Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks for Giving... me a break

Right now, its 6:45 PM, and I just got out of my math class. Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, I'm getting a private gig on the mean green express straight to my destination. Despite how I live a few blocks from the stop I'm getting off at, I couldn't resist the opportunity to take advantage of this. This town gets pretty quiet during beak time. To be fair, the whole campus is closed. It closed at noon today, but I still chose to go to math because the teacher offered extra credit. the bus driver told me I was his first passenger in 3 hours. He was a jolly fellow that laughed and talked with me on the way home. I don't normally take the mean green express but since the next North Texas bus came in 20 minutes and this bus was leaving instantly, I took it. The Mean Green Express, by the way, passes by my old dorm. It gave me quite the Nostalgia trip seeing my old dorm. I met my girlfriend and made all my friends out of this dorm. At first I was hesitant to live there but now that I look back on it, it was definitely worth the while. My roommate became my best friend and now still live with him in an apartment complex. People used to tell me that I shouldn't live in the dorms because it was just a bunch of partying and I would never be able to focus on my school work. Others told me it is all part of the college experience and highly recommended it. In my humble opinion, dorm life is worth trying out at least for a semester or 2 so that you can get to know the people on campus and make new friends.

This table is where I would sit and chat with other people that lived in Santa Fe.

Anyway, enough of the Nostalgia trip. The bus driver has dropped me off and I'm going home. See you next week. Enjoy your long weekend full of turkey and shopping(?)!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Computer Science and Engineering

This is the Second in a 5 part blog post series about every single department we have at Discovery Park.

UNT's College of Engineering at Discovery Park has 5 departments, each significantly different from the other, but with a few similarities.

  1. Materials Science and Engineering
  2. Computer Science and Engineering
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Engineering Technology
  5. Mechanical and Energy Engineering
Today's post will be about Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). This is my department, and I live here. I spend 20-30 hours here every week. Don't get me wrong, I love it. Never do something for that many hours if you hate it, believe me. That wisdom can be held true to just about any topic. The reason I'm in Computer Science and IT is because I love it. This semester, a lot of that time is spent working and doing homework. Studying at Discovery Park is much better than studying at home, in my opinion. There are plenty of tables set up and each have their own plug outlet for myself and friends/teammates.

CSE has several research wings and computer labs. One of the most popular being our LARC lab. That's Laboratory of Recreational Computing. What they do is game programming. It's headed by a man named Dr. Parberry and was founded in 1993. UNT's LARC was the first lab to offer courses in game programming in the United States and still remains competitive as it ranks in the Princeton Review's top 50 schools in game programming out of the 500 game programming schools out there. The alumni are consistently successful as Activision's recent "Call of Duty: Black Ops" team consisted of the LARC's very own Cesar Stastny as the Director of Technology.
On top of gaming, CSE has a million other opportunities. You could expect to be working at any tech company big or small. In IT I learn different languages ranging from Java(+JSP), C++, PHP, PERL, Bash scripting, MySQL, etc. Computer Science touches on some of these languages but delves into Assembly language, software engineering, algorithm and software design, etc. Computer Engineering degree goes into similar studies but focuses more on the hardware side of things including the parts inside a computer, game system, airplane, or war machine. The possibilities are indeed quite endless in engineering.

Regardless of your degree, the computer science department also houses the UNT Robotics Society, which I blogged about in this post. In robotics you could be learning more about C++ or even BASIC Stamp, and LabView. Again, there's a million things to do in engineering.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Materials Science Department

This is the First in a 5 part blog post series about every single department we have at Discovery Park.
UNT's College of Engineering at Discovery Park has 5 departments, each significantly different from the other, but with a few similarities.

  1. Materials Science and Engineering
  2. Computer Science and Engineering
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Engineering Technology
  5. Mechanical and Energy Engineering
Today's post will be about Materials Science and Engineering. This department offers a four year Bachelor's in Science degree in Materials Science and Engineering, as well as Masters and Doctorates' degrees in Materials Science and Engineering.

I recently got to roam around this department's millions of dollars worth of equipment. In fact, I was giving a tour to a few high school students and the Materials guys were kind enough to demonstrate a few of their machines for us. Research fields in this department span a huge amount of topics ranging from nanotechnology, applications of nano-scale research in materials, medical materials in prosthetic limbs, material coatings to be used in hospital operating environments, materials used in the United States Air Force aircraft, and much much more. It's one of the hardest departments for me to describe while giving tours, but also one of the most fun. The machinery used is something you would expect to see out of a movie like Iron Man or iRobot, or at local corporate giants such as Raytheon, Bell Helicopters, Lockheed Martin, and so on. They range from Electron Scanning Microscopes, to Dual Ion Beam Microscopes, to a LEAP - Local Electrode Atom-Probe - machine:

This LEAP machine pictured out of Discovery Park is one out of only 5 in the United States. You can see on the right hand side of the picture a blurry depiction of an atom being rendered in 3-D

The order of operations goes something like this; use the Electron Scanning Microscope to seek out a piece of material you would like to examine. You can examine a material at X300,000 zoom, and see things at a level that light based microscopes cannot see. Then you can use a laser powered Ion Beam to cut a piece of the material out at a level so precise, it would be the equivalent of shooting a bull's-eye with an archery set from an airplane at 35,000 feet. Then, if that weren't enough for you (and nothing is ever enough for engineers), you take that material over to this LEAP - Local Electrode Atom-Probe - machine, and you can "scan" the atom and you are presented with a 3-D view of the object and all its properties. There are millions of combinations of applications of these machines, but this is just one example.

And this LEAP machine pictured out of Discovery Park is one out of only 5 in the United States.

With a degree in Materials Science, jobs are available in small and large companies in research, development, manufacturing, marketing, and materials design and structures. You might work in such industries as aerospace, appliance, automotive, biomedical, communication, computer, construction, forensics, manufacturing, microelectronics, nanotechnology, nuclear, oil and gas, power generation, shipbuilding, or sports.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coppell High School Engineering Expo

I'm telling you, engineers love expos and conferences. I've been to quite a few of these and they're just as fun as the last one every time. It's basically a bunch of engineers and nerds getting together and sharing stories about how great it is to be in engineering.

This event took place at Coppell High School. There were many schools and businesses there looking for bright minds - high school student minds to be exact. Here's a list of a few of those who attended:

  1. Armadillo Aerospace
  2. AT&T
  3. Bell Helicopter
  4. Dunaway Associates
  5. EF Johnson Technologies
  6. ExxonMobil
  7. Fujitsu Network Communications
  8. General Motors
  9. IBM
  10. NASA - High School Aerospace Scholars
  11. Nokia Siemens Networks
  12. Sikrosky Aircraft
  13. Southwest Airlines
  14. ST Microelectronics
  15. Teradata
  16. Texas Instruments (TI)
In addition, the Air Force ROTC, US Air Force Academy, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Naval Academy, US Merchant Marine Academy, and West Point were also looking for engineering students. On top of that there were 37 colleges recruiting engineering students, including our very own UNT.

The building was packed. In addition to the myriad of schools, businesses, students and groups, there were also student presentations. One that I visited was a student built solar powered car. It was quite the site and I got to ask him a few questions about his work. It's a project of about three years now, and this student worked in a group of about 8 students. There are 6 panels on the car that cost about $800 each with the total cost of the car equaling about $20,000. It takes ~6-7 hours for the car to go from 0 charge to full charge. It can go 40 MPH and drive around all day he says. The students made a good argument in pointing out that cars like these aren't very cost effective - a common argument when dealing with solar powered tech. If the skeleton of this car cost $20,000, and my Hyundai cost $13,000 brand new, there's some work to be done in making a project like this cost effective.

Great job Engineering students!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NewToy Lecture at Discovery Park

You may have heard of a game called Words with Friends. It's a scrabble-esque game for the iPlatform where two players slowly take turns playing through a game. The game could take hours, days, or weeks, and that's the beauty of always connected hardware and a turn based game such as this. It's one of those games you can play in your 4 minutes of spare time while in line at the cafe, bored at home, or while listening to the NewToy lecture (hehe). Words with Friends has been a top grossing iPhone app for just about as long as it's been on the app store.

"Toy Maker" Vijay Thakkar, developer at NewToy, came to lecture at Discovery Park to prospective Mobile device programmers to give some insight on what it's like to develop for mobile platforms.

"The average age people get their first cell phones nowadays is 8" Vijay explained, "with 35% of 8 year olds owning a cell phone." Clearly mobile devices is an exponentially growing field. Vijay goes on to explain that since smart phones are basically a compass, game system, camera, newspaper, laptop, and gps (oh yeah and a phone, too) all in one, it's no wonder mobile phones are on the up-swing.

One thing Vijay hit on was the vast differences between programming on a mobile device as compared to traditional computers. He said one thing you have to concentrate on is getting the core idea of your "app" developed 100%, and that your app should be able to perform it's core functionality all day, all night 24/7 with no problems. Even if that core feature is something very basic like make farting noises, parse XML, or run a scrabble game engine, your app should be able to perform that activity with 0 flaws. Traditionally, computer programmers have focused on developing full-fledged programs that can do A-Z but not necessarily be able to perform functions F, P, and Q very well. It's especially straining on a small development team or on a team with limited financial resources. With the ideology of developing the core function 100%, releasing, and building from there, your development time is cut in half and your users can provide feedback in order to shape the future of your project. In addition, if users reject your idea all together, you'll have saved that much more time in development whereas you would have spent all that time developing a full fledged app for nothing.

Needless to say, a lot more was said during his lecture, but I don't have enough space, time, or patience to share it all. There are, of course, many lectures held at Discovery Park outside of regular course work, and this was just one of them.

Oh and I felt like a tool for asking, but I got a picture with him specifically for this blog entry x)

Cool cats. Shame I didn't get a shirt EDIT 12-8-2010: My mobile dev teacher Dr. Garlick was gracious enough to give me a shirt. Thanks!!