Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seth's Final Post

In summary of the project:  we attempted to quantify the efficiency of a pneumatic strain energy accumulator as an individual component and as part of a system, and to design a test rig for later fatigue testing.  We achieved the first goal of measuring the component’s efficiency and are currently drafting a journal paper but for lack of hardware, we couldn’t measure the system-level efficiency.  The third objective, designing fatigue rig, has been delayed due to difficulties in using a necessary field-programmable gate away (FPGA) input-output device, but with more time even this can be overcome.  It is our hope to complete the journal paper within the next few weeks, the system setup in the next few months, and to have a fatigue demonstration up and running by spring.

All things considered, the research process went very well.  The graduate student managing the project was very well organized, displayed a good sense of judgment, and managed the team well.  My research partner and I worked together well and divided up tasks suitably – most of my time involved programming a post-processing code in Matlab to interpret the data we received during the component test while my partner worked on making sure the hardware functioned properly.  We both spent considerable time learning about different kinds of pneumatic valves and trying a few out in our setup.  When he left for vacation, I started programming an FPGA device in LabVIEW to better accommodate the design specifications for the fatigue test setup.  The primary investigator was also very helpful and met with us often to check on our progress and offer recommendations.  It was a privilege to conduct research at Vanderbilt this summer!

I walk away from this project with skills I didn’t possess coming in:  programming experience in Matlab and LabVIEW; experience with input-output devices and FPGAs; an appreciation for detail, which has helped me solve quite a few problems during my summer research; and a better feel for the demands and work environment of graduate programs.  I’ve also met many invaluable colleagues with whom I would be happy to work with again.  For any new REU participants, I’d recommend: pay attention to detail and don’t be afraid to take initiative.

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