Weekly Journals

Summer 2005 DMP Research

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Week 1: May 30th to June 4th

I came to College Station, TX on Monday May 31,2005 to participate in the Distributed Mentor Project (DMP) summer research program. When I arrived I met my roommate Perpetual Amoah, who is also in the program. A few of the other people in the program helped me move into the Fowler Dorms. After attending the welcome picnic we all went to the Recreation Center. The Recreation Center is very nice. It has a indoor track, about ten basketball courts, three soccer courts, a volleyball court, badminton courts, racquet ball courts, full weight room, indoor and outdoor pools. We have access to the Recreation Center through out the entire program. We officially started the program with a welcome breakfast. At the breakfast we met our faculty advisor (mentor). My mentor is Dr. Nancy Amato. She is a professor in the computer science department. She has worked on many different research projects and has developed a lab for her research group. The lab is called Parasol. The first day in the Parasol lab we met all the graduate students. They all told us about the research they were working on. I met my graduate mentor, Marco Morales. He is a PhD student. I had a meeting with Marco to discuss my project for the summer. I will work with him on the Feature Sensitive Motion Planning project. To get a better idea of what motion planning is Marco created a Motion Planning Crash Course. We will read papers about the different approaches to motion planning. The first paper we read was Motion Planning: A Journey of Robots, Molecules, Digital Actors, and Other Artifacts by: Jean-Claude Latombe. We had our first crash course to discuss the paper. This week we also attended our first Parasol group meeting. At the meeting Shawna Thomas gave a presentation of her research on protein folding. There was a campus wide pizza party for all the students who were participating in research programs.

Week 2: June 6th to June 10th

This week I learned a little bit more about my project. My project is with the Feature-Sensitive Motion Planning group. Motion planning is when you have a moveable object (robot) and you want to get it from its start configuration to its goal configuration without colliding with the obstacles. To do this you will use planners to create a path for the robot. My first project will be to work on one of the planners called Rotate_At_S. Currently this planner will rotate once between connecting configurations. My job is to make it rotate several times between configurations. Before I could begin working on the project I needed to become familiar with the programming language C++. I only know Java so I read a book on C++ to learn the things I would need to know to work on my project. This was not that hard because C++ is very similar to Java. We had two crash course meetings this week to discuss the paper Gross Motion Planning-A Survey by Yong K Hwang and Narendra Ahuja. I attended the first USRG seminar with the Princeton Review. This seminar will be every Tuesday for three hour for the rest of the program. The seminar is a prep class for the GRE. This week we took a practice GRE test. It gave me an insight on what I will need to work on to prepare for the GRE. We had a brown bag lunch with a graduate student panel. The panel helped me understand the process of graduate school. Since there isn’t a graduate program at my school I don’t really have access to graduate school information. This lunch really helped a lot. I began taking free water aerobics classes at the recreation center. This is the first time I have ever taken an aerobics class. It is a lot of fun. Every week we have a cookie break. This is a chance to take a break from working and relax and talk with the other research students.

Week 3: June 13th to June 17th

I had to submit a research plan so I met with Dr. Amato and my mentors (I have two new mentors Lydia Tapia and Roger Pearce) this week to discuss my project for the summer. There was a USRG luncheon where we had to submit our research plans. Dr. Niedzwecki, the associate dean of engineering, spoke at the luncheon. I also attended a USRG seminar with guest speaker Dr. Christine Economides. She talked about energy and transportation. We had a brown bag lunch with Texas A&M faculty research panel. They gave short presentations over there research. I attended my first lunch with Dr. Yenello. She has a lunch every week for the students that came from Langston University for the summer. I began looking at the code I with Marco. He gave me a better over view of how the current Rotate_At_S works and gave me an outline that would help me change the code so that the robot will rotate several times between connections. I coded and complied my changes. There is one parse error that I am trying to correct. We had a crash course to finish the Gross Motion Planning paper. We also started a new paper Probalistic Roadmaps for Path Planning in High Dimensional Configuration Spaces.

Week 4: June 20th to June 24th

This week we had a tour of the Immersive Visualization Center. They have a 24ft screen where you can view any type of graphic data. They showed us several different graphic programs that were in 3D. The also showed us a video game. Since the screen was so big it made you feel like you were in the video game. We began studying strategies for taking the GRE in our prep class. They gave us GRE books to help us through out the course. The topic for this weeks brown bag lunch was Presenting Research Results. Dr. Frank Shipman told us how to put our research results in papers and on posters. I attended a lunch with Dr. Yenello. We discussed our progress in the program and what we plan to do for the remainder of the program. I continued working on the Rotate_At_S function. I went back through the code and made more changes. The changes did not work. Marco should me how to use the GDB to debug my program. For the crash course we read a paper written by mentors and Dr. Amato called A Machine Learning Approach to Feature Sensitive Motion Planning. I met with Dr. Amato and my mentors to discuss what I have done so far and what I will do in the future. Dr. Amato told us that all the undergraduates had to give a presentation of what they are working on. This will be hard for me because I am a horrible public speaker. The last time I gave a speech in public a started crying. Hopefully that will not happen this time.

Week 5: June 26th to July 1st

We continued practicing for the GRE in our prep class. We were working on the verbal section. He gave us strategies for working on problems when you don’t know the vocabulary words. There was a brown bag lunch with a graduate admissions panel. This was very helpful. They told us what they liked and didn’t like about the applications they receive for graduate school admissions. They gave a lot of suggestions on what we should do to make ourselves better candidates for admission. We had crash course to discuss the paper : A General Framework for Sampling on the Medial Axis of Free Space by Jyh-Meing Lien, Shawna Thomas, and Nancy Amato. This paper was written by people from the parasol lab. This week I was very nervous. We had to give our presentations on Thursday so I spent the week preparing my presentation. I decided to keep my presentation very short so that I would not have to talk for that long. When I gave my presentation I was very nervous. I did okay, I didn’t cry. I also started working on the papers I have to complete for my university.

Week 6: July 5th to July 8th

This week we had our last crash course to discuss the paper Flocks, Herds, and Schools: A Distributed Behavioral Model by: Craig Reynolds. We had another GRE prep course. We finished discussing the verbal section and began discussing the math section. There was USRG luncheon this week. The speaker ( I can’t remember his name) talked about what it means to be student and the difference between learning and knowledge. The brown bag lunch this week was with a graduate student admissions panel.. They gave us information on how to approach the very difficult task of applying to graduate school. We had a Parasol group meeting where Dawen (a PhD student) presented his research. This week I completed my Rotate_At_S project. It works completely with no errors. It was very exciting to see that what I have been working actually works. Next week Roger will look at my code and show me which tests I need to perform on it to make sure it will work for different situations. He will also show me how to submit my final work to the main code so that everyone else can use the new Rotate_At_S.

Week 7: July 11th to July 15th

To make sure there weren't any errors in my code I worked with Roger to run a few test on Rotate_At_S before submitting it to CVS. I guess we did not run enough tests because after checking it into CVS Shawna found an error. When you run the program with out using Rotate_At_S at the command line it will crash because the default value was not being used. I worked with Lydia to change the code so that the default value of 0.5 would be set if a value for s was not assigned. I also started working on my abstract.

Week 8: July 18th to July 22nd

This week I finished correcting the errors in RotateAtS and checked it into CVS. I received the email from Shawna saying everything tested okay. I met with Roger and Marco to discuss my new project. I completed my third stipend requirement for DMP. I began working on my poster for the poster presentation. I attend the GRE seminar. We took the last practice test. I had a lunch meeting with Dr. Yenello. I attended the brown bag lunch with Dr. Valerie Taylor.

Week 9: July 25th to July 29th

This week Roger helped me submit my code for Rotate_At_S to the main code. After I submitted my code a few test were ran and several errors were found. For the rest of the week I worked with Lydia to correct these errors. After correcting the errors I submitted my code again. This time it passed all the tests without any errors. I also started working on a new map connection for the Feature-Sensitive Motion Planning project. I also started working on my paper and poster. We have to complete both of them as part of our research project. I attended the USRG seminar about "Life after your BS degree & prospects for graduate schools". The speaker gave us a lot of information about what to expect after graduation. One of the graduate students presented her thesis defense. It was great opportunity to learn what you have to do to earn your masters degree.

Week 10: August 1st to August 5th & 8th

Since this was my last week it was primarily focused on completing my research paper and poster. I completed a rough draft of my paper and met with Dr. Amato to discuss it. She gave me a few suggestions on how to make my paper better. I had my first poster session on Thursday. I was very nervous. It turned out to be okay. We had a Thank You lunch to thank all of the people who helped make this project a success.