Thursday, September 27, 2012

Read this in November.

27th November 2012, Minneapolis 

I am in the Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics degree program. My courseload consists of basic engineering, thrown in with a few of the major-specific AEM course. Many projects related to engineering and aerospace are coming my way, and I look forward to them!

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project is in full gear now, we have to complete Delphinus 1 and ship it in time to Australia for ASC2013. I am in the aerodynamics team, taking part in moulding the body, fairings and other components. Learnt a lot from this group, Creo engineering modelling, mechanical and technical engineering stuff, and how to build a solar car - isn't that just cool? :D

Tesla Works, the innovative project based student group. We have just completed a Rocket Glider project, although the parachute did not deploy properly and our camera was unusable already, the memory card contained data and we were able to record aerial imagery of Minneapolis and St.Paul. All thanks to team members for the hard work and Prof. Flaten for his guidance!

'Neutrinos' is the buzzword right now, at least in the super busy laboratories at the NOvA Experiment, where I work as a student assistant. It is really fun to contribute to the forefront of what they call 'intensity frontiers', where high energies are employed to study the behaviours of these pesky particles.

Plans are also in the drawing board for me to establish a Stargazer Society-ish UMN Astronomy Club in the spring. We will hijack the public info sessions and make it our own, go on trips to Onan and Cherry Grove, set up telescopes by the road on every other Saturday nights for the drunk to see the moon lol. Dave is already pushing me to finish the paperwork as fast as possible, but I cannot lose sight on the midterms too!

Last but not least, I signed up for continuing karate classes at the Midwest Karate Association at downtown Minneapolis. At 80 bucks per month it's pretty steep, but one does not simply pass up a chance to learn from the top karate instructor in the United States, Sensei Fusaro! Looking forward to continuing the punches and kicks next semester.
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To the Fong Kee Onn a few months later,

This will be your schedule. You are at the crossroads of many exciting and wonderful opportunities, make sure that the chances you get do not go into waste. While you're here at the U of M in the metropolis of the Twin Cities, be sure to grab what you can take, but not too much, but not too little either. Work hard, study smart, play hard, make friends, have fun - but most importantly, learn, learn, learn!

For you should always live by this epic Chinese proverb -

学如逆水行舟,不进则退。

27th September 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Onan Observatory, Minnesota Astronomical Society

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Last Saturday, in conjunction with the somewhat-I-think-arbitrarily-named International Observe the Moon Night. I have been looking for an amateur astronomy group over here since I came, looking in the U of M with no success. Then, I went on to the state-wide Minnesota Astronomical Society,got to know the president Dave Falkner, and he brought me to this super super awesome flagship observatory of the MAS – Onan Observatory.

Onan Observatory is at Baylor Regional Park, in a small town called Norwood- Young America about an hour’s drive west from Minneapolis. It features a sliding roof design, complete with two Celestron C-14 on a Paramount ME and a Meade LX200 on a built mount(left pic, left to right), and even a 20-inch Obsession (right pic)!

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The Onan Observatory is open every other Saturday night (1st and 3rd quarter moon) for the Public Star Party – in which I am one of the participants on that night! That night there was a beautiful first quarter moon hanging low in the sky – and the constellations appears one by one as the sun sets – Big Dipper, Little Dipper and Polaris, Pegasus, Sagittarius, Cassiopeia… just to name a few. As the public was enthralled by the magnificent views of clusters and galaxies by the high-power telescopes, Dave told stories about the Greco Roman mythologies associated with the constellations. It turned out that Dave actually wrote a book about the subject – The Mythology of the Night Sky!

The picture below is an afocal Moon shot taken by me using a member, Steve Baranski’s 5-inch apochromatic telescope. It turned out pretty well! Might be because I am used to refractor afocals haha! The visitors came, asked loads of questions and enjoyed the beautiful clear night sky, so clear that we can see traces of the Summer Milky Way. They were treated to loads of goodies, and learnt a lot about star clusters and galaxies (since we’re mostly seeing them). The weather was exceptionally chilly too, the hothouse was a great respite from the freeze. I chatted with the old-timers with loads of experience over cups of hot coffee. This is an amazing astronomical society!

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One notable nifty thing in the observatory is the ‘Live View’ television that hooks up to one of the C-14s and streams the images onto the screen. It allowed many people to view the galaxies at once, and through imaging the galaxy arms and clusters are boosted and looks more magnificent! For example, left is the spiral galaxy M101 Pinwhee, and right is the globular cluster M13 Hercules!

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All in all, Onan Observatory is a trip where I enjoyed myself drowning in astronomical awesomeness so much in the recent years – reminiscent of the first time I went to the Penang Astronomy Convention last July :D Definitely looking forward to come to Onan again!


More info :

Minnesota Astronomical Society webpage : www.mnastro.org                                        

Onan Public Star Party Calendar : http://www.mnastro.org/events/showonanpublic.php

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Minnesota Monologue

The late quarter Moon rises in between Jupiter and Aldebaran tonight at 2a.m., signifying almost a month has passed since I arrived at this city of Minneapolis. Was supposed to go to the Astronomy Public Observation Program at Tate Lab tonight but it was cloudy during the evening – but it cleared up at night. 

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Welcome to Minneapolis - I am Chrono Fong, ID 46xxxxx, studying Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities.

First week of classes are pretty good. Math 2374 actually went straight into the vector parts of what used to be Further Pure 3, not an easy ride as expected lol. The other classes e.g. Intro to C++ and AEM Statics are not too bad also. Our sensei in PE Karate is much older than the profile pic he posted on his dojo website =A= But the most surprising one would be the writing class WRIT 1401 – I was the only Asian in the discussion-style class, where we sometimes discuss a topic and exchange ideas and arguments. It’s refreshing to see intellectual debate going on instead of the usual maths and facts in the Engineering classes.

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International Student Outreach (ISO) is the group I joined right after I came down from the Delta flight – Jeff and Pete hosted me before I moved in to my current apartment 8 days ago. I was treated like family, playing with their children and helping around the house, and it really smoothens the process of adapting to this entirely new place. The ISO hosted many Malaysian students too. Some that I know, especially my housemate Moy, they are kind of like a family to me already, in this home away from home. Being freshman also has some benefits – we get to go to this cool Welcome Week thing, know more people other than Malaysians – just to get a more all-rounded perspective of this city.

Being itchy for some DIY stuff though, I also looked at two Engineering student groups – The Solar Car Project and Tesla Works, who both are groups that do projects related to science and engineering. I’m currently split in between commitment to one of the clubs or possible both of them, we’ll see what comes next. There’s also a plan to join the state-wide Minnesota Astronomical Society – I already contacted their president… we’ll see how that’ll work out too. I can’t wait to go to the Onan Observatory at Baylor Regional Park!

It’s a tight balance, while starting a new life at the U of M while not losing focus on studies and the astronomy interest that defined who I am. To juggle the many hats I have : a student, a project team member, an ISO member, an astronomy enthusiast, a housemate, a fellow friend, an independent adult. Hoping that all will go well during this first semester at the U of M, and of course for many more fun and enriching times to come in this City of Lakes, and in this State of Ten-Thousand Lakes.