Alicia Bargar's DREU Experience

This is my weekly journal. Check back for updates!

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Week 1

I've spent this week mostly settling in (getting used to the time zone change was harder than I expected!). USC's campus is also at least three times the size of my own, so it's been fun exploring it and the surrounding area. At the lab, I've been getting acquainted with ROS (a Robot Operating System) and my own NAO robot "Jacques" that I'll be working with during my time here. He's really cute! In some of my free time I've been learning Haskell (a functional programming language) at a site that Jill recommended (Learn You a Haskell). I also went out to see downtown the other day- kind of messed up and went to the business area so there wasn't much to see, but hey! I learned how to use the metro, so I'm looking forward to checking out a lot more of LA in the near future.

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Week 2

This week I've been delving into ROS and NaoQi (the software the NAO robots run on) because Jill's having me work on an interface to integrate the two. It's something I haven't done too much of yet, but I'm excited to learn and really hone in on efficiency in my coding. In other news, Thursday was my first time eating at a food truck. Apparently they're real big here and in other cities. The truck, Alamando's, has super-tasty Mexican food so I enjoyed the experience. Then on Saturday we had a cookout over a fire pit at Dockweiler Beach. It was a lot of fun! Elaine taught us how to cook fish over a fire and smore's naturally made an appearance at lunch as well. One of the grad students Kate is a pro juggler so she taught some of us how to juggle. I missed out because I was busy swimming in the Pacific for the first time. The temperature's not so bad once you go numb. It definitely makes the waves/current at my favorite SC beaches seem tame though; these waves will take you out! Later we played DnD; one of the guys is a DnD beta tester, so we get to play the 5th edition beta. We had an interesting start to say the least, so it'll be fun to see how it goes this summer. :)

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Week 3

This week I've been focusing on what should hopefully be the easiest part of my project- making a library for all the Nao light functions and tying that into a ROS action server. I'm sortof kicking myself for not delving more into the action server earlier- I was going to use a more basic server/client setup at first- but I'm going to put in some extra time next week to make sure I can stay on track. I guess the good thing is I'm learning it earlier than I thought I would so maybe it'll be faster to put together the other, more complicated, nodes in my project. This weekend I went to Little Tokyo and had a really awesome time. Found out that I love micho- Japanese sweet rice filled with a red bean paste- and saw a performer playing at least 5 different instruments at the same time. I also saw Brave (the latest Pixar movie). It was good- didn't have the gut-wrenching moments that some of the other Pixar movies did (a la Up's intro sequence)- but a fun movie to go see all the same. I'm super jealous of the massive horses the characters ride- they look so cool!- and likewise the mounted archery course the main character put together. Do those exist? They must somewhere, right? I know what I want to do for my next PE credit.

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Week 4

This week I've been cleaning up the LED library. Results are what I should have expected- programming isn't too bad, but error catching takes FOREVER. I'm getting deeper into my DREU time here so I think I'm going to have to reevaluate my time management - write up and map the program at home, so I can spend my time at the lab testing it out on the robot. I've laid out my design for the audio library, so I'll be off lights and onto programming audio by the end of next week. On the other hand, I'm super excited because my dad's flying out for the weekend next week. It'll be fun to take him touring around the city!

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Week 5

I'm pretty happy with what I've done this week. The audio output class wasn't bad at all after all the time spent figuring out the ins and outs of the action server, so I'll be set to start on motion next week. I'll add on the basis for an audio input class, but I think motion will be used a heckuva lot more so it's important to get working on that. Plus it looks to be much more of a challenge... But hey! We'll get there. At least I'm no longer having nightmares about finishing the summer without completing more than the ability to blink lights on and off. On the weekend, my dad came to visit and we had a great time. We packed as much into a weekend as we could. From going to the Santa Monica pier to visiting the Rose Bowl and Caltech in Pasadena, a bus tour through Hollywood and up to the observatory to UCLA, and downtown and Little Ethiopia, Chinatown, and Little Tokyo, we explored as much as we possibly could. We were pretty tired by the end of it all but it was a lot of fun and I'm really happy he was able to come!

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Week 6

This week I got to start on the motion server. I thought it would be really complicated at first. The Freiburg stack contains action servers as well so it was looking like I'd have servers within servers and so on and such forth. Luckily I took a moment, stepped back, and decided to just work with Freiburg and see how it worked. Now it makes a lot more sense to me and I think I can design around it intelligently. Plus having the NAO up and moving was great for when my friend brought some people by to see the lab; Jacques was a big hit! He's had so many pictures taken that he probably thinks he's a superstar now. Alas my friend left this weekend. We had a big Indian dinner at a nice restaurant for her as a last get-together and it was a lot of fun, but I'll miss having her around. In other news, I explored Culver City on Sunday so I really feel like I'm starting to know my way around LA- ha! Not really, but I definitely feel like when I leave here I can say I lived in LA for ten weeks and saw as much of it as I could while I was here.

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Week 7

Finished up the motion server this week- for the most part of course, I know I'll keep checking back on it to see if there's anything else I can do to improve it. That's kindof been my theme this week: going back, tweaking structures, improving pieces here and there so that the overall product is improved. I was able to generalize a particularly important feature of my overall stack so I'm pretty happy. Now I'm torn between finishing the cleanup and prepping a tutorial and wiki for my project, or adding in some more features (audio input and camera) that I might not have time to finish... It's not an easy choice to make. This weekend I explored downtown a bit more. Disney Hall has free self-guided tours so I went on one of those. It is an absolutely gorgoeus music hall so I'm really happy I got to see it. Afterwards, I braved the crowds on South Broadway for a delicious cup of horchata that was totally worth it.

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Week 8

Wow, I can't believe how much time has passed. I started some work on the audio_input but ultimately decided if I had one thing that I should try to get done, it was the vision. So now I'm sortof half and half doing vision and tutorials. I will have to tread carefully to make sure quality does not suffer. I finished the week with the basic layout for vision and 2 of the tutorials done. I'm going to try to finish up the tutorials during the beginning of next week so I can work on vision. But then there's the paper too and augh! I don't feel stressed out at the moment but I know it will frustrate me if I have to leave the vision half done. The tricky part at the moment seems to be getting rosbag to obey my whims; I hope to have it figured out soon.

The best part about my project this summer I feel has been that I am getting so much experience working with ROS that I would never have back home. Heck, I hadn't heard of ROS when I came here. I think it will be very useful if I end up working in robotics in the future. I'm also learning how much I don't know. It's simultaneously terrifying (in regards to grad school) and exciting (also in regards to grad school). I have no idea how I'm ever going to pick what I want to focus on. This weekend though, I got to get my mind off work for awhile. Saturday we went to Manhattan Beach. The weather was incredible and it was very relaxing and fun just to hang out with people for awhile. Sunday Jill, Kate, and I went to this boutique called Shareen Vintage. I was a bit anxious about going- I'm not exactly the most fashionable of folk- but it ended up being a lot of fun! The employees there were incredibly helpful and friendly and the clothing was really cool. Each of us ended up getting a really nice dress. I can't wait for an excuse to wear mine. :)

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Week 9

Hey! So tutorials are completed and I got nao_vision working. I felt so awesome getting the recording up and going, plus I have it set up so it could stream a video at the same time. If I got that working that would be the best thing ever. Unfortunately, Jacques died! I'm so sad to lose my little buddy. He had a hardware problem so he has to go back to Aldebaran for some TLC. Now it is time to work on the paper so I have to let the video go... it's hard because it was such an interesting problem. The multithreading system sounds like it could be useful for another project so perhaps a future undergrad will pick it up and run with it. I just worked on my paper this weekend. Fun? Not so much, but it's pretty fulfilling to look at the end result. I just can't believe it's going to be my final week! It hasn't really hit yet. It's been fun working here and meeting everybody, so as much as I'm looking forward to seeing my family again I'll be sad to go.

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Week 10

Oh my goodness, it's my last day! It feels like I just got here and have finally settled in. Today's the last day for several of the other undergrads too. You can tell we're all done- there's an air of finality around much of the undergrad sector. We're all going out to get Korean BBQ tonight as a lab. I'm glad we get to hang out one more time, cause the people here are pretty cool. This summer has been fun! I feel like I've seen and done and learned a lot, so it's definitely been an experience. I can't wait to get to see my package up on the ROS Wiki- that'll be exciting!- I'm glad that my work will hopefully have helped the lab out a lot. Anyway, I better go because I'm starving- So long, everybody!

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