Fall Week 6

This past week has been EXHAUSTING.  It was a whirlwind of exams and getting everything finished up for Grace Hopper.

GREs were on Monday.  I took about 3 hours and I’m happy with my scores.  They aren’t official for another week or so, but I got an estimate right after the test was over.  I’m glad I have one less thing to worry about when it comes to grad school applications.

Tuesday I had my Web Data Management midterm and Thursday was Algorithms. PHEW!  Both went well, I think.   We also gave the demo for our first team project in Web Data Management.  This was the first time I really had to do a demo for an instructor like this.  I had one demo for Systems in the spring, but it definitely wasn’t anything like this.  Now I know what to expect for next time- the prof actually asking us why we chose to do things certain ways, etc.

After exams finished, I was able to focus back on grad school stuff.  I’m working on getting my three essays written for the NSF grant, which is due Nov 13th.  I know that the deadline is going to come at me way too fast, so I want to get rough drafts written for everything.  I have a personal statement draft for grad school applications done, so I’m hoping to use at least some of that for NSF.  I’ve also got a draft of my previous research done.  All that’s left is the research proposal.  I have an idea for it, but I have to do some more background research first to make sure it’s viable.  I hope so because it will be pretty good, and go fairly painlessly (I hope) once I have the research bit done.

My CREU research is also experiencing some forward momentum, as I’m starting the process of collecting wattage data.  I’m hoping after I get back from Grace Hopper to have some more done!

Off to Baltimore!!

Fall Week 4

This week was kind of a blur, except that the newest member of the family was born Thursday night!  I was able to go visit him in the hospital Friday afternoon.  Here’s a picture of me with Thane:

Auntie Kate and Little Thane, September 14, 2012

School has been very overwhelming.  I feel like I don’t have time to spend on the things I really want to be learning and spending time on, like my research, because everything is just sucking up all of my time.

I did do a quick run (THANKS to Kyle for driving me!!) to Seattle Thursday afternoon to attend the iSchool information session.  I had an opportunity to talk to the PhD advisor and hear a bit about the program.  The biggest thing I realized is that I really need to get on this whole writing to professors, drafting up my essays, and generally getting more serious about grad school applications!

Fall Week 2

Well, as it might be imagined, I am super swamped.  I feel like I’m being pulled every which way and I need to get a better system for organizing my life.  I’ve this giant running to do list that is a little overwhelming.  I’ve started breaking things down by day and trying to organize one 24-hour period at a time.  We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve been trying to get my DREU final report finished up and sent off.  I’m actually quite happy with the results.  I migrated my work into LaTex and am starting to feel pretty proficient in editing in it.  I’m going to post my paper in my portfolio, if you’re interested.  I am a little bummed I couldn’t participate in some of the interviews and maybe work on getting something into CHI for this year.  I guess I could still possibly submit something for the Student Posters in January.  We’ll see.

I’ve also officially bought my plane tickets to Balitmore for Grace Hopper the first week of October.  I’m excited to have won the scholarship.  I’m looking forward to seeing Baltimore again too.  I’m already planning on meeting up with my friends from UMBC that I met during the DREU program.

I think that’s all for now.  I’m hoping I can use these blogs to get myself organized too.  We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

Fall Week 1

First week of school is already over.  I definitely hit the ground running.  I am taking Physics 2, Intro to Networking, Game Design, Web Data Management, Analysis of Algorithms, and Social Psychology.  Phew.  It’s going to be a bit of work keeping all my homework straight.

I also had my first CREU meeting.  I’m looking forward to doing some research this school year.  Find this whole “work/life” balance thing is going to be tough, but I have to just keep this up until I graduate in spring.  I’ll be doing more work with energy usage and the smart grid.  Our paper was accepted to the IEEE SmartGridComm, which is happening in November.  I’ve applied to travel funding, but I won’t find out if I get it or not until the end of September.

Lots of exciting things in store this fall.  Counting down to grad school application due dates and everything else super fun like that!

Week 10

In a whirlwind of getting everything done, the summer is over!  This past week I created a video showcasing all of the tagging systems I put into clothes.  I also wrote a presentation, which I gave at the Summer Undergraduate Research Festival on Wednesday, August 8th.  This was the same festival that I  created and presented a poster at.

Here are the slides from my presentation.  The video I created followed these slides.

Tagging Systems to Assist Visually Impaired Users Identify Visual Data in Clothing.

And here is the video I created:


All in all, I’m really sad to be going home and leaving this project behind.  I had a lot of fun working on it and learned a LOT.  It was wonderful working with so many great people.  I’m super excited to be continuing on with school and working on graduate school applications this fall!

Week 9

I can’t believe the summer is almost over!  I guess it’s a good sign that I wish I were in grad school now so that I could keep going with my project. The RFID Reader kit arrived, so I was able to put it together and actually get it to scan RFID tags.  The kit was a shield that just plugged into the top of the arduino.  I used the adafruit tutorial to complete the reader and upload the software required for reading the tags.

Reader Kit Unpacked
Reader Kit Unpacked
Breakaway Headers
Breakaway Headers
Soldering the Headers
Soldering the Headers
Soldering Set Up
Soldering Set Up
All Soldered
All Soldered
Reader Assembled
Reader Assembled
Antenna with RFID Tag
Antenna with RFID Tag
And it works!

This week I also found out that I have been selected to present at the Summer Undergraduate Research Festival on campus next Wednesday.  This means I will be giving a 8 minute talk about the project I have been working on this summer.  So, I started working on my talk and a video that I will play during the presentation.


Week 8

This week I finished up putting tags into the clothes. I also did a lot of writing this week.  I submitted two poster abstracts- one to the campus Research Festival and one to Grace Hopper.  I also started a draft of the final paper for this project I have been working on all summer.  Luckily, actually quite enjoy the writing process.  I’ll be finding out this coming week if my poster abstracts were accepted.  Next up:  making a poster!

On Thursday, I went to the ADA Celebration on campus.  We put some of our projects on display, including the clothe I have tagged.  It was really great meeting people and talking a bit about the work we have been doing.  We also heard speeches from Dr. Hrabowski and Governor O’Malley.

UMBC HCC Group at the ADA Celebration July 26, 2012
UMBC HCC Group at the ADA Celebration July 26, 2012
Me at the ADA Celebration
Me at the ADA Celebration

This coming week I’ll be working more on my paper and designing my poster.  I hope the RFID reader parts come in, so that I can build the last system for the project.  I’ll also be playing around with an NFC enabled tablet to see if I can get it to read the tags we have in the lab!


Week 7

There was a lot going on this last week, especially now as I am looking at deadlines for my poster abstracts and wrapping up for the summer.

We finally got our “smart closet” put together with shelving and all!

Smart Closet
A nice, organized closet space for our clothes that are going to be tagged.

We narrowed down our list of tagging systems that we want to prototype.  We had a fashion hackathon on Tuesday to put together the website that will be part of our prototypes.  For some of our systems, the user can look up a button shape or specific location to help remind them of what it identifies (color, how to wash, etc).  In another web based system, the user can input a number that is written in braille on a tag inside the clothes to get all the information about it.

Fashion Hackathon
Fashion Hackathon
3 Braille Tags in Puff Paint
Ribbon with Braille in Puff Paint



Star Button Tag in Shirt
This star represent certain information about this shirt.







I also built some prototypes with a more high-tech solution.  One uses the QR code iron-on to the clothes.  A second solution is the RFID tag with reader.I am still waiting on the parts for the reader before I can prototype this system.

Row of QR Codes
QR Codes ready to be printed.

On Wednesday, I went to the Summer Horizons grad school information session on campus.  The information presented was phenomenal.  They went over the timelines,  keys to admissions (GRE Scores, Letters of Recommendation, and the Statement of Purpose), and what life is like as a grad student.  There was a panel of grad students that answered questions about their own application process and what their lives are like now.  To finish everything off, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski gave a great keynote speech.  I wish I had recorded it, but I was too busy watching!

One of the things Dr. Hrabowski said was the following quote, which really stuck with me: “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
– Lao Tzu

I’m glad I attended this information session, even though it wasn’t strictly a part of the internship I am doing.  It helped me to really start exploring the reasons I want to go to grad school and how to organize my thoughts so I can get my applications together.

Wednesday afternoon, summer students from the Maryland School for the Blind came to visit UMBC.  As part of their visit, the HCC department gave them some information about the research they do here on campus.  Michele and I got to informally talk with some of the students about my project that I have been working on this summer.  Some of them were really excited about the idea of just scanning clothes and getting the information about them.  One student wanted to know when they would be able to buy the system.  It’s really nice getting such positive feedback about the work I have been doing.

This coming week I will be writing abstracts for my research posters.  I will be finishing up my prototypes, which will probably take the bulk of my time.  I’m down to sewing in buttons and ribbons.  As soon as we have IRB approval, we will be able to take our clothes to users to see what they think of our prototypes!

Week 6

This week I worked with Amy and Michele to redevelop my project scope for the rest of the summer.  In addition to RFID tags and readers for clothing, I am going to help brainstorm other ways someone could tag their clothing.  I spent the first part of the week looking up how people are currently keeping track of their clothes.

I then decided on some different ways to tag clothes.  Some ideas were buttons, safety pins, QR codes inside the clothes, and RFID tags.  I then went on a shopping trip with Michele to stock our closet and get supplies for our prototype systems.  At the end of the week I started prototyping some tags.

Sample Tag

I also spent some time with Amy looking forward to see where this research is headed.  I’ve started thinking about what I will be doing after this summer is over and applying to graduate school.  This experience hasn’t gotten me excited about keeping the momentum I have here going.

Week 1

It’s amazing to me how quickly a week can go by!  I have settled in to my living arrangements and even ventured forth a bit over the weekend to check out a local yarn shop.  The weather is proving the most difficult thing to get used to, since I’m from Vancouver, WA- it’s 20+ degrees warmer here and much more humid.

This past week, I narrowed down my project, so I have an idea of what I will be working on now.  I’ve decided to try my hand at learning the hardware aspects of Arduino, even though my previous electronics experience is limited.  The project I’ll be working on is Making Fashion Accessible.  You can read more about it on Michele’s website.  She’s the PhD student that I will be working closely with, as the overall project is hers.  I really liked the idea of working on a project in accessibility.  My role will be working on the scanners or smart tags that could be implemented in clothing to make their information ‘readable’ by a smart phone.

This week my goal is to learn as much as I can about Arduino and fashion and technology.  Michele is going to a conference on Wearable Computing next week, so when she gets back, the real work on the project can start.  I have until then to learn about electronics and wearable hardware.

Even though it’s only been one week, I can already safely say that I am really glad I have had the opportunity to do this this summer.  I have learned a lot about grad school in the last week and I am more certain than ever that this is what I would like to do next year.  I am super excited to be working with such meaningful research!