Projects, Updates, and Blog Posts

Okay so telling people you are doing something makes you publicly accountable for it, and I am currently overloaded with a collection of ongoing projects, blog posts, and updates for existing series of posts, so I thought I’d write a quick brief overview here to remind myself to actually get some of them done later!

Mechanical Engineering Group Project 4

Compulsory University course in which we have to give a presentation November 23rd (2016) and submit our logbook 1st December, but complications have made it difficult to motivate myself recently on the project, and although being fixed, have now given me an incredible workload to tackle over the next few weeks that’s going to be difficult. Wish me luck. We’re looking at designing and developing (but not building) a test bed for a small marine diesel engine (like a Yanmar 1GSM10). I’m looking at fuel, air flow measurement amongst a couple of other things. No, for an engineer I’m learning firstly that there are loads of things I don’t actually know at all about them.

CompSoc HackSIG Development

So I was voted into the role of HackSec (Hackathon Secretary) for CompSoc (the University of Edinburgh’s Computing and AI Society) in April for the academic year 2016/2017 and after getting over my initial anxieties and terror of completely failing (it’s my first major project since the collapse of Edinsolar), I learned that there had been a push to change the CompSoc constitution to implement a whole SIG (Special Interest Group, a sort of sub-committee) for hackathons, which would make me by default the President of the new HackSIG. Now I have to actually figure out how exactly we’re going to work and make it happen. After a summer of a lot of ideas and explorations and creating roles, redefining them, scrapping them completely, and learning an awful lot of things I never knew before about topics from contract law to hackathon marketing, I think I know what to actually implement. But I’m running a little behind on the whole thing, despite a lot of work having been done already, and the ghost of Edinsolar is hovering over my shoulder…

Hacking 101 Workshop Day

After looking into how to actually attract more beginners and more diversity to CompSoc’s hackathons, investigating and rejecting possibilities and plans ranging from a toy and games based hackathon to weekly workshops, the survivor of these trials has been a descendant of the “pre-hack day” that CompSoc has run to dwindling success before its old Innovative Learning Week hackathon internally to the University in February.

The planned timetable should be along the lines of:

  •  [10:00 to 11:00]                 Intro to Hacking and Hackathons
  •  [11:15 – 12:15]                   Web APIs
  •  [12:15 – 13:30]                   Lunch
  •  [13:30 – 14:30]                   Basic Website Design – Front End
  •  [14:45 – 15:45]                   Getting Online – Back End
  •  [16:00 – 17:00]                   Git
  •  [17:00 onwards]               Pub

And I’ve got the slides more or less made but I’ve failed so far to actually just book a venue and arrange some kind of catering (and the funding for it). Hopefully will get around to advertising it tomorrow and running it on Sunday though…

Github Campus Expert

Yaay! I’ve been overwhelmingly excited to have been chosen to be a Github Campus Expert, that is to say one of the group of us trialling Github Education’s new scheme to try and better support tech communities around the world. Currently in the beginning of week 2 of 8 weeks training, and looking forward to it but also feel it should be mentioned here so I can remember to actually write up some blog posts about doing it, and not just keep all my activities to myself as i have already learned some really interesting things just in the process of doing the week 1 task of “assessing my community” (CompSoc by the way).

PolyAnno Code, Documentation, and Blog Posts

After spending the summer working on this incredible project I told myself (and my colleagues) that I would write up all the things I learned and created along the way but I have a collection of half-finished drafts saved and only a couple of them actually published and code that was missing a few key pieces unexplained by the documentation as I had left it. Although I’m no longer being paid as a developer for the project, it is technically open source (although I’m the only one actually contributing) and it is more than cool enough to justify my time, but I just need to make it happen.

Beginner’s Guide to Hacking

Since I published this just over a year ago it has been considerably more successful than I was ever expecting, but this has drawn my attention to a multitude of areas for improvement (and a few typos) and so I plan to update it further than my initial improvements made over the summer, primarily aiming to add sections to the guide on hardware hacking, blockchain, and machine learning.

Sustainable Energy Design 3

Another University course, but this one I actually completed last semester. It was another group project, this time designing, developing, and building a wind turbine to power a small lead acid battery. It went incredibly well, I learned and experienced a lot from technical things to simply having an amazing group and I really, really want to write up a blog post on the course but still haven’t got around to doing it!

Homemade Oscilloscope

After encountering several articles at the beginning of the summer about building your own oscilloscopes using old television components which are now clearly significantly cheaper and more available than the really expensive commercially available one, I have had plans to make one. But I still haven’t got one of the old televisions to actually do so, and would really like to get around to just setting aside the time to trawl Gumtree, Freecycle and the like to find one and actually get started.

Fixed and Upgraded Pleo

So you know Furbies? Well the guy who invented them basically spent his millions building a semi-‘intelligent’ mechanically-sophisticated toy dinosaur that apparently cost a fortune when it came out and so basically no one actually bought enough of to cover his costs. They flopped and were clearly ahead of their time – Pleo can be hacked an updated freely with a USB port and cutely an SD card slot for you to play aorund with his really basic machine learning software. I got one off of ebay for a few pounds because his former owner believed him to be completely broken (it currently only makes regular squeaking noises and doesn’t move when switched on). He got lost in the post somehow and only actually arrived to me the other day after an email from ParcelForce telling me that my parcel had ended up in some centre somewhere. I fully intend to play around with him, and see what I can do. My flatmate is somewhat creeped out by him though, oops.

Human Feedback and Control for Prosthetics and Orthotics

Rather horrifically and yet wonderfully I will be doing my dissertation project next semester. I want to do it in feedback systems in prosthetics and orthotics, specifically in how they feedback to the humans using them, such as haptic feedback, visual feedback, because the OneStep started a seed of interest several years ago that has grown into a fascination that I really, really want to research (and it would be lovely to get credits for). You see the OneStep project showed to me the problem of replacing and repairing prosthetics and orthotics. It is one of the most frustrating facets of the products because it is so frequent (you replace the rubber ferrules on the bottom of crutches once a month) and yet so unnecessary – it comes from the fact that people can’t ‘feel’ any feedback from them and don’t realise how abusively they’re using them, for example lots of people breaking their TouchBionics prosthetic hands because they’re putting way too much pressure on the fingers and don’t realise it until they snap off. But what would that feedback ‘feel’ like anyway? The limitations of the materials of the prosthetics and orthotics are considerably different to those of the natural body parts and functions that they are replacing or supporting so you can hardly map something over directly from biology. What about for “super” products like prosthetic hands that spin 360 degrees? How do you “feel” that? Well, I suppose that would all be a case of mechanical assessments of the parameters involved, and an electrical and software design to implement….

Although I hope to be able to do this as my dissertation and so will have to do the proper relevant write ups, like a technical literature review, I would really like to write up all the things I have actually found out so far in a blog post anyway.


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