Saturday, February 24, 2007

Again With the Robot

Well this week turned out to be fruitful. I had two midterms and we made lots of progress on the robot. As you can see from the picture it is taking on the form that we have envisioned. Building the thing was very challenging and time consuming. No matter how good your solid model is, you will still end up making changes. The chief change we had to make was that the motor gearboxes we bought were larger than the ones I used as a pattern to make the model. As a result, the robot turned out about 1 inch wider than the model. I don't think it will hamper the models performance, but we have yet to find out for sure.

The right picture demonstrates how the robot will climb the step. The shoebox is 6 inches high which is what will be required for the competition, and as you can see, it is plenty capable of the task.

Now that we are to this point in the project, I feel much better. Not enough had been happening up to this point and my teammates and I were very frustrated. Now, we are faced with a new set of challenges. Today I finished making the H-bridge control cables which will be used to control the motors, and I was going to start playing with the handy board but I seem to have gotten a bad one. I was going to try to work out a sequence for climbing a single step and several steps in succession, but that will have to wait. It's probably for the better since I have a midterm on Monday.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Robot

Recently I came across a video of a robot that makes it look like I've been ripping off ideas. The robot pictured here is called Chaos. It is made by a company in Wellsville, Utah called Autonomous Solutions ( My first exposure to this company was on a PBS special and it immediately struck me as my dream job. I mean, just look at that thing.

Finding this robot on their website was very encouraging for me. The lower picture is of the robot that we are building for mechatronics class. You will note the marked similarity between the two robots. Our team agreed on and developed this idea before we saw this one. As you might expect, it gave us great confidence in the feasability of our design. The other thing that is painfully obvious is the coolness of Chaos, and the relative uncoolness of our robot. I don't say that to diminish our robot. It is awesome, but the difference here is Chaos was developed by a large team of engineers and programmers with large budgets and extensive manufacturing possibilities. Ours is the best effort of three ME undergrads with a budget of $110 (not including the controllers). It's no Chaos, but for what it is, it will be a remarkable accomplishment. If we can get it to work properly the competition will have a real run for their money.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Order of Dismissal With Prejudice

This week three really good days happened. Day 1, Tuesday, the 6th, I got my order of dismissal, Thursday was my birthday, and Saturday we went skiing at Beaver Mountain.

The ski trip was born of the fact that Ben and I have close birthdays and so do our wives, so its a birthday ski trip. Ben's wife, Holly, is credited with the original idea. We stayed at the cabin at Bear Lake and spent Saturday afternoon skiing. Beaver mountain is only a fraction of the size of the wasatch front resorts. They only have four lifts, but they are not very crowded. I really enjoyed the day.

The best part of my birthday on Thursday was the quality time I spent with my wife. I had to work so that I could have the weekend off, but it was more than a fair trade.

Lastly, my order of dismissal. For the last year I have been in the midst of a lawsuit. More than three years ago, me and another guy both tried to occupy the same region of space. Unfortunately, he thought that it was worth suing me. The accident was in the last half of January in 2004, and I heard nothing about it until almost exactly two years later when I was served with court papers. You could understand that I thought the matter was long forgotten, but that wasn't the case. For the last year this guy has been coming after me. At first I was confused as to why he would pursue me; all I have to my name is my busted old (yet beloved) truck, and my $15,000 student loan. As it turns out, my parents homeowners insurance at the time was liable. They hired a lawyer to "represent" me, and at this point I essentially became a spectator, with occasional participation. To make a long story short, the guy got $30,000. By the time he paid his insurance company and his lawyer, he had nothing to show for his three years of festering hate. Congratulations.

I won't name you, but my name is Tom Kruger, and if you ever see this, you will know who you are.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Melancholy Reflections on University Subjects

Welcome to new Blogger. I thought the old one was working just fine. Anyway, why keep the old when you can have the shiny new? I guess that's the same reason I want to sell our car and get something newer.

As another week of school closes, I find my patience diminishing. A wise person (not me) once said that education is the progressive realization of ignorance. We as a race have had times in history when we thought that science had just about cracked every nut. Of course, that concept is now wholly laughable. Even though we have come so far from 18th and 19th centuries, we still realize how little we still know. On a smaller, more personal scale, I feel my own shortcomings very keenly for the same reason. My years pursuing a study of science and engineering have unlocked to me many mysteries of nature and science and left me with a profound respect for the Intelligence that created them, and the laws that even that Intelligence was required to obey. My life is better for it even if it never earns me a cent. Despite the level of understanding that I have been able to acheive, I feel inadequate. My first semester at The University Of Utah I earned an unusually high GPA which got me invited to join the Tau Beta Pi engineering honors society. I had wanted this badly so I joined without hesitation. Unfortunately, since then I haven't been able to maintain grades that would merit membership in the society. Many of my peers who have better grades than I have not been invited to join, and I don't feel deserving of my membership. I never mention it to people who don't already know or who are members of my class. The point is, I am trying very hard but I feel like I continuously fall short of the mark.

This nagging inadequacy brings me back, as always, to the topic of graduate school. To be or not to be? It reminds me of a classic line from the movie Tommy Boy: Tommy: "Lots of people go to school for 8 years, Richard." Richard:"Yeah, they're called doctors." I like school. The question now, is whether I feel like I'm getting out of it what I want. I like the information, I like learning, but my near future is going to be determined by how well I do in these classes. Also, I have been living with school for 6 years. 6 years of engineering classes and full time schedules with yet one to go. I don't think its unreasonable to find, as I said, that my patience is wavering. The robot weighs my spirit and makes me fear for my mechatronics grade and I believe that I will recieve a poor grade in dynamics unless I can really effect an about face. I should have taken that class in my senior year when I wouldn't have had so much else going on and less would have ridden on those GPA's. My first employer is the only one after college that will look at my grades. After that I can rely on the fact that I am smart, and what I don't have in brains I make up for in determination.