Leading Senior Design

A little over seven months ago I joined a team of four other undergraduates to develop  a product for our ABET required senior project. Our task was to develop an embedded system that would link the API for a mobile parking payment processing system to barrier gate controller installed at a parking facility. As my last semester comes to a close, so does this yearlong project. While it has been frustrating at times, I consider it one of the more valuable learning experience to top off my undergraduate education. The experience has taught me a number of valuable technical skills such as PCB design and the value of good documentation which otherwise would not have been covered by my coursework. More importantly though, I learned how to lead a team to develop a complex system into a viable product. It’s because of these reasons that I value senior design.

Early on I took a leadership role in the project taking charge of calling meetings, making high level design decisions, laying down engineering requirements, and delegating tasks to other members. I looked through and touched up all our presentations to ensure that our project could be viewed in the best possible light. In later stages, I made sure to involve myself with every module’s development and verify that everything was progressing in the right direction. It was a point of mine to have a fundamental understanding of how each block worked even if it wasn’t my responsibility set forth by the team contracts. I would ask questions to make sure I knew what was going on or if I felt that something wasn’t right and needed to be addressed. In a way, I took ownership of this project and I wanted to see it through to success or failure.

Sure at times I felt overworked for picking up the slack for others and doing things I didn’t have to do, but in the end I enjoyed every bit of it. The way I saw it, I was learning something that can’t be taught in a classroom and anyone who wasn’t participating in that was missing out. There wasn’t anything else in the world I’d rather be doing then either trying to get something to work or figuring out what’s wrong. If I wasn’t sure already, senior design confirmed my love for engineering.

Entering what we in undergrad refer to as “the real world”

It’s an interesting term “the real world.” One thing you notice senior year is that the world ahead is full of uncertainty and can be really scary at times. You start thinking about being able to provide for yourself resources that were always just there for you. In a little under 2 months I will be finishing up my degree from Boston University. After June, the life I’ve known for the past four years now is effectively over and I will be colloquially referred to as “a real person” working a 9-5 job. Does this mean that my life up until now not been real? In a way I agree; the illusion created by undergrad life was only possible by freeing us of the many responsibilities that affect “real” people at huge financial cost to someone. Things like health care, a place to sleep, a salaried job, and where I’ll be in 5 years suddenly become things I really think about. Only now do I feel that I have real answer to that latter question.

In 5 years time I hope to have completed my masters degree and am still working at my first job. I hope that this masters, unlike my bachelor’s in electrical engineering, is in computer engineering and possibly awarded at that school across the river (MIT). This is not because I don’t like hardware (or my alma mater) but because I love both and would like to develop skills in computer engineering. Time and money allowing I would have loved to pursue a second masters in the field of mechanical engineering, but I understand and accept that it may not be possible or worthwhile for my career. Still, as my 22 years of life experience dictates, you really have no idea what happens during and after 5 years time. Thinking about it now, never would I have imagined the kind person I am now 5 years ago as a junior in high school blogging about high school crushes and the like. You just kind of have to trust yourself to make the right decisions and go with it.

All I know is that I’m at that point where I’m no longer worried about the future but I’m actually starting to get excited about it. My life up until now has just been the beginning. I’m not “old” as we call it in the undergrad bubble, I’m actually quite young and ready to really start doing something for the world. The years ahead of me will start laying a strong foundation for the future and that is something to be excited about.

And so begins my slow descent into web dev

Aside from a few experiments with free hosts here and there, I’ve never really dipped my feet in the world of website ownership and development. It has of course been on my long list of random skills to learn, hence the title I’ve chosen for my blog “Infinite Curiosities.” For those who don’t really know me, I’m the kind of person who just can’t accept a black box definition and carry on living life. I feed on knowledge, I love knowing how things work on a fundamental level. This is why curiosity has been a huge part of my life growing up, and I can’t imagine a life without it. My curiosity has lead me to new worlds, new experiences, and more importantly new curiosities. It’s what makes me wake up dumbfounded to be living in a world full of engineering marvels that go unnoticed everyday.

In maintaining this website and blog I hope to not only learn about PHP, MySQL, Javascript, and all the other tech buzz words that hopefully further increase my employability but I hope to share my own discoveries and insights with the world or at least my friends. I’ve started out by implementing the one click install of WordPress to get this site looking flashy and get blogging relatively quickly. However, I do hope to pick up a few books on PHP/MySQL/Javascript/CSS/HTML/Ruby/Perl and slowly work my through them experimenting with this web space. My hope is to eventually have a working knowledge of every piece of the tech hierarchy/abstraction maxwell’s equations to a web application running on a server and a project to incorporate everything. Should be fun challenge.