Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflections after a successful trip

I would like to say that the what was accomplished on this project far outweighed any issues that came about for me in travel. Even though I arrived one day after everyone else I still feel like my expectations were greatly surpassed on this project. From trouble shooting skills to Norwegian culture and education system I never expected to learn so much. On the first day I arrived we toured a ship that NTNU uses for a mobile classroom and it was amazing to see how much the university values the hands on experience and how the ship is used for educational purposes.I feel that the group that we had on the project worked so well together and each person contributed and benefited from one another. Below is a picture of some of the group in the tent that we put up to stay out of the rain when we were at the field station. Even though there was rain part of the time we were still able to get all of the work done with the help of the portable shelter. There was power in the tent as well through a car battery and a generator.
After our first run with the IVER undulating in the fjord we made a rough graph of the data with excel and Kasper was very happy with the results. He was originally worried about the resolution of the sensor, but after the first data set came in he knew it was not a problem. This was very uplifting for everyone and made us all very motivated to get more data that could be as good as the first run. Our motivation was shown by staying late into the night at the field station adding to the number of our late night endeavors.
After all of the runs we had many data sets to work with and a lot of analysis to do. All of that is currently being worked on and the results will hopefully be ready shortly.
Lastly I would like to thank everyone that participated in the project especially our Norwegian and Danish partners because without them we would have not had such a rewarding project. I can't forget about Jane and Chris who put together this amazing project which enhanced our education immensely. I can't wait to hear about the next students and read the blog that they create.

Post Trip Reflection

First of all I'd like to thank all of the ICEX team and our Norwegian counterparts for putting together a truly special experience. Great job everyone!

View from the short hike.

Wow...what an experience. European culture, cutting-edge engineering, new friends, old friends, and robots! Who could ask for more? This trip really did have a bit of everything. First it was the sad news of Frank missing the flight, then it was the sheer beauty of Norway, and finally the great results we obtained from our experiments. When I first joined the team back at the beginning of the year there is no way I could have predicted all of the happenings of this program. Yet that is what it was all about. It was about dealing with the logistics of international collaboration. It was about learning how to problem solve and think on the fly. And most of all it was about working and growing together as a team. It is so satisfying to be able to say that we made a difference. Our team sailed into uncharted waters and emerged with an extremely successful set of data that will hopefully have international implications.

The engineering side of the trip was both fun and educational. We definitely pulled some late nights getting the IVER up and running, but all things considered, the technical side of things went quite smoothly. Aside from a few hardware issues the IVER performed flawlessly, which made our lives easy. The hardest part of the testing was spotting the IVER between dives as it ran its course through the bay!

Going swimming!

Shot with the IVER.
From the cultural side of the trip, Norway was truly amazing. Having never been to Europe, there was definitely a culture shock. Whether it was the layout of the cities, the sheer quantity of round abouts, or the personalities of locals, it was definitely a change. But a good one! I loved every bit of it. All of the people we met were extremely helpful and nice, the country itself was absolutely beautiful, and the city life seemed fun and lively. I definitely foresee a vacation to Norway in my immediate future to further explore the beautiful country and maybe learn a thing or two about cross-country skiing.

Delicious Salmon prepared at the Sletvik Field Station

Overall, this trip was great. It not only gave me a new international experience but also motivated me to pursue the push to apply robotics to new fields. Thanks to everyone!

ICEX team (minus Chris) at TBS

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Reflection on the Trip

After such an intense trip it takes awhile to decompress and process everything that happened in that short amount of time. As my first international engineering experience, I would call it an unquestionable success. Not only did we far exceed the expectations of the Norwegians and our own Cal Poly professors, we were able to gather an exciting data set.

Not only did we perform some amazing feats of engineering, we also were given a great introduction to Norwegian culture and the country itself. Every time I had Norwegian food I absolutely loved it, from the Bacalhau (a Norwegian take on a Portuguese dish) of the first dinner to the reindeer meat of the last.

The country itself was amazingly pretty and Hopavagen Bay reminded us of the High Sierras. It was so beautiful I would love to be able to visit again and go backpacking through some of the areas surrounding the fjords. Here's a look on Hopavagen Bay after a 10 minute hike to the top of one of the surrounding hills, you can see the field station in the right side of the picture:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My look back at the trip

After 3 flights from Norway, a midnight drive from LAX to San Luis Obispo, a 3:00am bedtime, and a 9:00am lecture, I wonder why I set such crazy schedules. Is all the effort for such a program worth it?

The reality is that the ICEX team accomplished everything we hoped. Despite volcano eruptions, lost travel funds, and unreliable airline employees, the team not only arrived in Trondheim, Norway but exceeded both Kasper's (lead biologist) and my expectations. Jane's leadership in cultural training proved invaluable in forming intelligent discussions regarding Norwegian history, culture, economics, and education. The students demonstrated technical skills and the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

The team's efforts led to the first ever 4D (time and space) dissolved oxygen data measurements of a true underwater environment. These results will likely be published in respected journals, demonstrating the value of the students' work.

Given all we learned and accomplished, I feel this year's ICEX trip was a true success. I hope the ICEX participants will use the skills they have learned in future projects, and look back fondly on missed flights, trying new beverages, pop star sightings, and swimming in Hopavagen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 5 - IVER Mission Planning

After the experiments of the day before, including a full grid run at the surface, we decided to make the mission grid a little smaller. This was done to keep the IVER farther away from the shore and minimize the risk to the IVER. We set the IVER to undulate between the surface and 10 meters (30 feet) or 12.192 meters (40 feet) in order to gather dissolved oxygen data as deep as possible. This was the most ambitious mission that our IVER has been sent on yet in terms of depth! And it performed admirably each time! The OceanServer software predicted that the mission would last 50 minutes, but it turned out to last about 65 minutes each time it was completed.
IVER Undulating MissionMap of IVER's Undulating Mission

Today's testing was very successful, but didn't come without a little excitement. In the middle of a mission the head of the field station came speeding down in his car to our test site and shouted to Kasper in Norwegian. While none of us understood what was being communicated, Kasper definitely did, as he took off running towards the field station. As we came to find out later, Kasper's lab experiment unfortunately got a little hot, as the projector being used to provide light to the water samples overheated and began smoking. This was an unfortunate setback but KAsper, as usual, carried on with his cheerful and kind attitude. Below is a picture of the experiment...before the accident.

Kasper in the lab taking O2 readings. Projector is on the left.

During the next mission we were able to escape for quick hike up the closest mountain. All of us had been eager to hike, and we finally got the change. Fifteen minutes later we found ourselves at the top with a spectacular view of the bay and the Trondheim fjord. Below are some of the pictures taken.

Part of the group making their way to the top.

View from above of the dock, tent, Jane, and field station.

When we returned we found Jane looking comfy on our local rock. A good book, beautiful view, and comfortable rock....who could ask for more!

After Jane...thats right Jane.... sent the IVER out on its last mission we finally decided to walk the walk after talking the talk....and go for a swim. We knew it would be cold, but as we said "How many times to you get the chance to swim in Norwegian fjord!?" It ended up being Jesse, Kevin, and Frank in the initial group. We made it look so good that Chris couldn't help but follow our lead minutes later. The water was definitely a bit chilly, but once you got used to it (AKA body went numb), all of the chill went away and the fun began. We had swim races, did flips and dives off the dock, and provided our best impersonations of the IVER itself.

Jane showing off her technical side.

Jessie leading the charge to retrieve the IVER as it made it's in to dock.

Retrieving the IVER.

Overall we had a great last day of testing. We took some great data that demonstrated fluctuating O2 levels based on the reading. Also the sun came out, the rain stopped, and we were blessed with a truly gorgeous Norwegian day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 4: Sletvik Station

Today was a big success, but its 2 am and we are tired! Enjoy some of many pictures of our adventure, more to come soon!

Kevin protects his computer from the rain as others hide in the tent!Kasper keeping a watchful eyeFrank and the IVER with the bubble wrap still wrapped around the front of it. This was before we realized that it would not be able to dive under the water with the bubble wrap on it. After we removed the bubble wrap it had enough buoyant force to bring it to the surface in the Hopvagen fjord Coiling rope Driving the IVERChecking that the epoxy kept all the water outJane helping Kasper with some tests that will record the amount of light penetrating the water at increasing depths.IVER passing by on missions Biology stuff! Preparing to test oxygen levels in a controlled enviornment

Day 3 - IVER Progress

Today we fixed the problems that we were having yesterday by soldering the serial connector to the secondary processor board. We discovered that the pins that we had re-soldered toward the end of the night, about 3:00 AM, had become bent, some broken when we were assembling the IVER. When we arrived at the Trondheim Biological Station in the morning we decided that the best way to fix the problem with the pins was to solder wires directly to the board onto the surface mount pads. This would be a temporary fix that should hold for all of the testing that we need to do here in Norway. After working with that we had lunch at TBS with a large group of people some celebrating there PhD exams finishing and other around to greet us. The food we had was pizza with some unusual flavors. One flavor that stuck out was the Mexican Pizza which had jalapenos and other spices similar to Mexican food. Another was was a pizza similar to Thai food that had peanuts and curry sauce.
After lunch we took the IVER down to the water and ballasted it before deploying it. There was some trouble when we first placed the IVER in the water because of the extra weight of the oxygen sensor it made the entire robot want to sink instead of being neutrally buoyant. To correct for this we make the IVER a life jacket out of bubble wrap which made it float to the surface. It was necessary that the IVER have a slight buoyant force upward so when the mission was over it would stay at the surface of the water. With the IVER at the correct buoyancy we ran a couple of missions at the surface of the water to see if everything was working correctly with the sensor and if the GPS locations were correct. After it was all done we packed everything up so we could go to Sletvik the next day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 3 - Microbrewery Dinner

On June 18th we went to a microbrewery called Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri for dinner. This restaurant/brewery was suggested by Inga, a Master's student working with Kasper. She also told us to try the beer sampler so we could taste all the different beers that they brew there. The sampler included the following types of beer: their seasonal beer (a summer beer), pale ale, india pale ale, porter, stout, amber, bitter, and Trondhjemspils (Trondheim Pils in English). For dinner we had two bbq pork sandwhiches, one mikro club sandwhich (brewerys club), one blue cheese burger, and two kylling burgers (chicken) marinated in the amber beer. We also had a lot of fun reading the Norwegian menu and comparing it to the one English menu that we found. We especially liked the word for chicken: "kylling". Throughout this cultural experience we toasted to friends, the ICEX program, Kasper (our Norwegian host and colleague), and the success of the trip.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 3 - Marintek Tour

After a very successful morning and afternoon of testing with the IVER we, along with Kasper, visited the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute in Trondheim. Our guide, Frederick, was extremely accommodating by letting us push back the tour by a few hours to accommodate time for more testing back at TBS. (Tusen Takk!) This research institute is made up of NTNU facilities manned by researchers and students, as well as Marintek facilities. Marintek is a research company in the SINTEF Group, which is the largest independent research organization in all of Scandinavia. Frederick discussed how the NTNU group and Marintek are connected on many levels, yet also disconnected in their major operations. For the tour we were able to view a couple of Marintek's testing facilities including two ship model tanks and an ocean basin. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside the testing areas due to the cutting edge ship designs modeled within the lab, so I will try my best to describe what we saw.

The first testing area was a massive ship model tank unlike anything any of us had seen before. The tank was first constructed in 1939 and is essentially a controlled wave pool that is used as a testing and proving grounds for scaled down models of new ship and oil rig designs. These models vary in size and are created on a 5-axis milling machine. They were very detailed and intricate to ensure accuracy and also seemed quite sturdy. The models themselves ranged from around 10-20 ft long and 3-5 feet wide. On top of the pool there was a rail system that has a testing bed attached to it outfitted with all sorts of instrumentation and video equipment for test trials. The models are attached underneath the test bay and can be pulled as fast as 10 m/s (22 MPH) to simulate movement. The generated waves can be as large as 0.9 m (2.95 ft), which, according to Frederick, are scaled to be about the largest possible wave a boat will ever see in the ocean. This pool was extremely impressive and very large. It became very clear that Norway is an absolute international leader in this field of design and testing, which was confirmed by Frederick's description of the uniqueness of this facility on an international scale.

The next facility was an ocean basin . This basin is also used to test new ship and offshore structure designs. This facility allows for total environmental simulation including wind, waves, and current. The ocean basin is used more for the testing of offshore platforms and ships when multiple environmental simulated conditions are desired. With a depth of 10m, the basin is also very well suited for deep water structure testing. The entire pool is surrounded by media equipment and sensors to provide the data to analyze what exactly happens to these models. This testing basin only furthered our feeling that this facility was really...really cool! I couldn't help but visualize the IVER propelling around in those pools.

After the ocean basin, we went to see the lab Frederick performs his research in. Again we found ourselves shocked to see the "smaller" testing pool was still a quite massive ship model tank used mainly for testing automated control systems for dynamic stabilization of ships. After a "short" walk down to the end of the pool we were told about the Cavitation Tunnel facility that is used to test new propeller designs for ships.

This led to the end of an extremely impressive tour. Many thanks to Frederick and Marinetek!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Norway Day 2: Prepare the IVER!

Today started with breakfast at the hostel. A very nice spread, we had a selection of breads and meats, unfrosted flakes and bran, and some unknown Norwegian dishes. These two dishes were a gelled substance containing carrots, peas, corn and shrimp and a liver pate which we originally thought to be a meatloaf. Once breakfast was done we all packed up and headed to TBS. This ride really reinforced the idea that Norway loves tunnels and round-abouts, tunnels sometimes last 4km long not to mention there is even a round-about in a tunnel!

After arriving at TBS around 9 we were greated by smiling faces and kaffe (coffee in Norwegian). We then went strainght into a meeting that was a plan for the rest of our stay. What we wanted to accomplish, what the biologists wanted from our data, and when we wanted to do everything. Today's goal was decided to prepare the IVER for missions by TBS on Friday. This task would include fixing anything that may have gone wrong in transit, mount and integrate the O2 sensor to the IVER, test, and ideally drive by wire or even send it off on a basic mission.

Finished with our planning, we were given a tour of the facility and were amazed by the tools available to the research center. Now ready to begin with the day's task we unload the IVER. After not seeing any problems we connected the power and gave everything an inital test, only to find the motor was not working. Inspecting the motor we thought it may have been a little stuck, so we lubed it up until it was spinning much better. We tried the motors again and still no luck. It was only then after looking even closer did we learn that the motor cable itself was broken, but this fix would have to wait until lunch was over.

For lunch we had amazing sandwhiches with the other biologists at TBS. We talked about a wide variety of things. Kevin and Jessie talked to Inga and others about what they thought "American food" was, which turned out to be pie and turkey. Another topic that got the whole group giving their own feed back was Sweden. We were right to assume that Norway was tired of having Sweden as a "big brother" and recently the tables seemed to have turned. There are now a significant amount of Swedes traveling to Norway for work. They not only work cheaper, but work full time as well. The Swedish are easily distinugished it seems not just because of the language difference but they are also much more friendly and open according to Igna. The conversation then headed to the language barrier, specifically in Iceland. After discussing how Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that originally stopped our travel plans, is translated literally as island-glacier-mountain we learned that Iceland is very committed to preserving their native language to keep it pure. An example was given, where Norway's translation of helicopter is helikopter, Iceland named it ______ which literally means spinning house.

With lunch over, it was back to work. The motor was hooked up properly once more and that problem was solved, but more arose as Jane and Jessie left to finally pick up Frank from the airport.

Although we tried to get straight back to work when the airport team returned, we soon had a unique chance to tour the NTNU Research Vessle. This was a very nice boat that was for the universities use which we were able to get a tour of. We walked from the dry and wet lab rooms to the common area, to the helm where we were able to sit in the captains chair.

The wet lab room
The steep stairs Kevin in the captains chair
The arrival of Frank made an immediate difference. As we prepared to epoxy the O2 sensors wires through the plugs that will help keep the IVER waterproof, he saved us a long task by replacing it with a simple one. Being simple did not make the epoxy any less messy though. Very careful not to get any on our surroundings Kevin and Alex ended up getting it all over their hands as the exccess ran from the plugs. We almost had everything we needed to get the IVER running, the only problem was the epoxy needed at least an hour to dry.

Filling the plug with epoxy

Taking advantage of this wait time we decided to get dinner. Tonight's choice went back to the converstation at lunch of what American food was to Nowegians. We were going to Egon Cafe, which focused on American food. We quickly turned to the dessert and found the Hot Apple Cake which was a piece of pie with ice cream on the side. We then looked through the menu commenting on how the meal was or wasn't American. We all went with some kind of burger, but with further reading we learned that the hamburger had cheese and the burger came with a salad, but the salad was in fact the lettuce and tomatoes in the burger. With dinner done we were off too check up on the epoxy.

Dinner at Egons Cafe

Still not dry enough, we had sometime to kill before we could reassemble and test the IVER again. Alex led a crash course on how to plan missions for those who were unfaimilar with the Vector Map software. We went over how to plan the course that the IVER would follow, and then saved some basic missions to run when the IVER was ready to go. During the spare time we tried to get a program running on Kevin's computer because the graphics card on Jessie's computer wasn't up to par. There were some problems with the program not properly starting up on Kevin's computer, so we sent the creator an email asking his thoughts on the situation and we await his response.

As night falls without getting any darker, the epoxy has finally been announced dry enough to mount the crucial pieces onto the IVER. The process of hooking every thing up seemed to go smoothly as we sealed everything back into its proper place using generous amounts of sealant. The moment of truth was upon us as we turned everything on and waited for the O2 sensor to register, and sadly it did not. We found a couple of loose connections that we fixed, but after many more cycles of assembly and dismantling the IVER it became apparent that a larger problem was present. After taking a closer look at the 2 wires connecting the sensor to the IVER we discovered that one of the connectors was loose due to bent surface mounted pins. This explained the inconsistent behavior of the sensor connection. Now the question was how to fix it. We tried many different methods centered around re-soldering the pins onto the board. Below are some pictures of this process.

Taking it apart Putting it back together
Soldering at 2 am

The night was a long one and after about 4 hours of working on this problem we decided it was time for bed. The biggest issue with our approach was the fact that getting the connector to fit flushly required near machine-grade soldering precision. Which, at 2:30 in the morning, was not happening. We had a plan for morning on a new solution, but it would have to wait as we wearily made our way back to our hostile at 3:00 am as Dr. Clark sent an email to Kasper informing him we would not be back to TBS at 9:00am like originally planned.