January session underway….

The January session for SDM is at this point well underway. We started on Thursday. Given that the high for the day was expected to be around 7 (Fahrenheit), I decided that biking in was not the best idea. So I took the T, got in and picked up my T pass. Then, headed over and we started out with an introduction both to the program and to all of the rest of the members of my cohort. It's a pretty impressive group of about sixty people with a variety of backgrounds and experience. There are a number of IT and software folks as well as some more “physical” engineers.

Just before dinner on Thursday, we got our first design challenge and our teams. The design challenge is to build a robot to take part in the Robot Olympics using LEGO Mindstorms. There are five parts to the challenge. The first is to have the robot come in for the “opening ceremonies”, the second is a relay competition where we have to race with another robot through an obstacle course following a line path on the ground, the third is an archery competition where have to hit a target with a ball, the fourth is a tug of war and the final part is a synchronized dancing routine with another robot.

I immediately had to find a way of programming the NXT brick from Linux rather than using the provided Labview based Windows software. It turns out that there's actually a pretty nice little compiler called NXC and also a perl script that can be used for uploading to the brick. Realisically, I find this a lot easier to visualize, think about and work with than the graphical stuff. One of the other software guys on my team is more comfortable with the graphical stuff, though, so we've split the work and are doing some with each 🙂

The robot has been a lot of work so far as none of the tasks are trivial and details continue to be revealed making things a little bit more difficult. After a full day's work today, though, I feel like we're really on a good track for finishing things up in time for the competition on Thursday morning. But, my entire weekend has been spent down in E40 at MIT.

Friday, in addition to some time for working on our robots, we did a variety of team building exercises with some people from the Thoreau Center. Overall, I thought that they were pretty good little exercises, but things went on a little bit longer than perhaps they had to. It was a good chance to spend some time with the members of my team, though, and thus, was pretty valuable IMHO. As I said, the weekend has just been all robot, all the time. Thus, no time really for riding or much else. On the plus side, it's warmed up since Thursday and so I rode into Cambridge yesterday and today. It's actually a pretty nice ride and the time is virtually the same as taking the T, so I look forward to doing so more over the next few months. Plus, it'll give me some good riding time even when I don't have time to get out with the Quaddies every day of every weekend.

And now, I think it's time to head up and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow, we start to have classes (in addition to the design challenge) and I already know that there are a few hours worth of statistics homework to accompany the lecture.