Saturday, December 10, 2011

Keep your eyes open.

Story Time!

In Spring of 2010, I received an email from the College of Engineering saying, "Dear High Achieving Student, You should apply for this opportunity."  To be honest, there was really no explanation of the program, but it looked cool.  All it required was a maximum two-page essay to talk about my "dreams and aspirations."  Then, the college was going to sort through the essays.

Well, two weeks later, I came down with a cold.  But I said, "No! I'm going to write that two pages about myself." (Tells you how obsessed with myself I am...hahaha)  So on my death bed, I wrote an essay about my aspirations in engineering, and sent in the essay in the morning after proofreading it.  Twenty-four hours later, I get a letter from the College of Engineering saying, "You're our nomination!" Cool!  I don't even know what this program is, but cool!

Two weeks later, I receive an email from the head people for the National Math and Science Initiative.  It basically said the following things:
  • You're the nomination for UC Davis. Cool!
  • You get a mentor...and she's the Vice President of Trading Product Development at Ebay. What?! Totally cool!
  • Oh, did we mention that you get to visit your mentor's work? Um no! But I'm going to Ebay!!!!
  • Finally, you get an all-expense paid trip to New York City for our Capstone Event. Wait, I'm going to New York?! For free???!!! Best two pages ever...
So, I got to do exactly what I mentioned above.  My mentor was an awesome woman.  She was very young, and basically mentored others to move up in the company and develop marketing and consumer tools for Ebay.  Another cool thing about Ebay: free soda from the vending just hit the button, and it comes out!

New York was also cool.  We got to visit Columbia University, Fortune Head Quarters, meet the CSO (Chief Scientific Officer) for Mary Kay, and eat lots of awesome food :-) 

So moral of the story: Never say you aren't qualified for something.  Just give it a shot, and you never know.  You may be the lucky one :-)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Testing (Serena's) Strength

In the Material Performance Laboratory, I had the opportunity to use the Tensile Tester.  Most of the time, I just call it the "Instron."

You basically put a material in the machine, and push or pull until it breaks.  It's actually pretty cool. 

One day, we were having problems with the material breaking in the wrong spot.  So the research committee decided that we need to turn the bolts to 200 ft-lbs.  One day, the graduate student was out and asked me to change the sample.  Think about it: If your lever arm is 1ft long, then you need 200 lbs of force to turn it to the correct amount.  The graduate student lifted weights and played football as a linebacker in high school.  I, on the other hand, ride my bike around Davis and occasionally prance around during my ballet class. What did I do?

To un-do the bolts, I would hang on the torque wrench until I got the torque wrench to read 200 ft-lbs.  I don't advise this for anyone.  This is one time I've felt like a complete girl.  However, it made for a funny story afterward. :-D

Thursday, December 8, 2011

EDM stands for Evil Demon Magic

During my materials research time, I had the opportunity to work on the EDM, or electrical discharge machine. Seen here:
I know, it's a beast.

Basically, the graduate student I was working under said, "Read the operating manual." So I did!
The first words that the manual said, "'You may think that EDM stands for 'Evil Demon Magic.'  But it actually stands for 'Electrical discharge machine.'" I thought this way really funny and credited the Japanese company, Sodick, for having a sense of humor in its technical manuals.

This is how an EDM works:
  • A wire (for this "wire EDM") is strung in water. Don't worry, the water is de-ionized so it doesn't conduct electricity.
  • A large current is passed through the wire.
  • The wire, basically, melts everything in it's path (as long as it's metal)
  • The water washes the melted material away.
Once a grad student told me he stuck his hand in the water to take a picture of the process... I wouldn't recommend this action, but he was living proof that the water doesn't conduct electricity.

Funny story: Once I opened to front door to the EDM while the basin was filled with water.  You know what happened...
Water spilled everywhere! Afterward, my adviser laughed and said that he could never get the door closed after he opened it. I didn't feel so stupid afterward.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big Machines: They aren't that scary.

I came to college not knowing ANYTHING about manufacturing or combustion engines. For you worry-warts out there: that's okay! A little secret: most of the guys in my classes didn't know either. 

Here's Serena's basics of manufacturing:
  1. What is the design of your part? If the part's feature is circular: use a lathe (like how they make baseball bats!).  If the part is basically cutting away material in straight paths: use a mill or drill press (which makes holes). If it's super intricate, use an EDM (Electric Discharge Machine) but chances are you won't need one right away.
  2. It's all about positioning.  Where does the tool go? Define the paths on paper (or in your head) before you even get CLOSE to a machine.  Easy enough. Actually sounds kinda fun. 
  3. Figure out how the machine (mill, lathe, EDM) works.  A basic shop class will take care of this. Most of the hard work is done in your head. 
  4. Manufacture your part! wasn't that hard! 
Next post: my experience with EDMs and the Intron, a tensile testing machine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wes Moore

Part of the Leadership Colloquium at NASA GSFC, I had the opportunity to see Wes Moore speak.  His book, The Other Wes Moore finds parallels between Wes Moore (a Rhodes Scholar) and Wes Moore (a man sentenced to life in prison).  The writer, Wes Moore, evaluates what went "wrong," especially since both of them grew up blocks away from each other in Baltimore and were very troublesome in their early youth.  

Wes's goal is to inspire youth throughout the nation to motivate them to do great.  He says the problem with crime and "bad" neighborhoods is education.  Instead of expecting young men to go to jail, we should raise our expectations of the younger generation, inspiring them to do GREAT things.

I, personally, am going to read the book once I get it from Amazon :-)

However, he inspired me to do something greater... reach out to those who are "wandering."  So today I turned in my application to mentor kids and teenagers.  I'm looking forward to my interview call...

Be Inspiring.

For about a year now, I've wanted to get involved with mentorship programs, especially those involving at-risk or foster youth.  But I haven't had the push.  Well, I saw a speaker today, and it gave me the motivation to finally get some information.  (I will advertise him a little later today.)

I'm hoping to use some of my background to inspire some kids :-)

If you would like to be a Big Sister, click HERE.

Raise your expectations of others.  You'll raise your expectations of yourself.

How cool is that? Rapid Prototyping

I previously mentioned that was able to design and rapid prototype my Malroy part. What is rapid prototyping?
  • It is a technology with places material layer-by-layer to make very intricate parts.
  • Many of these parts cannot be manufactured using your everyday mill, lathe because the parts are too small or too intricate. 
  • It is revolutionary, especially since computers. You can design your own trinkets, jewelry, or use something very specific for a hobby/project.
    • Eg. The Malroy was a way to fit pins and clips together precisely.  I could have created a jig to put the part in, but the pieces are so small that this is hard to do. So my mentor told me to design something using Autodesk Inventor.  I did it in about 2 hours, and I had the part in my hands the next day.
Here's a video to show the cool stuff you can make!

Monday, December 5, 2011


We've officially at 500 hits! We're hoping to expand this in the coming weeks, so be sure to keep visiting! :-)

How It's Made- an Engineer's Dream show

My all time favorite part of watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a kid were the clips where they would go through how things were made. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when the show How It's Made came out on the Discovery Channel.

Here is their website!

And just a few clips that I found to be good study breaks ;)
Football Helmets
Flight Simulators
Sports playlist (from Bowling Ball to Bicycle Frame to...whips??)


MORE Studying Tips!

I noticed Serena posted some Study Habits, but I thought as Finals approach, another reminder might be nice! If you have some study tips, spread the wealth and comment!

Don't know how to start studying? Seven tips:

1. Breath. Drink water. (note: this does not read "do whippits. drink rockstar")
2. Minimize distractions. Turn off the internet, hide your phone, hide yo' kids, hide yo' wife.
3. Re-write your notes (especially science/math/physics classes)
4. Reading Textbooks -- read the intro, read the summary in the back of the chapter, then read the chapter and take notes. Highlight main points, paraphrase paragraphs, etc.
5. Do/re-do homework problems. Take practice tests if they're posted. Do extra problems in the book.
6. Go to office hours with questions.
7. Doodle on your paper. (a.k.a. take breaks! exercise! ENDORPHINS!)

Resources: (May be too late for Finals, but remember this for next quarter!)
1. Office Hours
Best people to ask for help on homework are the people assigning the homework. Look at your notes/homework before going. Write questions if you have them, or listen to other people's questions.
*** if you don't like going to office hours, talk to someone who does. Bonus points if he/she is cute!***

2. Tutoring
i. Student Academic Success Center (SASC) offers drop- in tutoring fo' FREE in math, chem, writing.; also the staff have office hours + old exams/homeworks from previous classes! list of staff:
ii. Tau Beta Pi offers FREE tutoring in lower division Engineering and math classes. Tuesdays, 6-8pm Kemper 1127.

3. Workshops
i. basically extra review sessions. highly recommended for Chem, OChem, Math, Physics. I liked going to these because it allocated a time for me to study, so I couldn't procrastinate. And they gave handouts/info that I didn't hear in lecture, but that I was expected to know on the tests.

4. F is for FRIENDS who do stuff together...
i. like HOMEWORK! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!
There's a 99% chance that someone in SWE has taken your class. So if you're struggling, ask around and someone will probably be able to help you, maybe give you old exams or something! :)

Happy Monday, and good luck with Finals!!
Ana Ebrahimi
Biomedical Engineer-in-training

Freak out: GRE Scores

I took the GRE in early September.  I spent about 25 hours studying for the GRE, basically practicing all tests in my book :-)

The day came where I took the dreaded test, and I got my scores about 1 month ago.  However, I've been wondering if my scores are high enough. Should I take the test again? Will I get into the school of my dreams? I've been really nervous about my scores for about a month, never bothering to do some online research.

So today, I looked on some message boards. Words of caution: Message board advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, I compared my scores with the old scoring rubric (via percentage tile rankings), and I found out that I did above average (even for my dream school). 

Moral: If you're worried about something, DO SOME RESEARCH (and do it now!). You'll realize what you need to do, instead of worrying about factors you can't control.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


For the past year or so, I've been reading some classics that I never cared about in high school. I didn't like reading until I got to college.  Last summer, I read Frankenstein, and I thought it was so wonderful! Here's why I thought it was awesome:

Frankenstein was written during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is one of the best eras for us scientists and engineers, because this is when the scientific method started to evolve.  There wasn't as large of a reliance on God, and some people started to take a Deist approach on the universe.  Without a large part of the research during the Scientific Revolution, many of us would not have the iPhone that we have today.

Professor Frankenstein wanted to be the creator, not the observer.  He attempted to replicate life, and ended up making something so ugly, nobody wanted anything to do with it.

It discusses the morality behind science. Should we attempt to better human life? Or should we just let it be? There are implications to our research, even though they may not be intended.  Look at the movie I am Legend. Such a fantastic, modern day approach this.

Frankenstein goes beyond your classic horror movie. It really delves into the relationship between life and science and is a warning for us.  There is philosophy behind science, whether or not you want to believe it.