About Reza


Project Info


Final Report


Week 1
Day 1
     Hello and welcome to my journal. Here, I will weekly post about my DREU experiences at Rochester Institute of Technology. On Sunday, May 31, 2009, my dad and I made our very early (like 4 in the morning early) departure for Rochester, New York. Sparing the details of the car ride, which I can't really give because I slept through most of it, my dad and I arrived at Rochester Institute of Technology after six hours at about 9 in the morning. After a good half hour of trying to find in the check in table, which I still don't understand why it was so hard to find, I was able to get my room key and begin moving all of my stuff in. Afterward, my dad and I stopped at IHOP for a quick breakfast before he left back to West Chester, PA. As we back to my dorm, we had our last face-to-face talk for it will be ten weeks before I see him again. He wished me good luck, told me to enjoy my time, gave me a hug, and then was on his way. At that point, I was officially, for the first time in my life, on my own in a new school and state where I knew absolutely nobody.
     I went back up to my room and began the always fun task of unpacking all of my stuff that I had just packed up two days before when I finished my semester at the University of Delaware. I got a lot of my belongings arranged in my room, threw my sheets on my bed, and took a nice nap. I woke up about 3 hours later to get dinner, watch TV, and be disappointed in finding that my Internet would not work without me registering with RIT's tech center. Seeing that I had no Internet, my computer was absolutely useless, so I decided to cut my hair before going to bed. Being the perfectionist that I am, I completely finished the haircut about an hour and a half later. After the haircut and shower, I talked to my brother and had him check my E-Mail. He informed me that I had a message from Faradjine, the other student here at RIT with me. She gave me her phone number, so I called her and found out that she was living right across the hall from me. So, we talked for a little bit and decided to explore the campus the next day together. After meeting Fara, I decided that I needed to put an end to my long day, so I went to bed, hit my head on the ceiling because I am not used to lofted beds, and just fell asleep.

Day 2
So, my second day, probably as expected, was not as eventful as the first. After waking up, I met up with Faradjine. After getting to know each other over lunch a little bit, we left to the library to get the summer bus schedule so we could go to the mall and get some things we couldn't bring with us. The rooms at RIT are very, very dimly lit, so we purchased lamps because the two of us lack any sonar abilities. We both grabbed dinner quick and made our departure from the mall. After arriving back that the dorms, we both went our separate ways. I decided to watch Transformers for the first time, which I enjoyed very much. After the movie was over, I was still not tired, so I decided to threw on a family favorite and classic: Space Jam. Afterward, I decided to go to bed because I had to meet with my mentor the next morning to talk about my project. So, I climbed up my loft, bumped my head on the ceiling, and passed out.

Remainder of the week
So, now that the specific details of the first two days are complete, I have decided to cut out the monotonous details of my day-to-day activities and just give the great overview of my weeks. I will, however, give appropriate days their own entries when necessary.
So, the first of my workdays, I met my mentor, Dr. Stephanie Ludi, who is a very cool person. I also met the rest the team working on the project: Krista, Brad, and Chris. We were informed specifically of the project that we would be working on as described in the
Project Info section. After getting acquainted, we were shown to our workroom, which was very nice. We basically have a computer lab to five people, which is very nice to have. For the first two days, Fara and I basically spent the entire time just reading up on NXC (Not Exactly C) and reading about Lego Mindstorms. We had to make sure that we clearly understood the project and think of ways to contribute to what was already done as this is the second year of the project. After all of the reading, we were assigned our first real tasks. I was to complete a robot that a student in the spring just started. The robot was designed to be a forklift, but other than the design and a few basic functions, the robot was basically mine to code and develop challenges. I spent all of Thursday and Friday documenting ideas and writing psuedocode for different functions that I thought were necessary. By the end of Friday, I decided that one part of the challenge would be to design a robot that would follow a path. Using a light sensor, the forklift could detect the amount of reflected light, so it could therefore follow a path marked out with black masking tape. After coming up with this idea, I finally had my first set task, and I planned to be able to continue with it the following week.
     So, Friday night I basically just relaxed in my dorm and was happy to be bored for the first time since winter break. I had gotten Internet on Wednesday with the help of my other mentor, Dr. Tom Reichelmeyer. I went to bed early and just planned to enjoy the weekend by going to the gym to lift and play basketball, and just sleeping. Before I knew it, Sunday night was upon me and I was getting ready for my second week of work.

Week 2
Well, this week started off pretty well. After successfully coding the line following code, I decided that I would need to check to make sure that the building instructions for the robot as show in the Lego Designer. I would have to do this by building a forklift from scratch. I did this with Fara, which took us about 2 hours to do. There were a few changes that I had made to the model, so I added those in...although this proved to be more trouble than I ever anticipated. The program would not allow a few pieces to be inserted as they were in my actual model. I spent a day and a half messing with the program, and decided that it would be best for me to just take a picture of the model so I can actually continue with more pressing matters for the project. The rest of the week, I spent time trying to perfect the forklift challenge. I decided that it would be fun to make the forklift perform certain actions when it sees a certain color. I attached a HiTechnic color sensor to the forklift, added the necessary code, and tested this out. This worked better than I had hoped. This gave me my second challenge that I needed, and sparing a few minor changes, the forklift code was complete. Just in time for the weekend too!

Week 3
Last week, I finished the forklift code and final designs, so all that remained was for someone to proofread the code, and for me to write the challenge write-up for the students and teachers. This would be my creative scenario to keep the students interested...which turned out well overall I think. My scenario began with the student being a newly hired worker for the Really Big Industrial Company. During the student's first day, a "crisis" occurs which calls for the student to work with his/her team to program a forklift to perform specific tasks. Along with this scenario, I had to basically break up the code into specific activities so the student can progress through the code and test appropriately. I think the breaking up of the code went extremely well, so I am very about that. This process alone, however, is going to go into next week. I have successfully broken up the code, but I still have to fill out an instructors section describing how each robot should be built, the layout and limitations of the course, and of course, a neat solutions guide. Also, while working on the challenge write-up, I had to make modifications to the code to either make things easier and not as confusing. I did not want to make anything too hard, or make things too easy. It has been hard to find this right balance while knowing many of the students had no programming experience. I will try to perfect the rest of it by the end of next week.
     So, aside from working, I have been spending a lot of time at the gym. It has been very nice to be able to go almost every day after work. I have made a pretty good routine, so I am enjoying my time here so far. Also, I just found out that my family will be coming up in two weeks to visit, so I am very excited about that. Time has been flying by so far...I can't believe I have been here for three weeks already. Wow.
     Oh, and I did get used to the whole low ceiling thing by the way.

Week 4
     Well, week 4 has come and gone just as fast as every other week, and here I am writing on Sunday night again. This week was a fulfilling week with my work. I was able to finish up the forklift, so it is just about ready to go. On Monday, we got a new student, Erica, to work on the project with us. On Wednesday, I had completed all of the documentation, so Tom decided to try and build his own forklift and code it according to my specifications to make sure that there were no mistakes and that everything was doable. I also began to go through everything again myself, just to make sure everything was grammatically correct and made perfect sense. I sort of felt like I was in an English class again as I was being so critical with all of my work. It's just that, when it comes to my work that others will be depending on, I want it to be near perfect so they will not be embarrassed when showing it off. In addition to these finalizations, I had to take a few pictures of the robot because of the problems I was having with the Lego Designer. By the end of the week, everything for the forklift became finalized, so we spent all spent most of Thursday building six forklifts to be shipped out to San Diego for a workshop.
     (New paragraph for new topic and day) On Friday, we all met to discuss plans and ideas for the new activities. I was the only person to completely finish an activity nearly from scratch, so everybody was quite anxious to see what new things we would be working on. Over the past 2 weeks, we had brainstormed several activity ideas that could be implemented. On Friday, we selected six of the best ideas that could be created into activities, and each of us was then assigned an activity. From there, we began writing a proposal of how feasible each idea was. I was assigned a predator/prey challenge, which is basically a game of tag. I began researching ideas of how this could work, and I will be finishing that next week.

Week 5
     Ah, the halfway point is now here. This week was a good one because I was able to get my predator/prey proposal okayed. There were suggestions all around for ways I could implement this, as I became more uneasy about the idea towards the end of my presentation. It wasn't a problem in thinking that the programming would be too hard for students, it was that it would be too hard for me to design as the sensors I planned to use could be unreliable depending on the setting. I was, however, paired with Chris for this assignment who had some good ideas. We planned to have the predator use infrared and ultrasonic sensors to track the other prey. We decided to have four trophic levels containing different species where after each tag, the prey will become the animal at the species above the last predator, and the last predator will become the new prey. My greatest concern was the use of the infrared sensor. In preliminary tests, the sensor detected the sun through windows and fluorescent lights. It was concluded that if the IR sensor was to be used, it had to be done in a room with few windows, or as far from windows as possible. After a lot of discussion, we decided to continue with the activity as planned. We begin with a leaf as the original prey and a grasshopper as the predator. The grasshopper will then become the prey, and the leaf robot will become a snake. Finally, after the grasshopper has been captured, it will become a hawk, and the snake will become the prey. Each robot will have limitations when it comes to movement speed, maneuverability and sensor usage. My concerns quickly turned to optimism because I knew that this project would be very fun.
     Also, this week, I spent (again, I know) even more time getting things ready for the forklift. In two weeks, Stephanie and Tom will be going to San Diego for the workshop using the forklift, so everything has to be perfect and ready for San Diego. In between this, I was able to work on some coding for the predator/prey robots, but most of this week was spent in preparations for San Diego.
     This weekend was a very good weekend for me. My parents, my little brother and little sister came to visit. It was good to spend time with them because I had only one day home between my last final and leaving for Rochester to spend with them. The highlights, aside from the quality time we spent together, we went to the Lake Darien amusement park and saw fireworks for the 4th of July in the city. It was a great weekend overall.

Week 6
     During week 6, I was able to dedicate all of my time on the predator/prey code. Chris and I decided to, instead of separately code the predator and prey modes of each animal, make the prey controllable via a PS2 controller attachment to the NXT bricks. Chris worked on this part of the code while I worked on the communication functions. This was actually another one of my concerns because we had to figure out a way for the predator to communicate to the prey that it had been captured. We decided to use a push sensor on the predator to determine when it had captured the prey. It would then send a message via bluetooth to the prey letting it know that it had been captured. This would then kill both programs simultaneously. This actually became harder than I thought when modifying code from the tutorial code provided. This process alone took almost half of the week, but when I finished, it worked beautifully.

Week 7
     Week 7 was a very quick and more relaxed week as we were on our own. In between working on the predator/prey robot with Chris, I was helping Fara and Erica with their trash collecting robot. There are always small errors that we seem to run into, but once we get a fresh set of eyes to look at the problem, everything kind of just smoothes out and all goes well from there. I was able to complete one animal of the predator/prey robot, which makes me very happy. Now, I need to program the last three animals, and then get the prey working correctly. Chris is continuing to work on write up, but I have a feeling that I will have to make some changes as I am running into some problems with the code that he has probably already covered in the write up. Hopefully it will be nothing big. I have been slacking on the gym lately so I really need to get back into my routine this coming week...

Week 8
     Okay, so I am actually in week 9 now, I just didn't have a chance to write as I was in Champaign, Illinois for the CHiPS workshop, which was great I might add. So this week I basically finished the predator/prey functions. I still need to finish the hawk code, but everything else seems to be working well. I was able to demo some of the working code to Tom and Steph when they got back from San Diego, but since Stephanie will be leaving to Baltimore for another workshop, I will have to show her the completed project during the last week. I hope everything goes well by then so we can just complete the write-up and be done before we leave and the fall team comes on board. So, about the CHiPS workshop, it ran over the weekend until this Monday. I was able to learn a lot while I was there so I very much enjoyed my time there. I also made a lot of friends and some great contacts, which will be great in my future. I will be keeping in contact with Richard Moore from Massachusetts General Hospital, so hopefully I can get some advice, or even an internship, through my talks with him.

Week 9
     Okay, so here I am on the last week before I go home and I must say that I am very excited. It has been a great experience coming to a different school and leaving the comfort of my own home to live completely on my own away from everyone I am familiar with for 10 weeks. This week, Chris and I completely finished the predator/prey code. We must clean up the code and break up the code for students and teachers, but that should easily be done by the end of next week. While Krista and Prof. Ludi have been out of town, Brad has been trying to finish up the racing robots on his own and Tom has been trying to make sure we are on pace to be documented and packed up by next Friday. The plan for the group next week is to present our material to everybody, go out to a restaurant, and clean up the room. It is hard to believe that it is here already. Oh, and I am out of money for food on my card, so now I have to dig into my own wallet everyday :(

Week 10
     Wow, so I am home now. This last week, I completely cleaned up the code and set it up the same way I did for the forklift. The students have all of the necessary files in a folder, and the teacher has all of the solutions in another file. I also modified the write-up to include the changes that I had made while coding everything. Although everything has not been fully tested, I am confident that the next group of students to take over will competently accomplish this task so our activity may be used in future workshops. The feeling that I have right now is a great one. Not only did I just get the research experience that I desired, but I feel like I will be making a difference in some children’s' lives. As a student who aspires to go to medical school, one of my biggest goals in life is to find a job where I can help people. Although I may not be saving lives, I am helping, and that makes me very proud of myself. Thanks for the experience CRA.