when I didn’t hear/see anything from you anywhere, so thank you for saying hi >.> lol

      You know, he can be really great with his research students. His hands-off teaching style, “Here’s the basics, now see what you can figure out,” is more effective in small settings like that where he has time to work one-on-one with everyone. The problem is he wants to employ those same methods in upper-level physics classes consisting of 15-20 students, he’d been getting lazier and lazier about what information he did give us, and it’s literally impossible for that many students to all be responsible for teaching themselves by only reading the E&M textbook and all be able to stay on the same page.

      Things are getting better now – he’s lecturing more and leaving us to fend for ourselves less frequently – but thinking about it makes me wonder if I’d still be doing research for him if his style was more hands-on.

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