Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stop consuming, start creating

A staple of my weekend recreation has always been devoted to anime, or Japanese animation since time immemorial. A few days ago, a chance glance of someone watching anime in the computer labs caught my eye, and I realized that I have not been consuming my weekly anime since the start of the semester -- and it started the chain of thoughts that eventually led me to this recurring phrase in my head : stop consuming, start creating.

I vividly remember the most interesting interview I've had so far in my life. A hot and humid day, sitting in the other end of the coffee table in Starbucks is Dr Ewe, currently a professor in a local university and an MIT alumni. We had the most whimsical chats of science and technology, him discreetly probing me on my physics and astronomy club activities of the day and my motivations to join AeroAstro. Somehow the conversation drifted into a talk about my blog and the up-and-rising; and he asked me if I have ever thought of integrating my blogs into Facebook. Nope I said at that time, I prefer the orderliness of the blogspot interface rather than Facebook, and  it is beyond my coding skills.

Took me a few years to realize. My years of idling have accustomed me into a habit of passive waiting. Which doesn't work in MIT. Or real life. If you want something, you don't wait for it to happen, you make it happen. You create it.

Fast forward 2 years, and by the grace of the gods of engineering I ended up in the US of A, reading Aerospace Engineering in the beloved University of Minnesota. It didn't take me long to discover the awesome things that around 10% of the engineering students here do; wind turbines in Jamaica, homemade particle accelerators, amateur high-power rocketry, and of course the solar car. But still, it took me half a year to realize what I really wanted out of this 3 years in university -- I wanted a story, an epic adventure that I can call my own. After the fateful night at the solar car workshop cutting up foam and ended up all dusty and glittery, I decided to make Daedalus, the solar car and going to Australia, for the World Solar Challenge a reality.

Stop consuming, start creating. Breaking out from my familiar routines and comfort zones, I dived into uncharted seas of actual engineering, of rocketry, of automobiles. Inspired by the rockets, in the spring I co-led a high power rocketry team even though it's my first time buildilng one. It's not too bad, considering it flew beautifully at a competition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Solar cars were extremely hard in the beginning, being a guy who was never ever interested in automobiles. It took a few months to finally get in the groove, among others figuring out ratchet straps and computer aided designing; but it was absolutely worth the effort -- I got to start the preliminary design of the air ducts that will intake air to regulate the battery temperature. Stargazing runs to the observatory one hour away. Ski trips to Wausau, WI with a local classmate of mine. Cycling to the local airport to fly a Cessna 172SP. I was having the time of my life.

 And boom -- I came, I saw and I conquered Australia; driving the support cars on the long and lonely road of the Stuart Highway. The preceding experience are no less amazing; working on the mold shaping in the factory of Cirrus, a light aircraft company; doing layups of carbon fiber at none other than the Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport, with huge airplanes in the room just beside us; being part of Daedalus, from design to build, and to race. Thinking back on the whole Daedalus thing, it is in a whole a pretty darn good adventure worthy of a motion picture - and I am ever so pleased that I was part of it.

The best part? My SolarCar Romance, Book 2 has just begun. And this time, I am one of the co-authors of the story.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Full Steam

Summer has come to pass. My internship here has also ended, amidst the chaos of the still-ongoing project and the warmth of the colleagues I've had. Nevertheless, the long nights are coming and there's no other way but to charge full steam ahead. 

Things to do while still in Malaysia:
  • Get textbooks 
  • Read up (even a little bit) about upcoming courses
    - AEM3031 Ch 1 & 2
  • Email lecturers about absence and ask for advice (4 classes) 
  • Prepare PTC co-op cover letter
  • Get Go-to pass 
  • Get phone number sorted out
  • Prepare for departure
  • Keep finding hotels for WSC
Things to do while preparing for WSC
  • Help out with packing, logistics, lodging plannings
  • CSE Career Fair 2013 - Target company : PTC Co-op (bro make sure you are prepared by then!)
  • Study study study
Things to do after WSC (Fall 2013)
  • Get a job that hopefully lasts through winter break - PTC Co-op > University jobs > Nova (last) 
  • Study study study, make up for lost time
  • Apply for JPL internship
  • Starting to do new solar car design 
  • USLI 2013-2014
Spring 2014
  • Keep working, you have no money
  • Summer intern targets : PTC, ANSYS, Spirit Aerosystems, Cirrus Design
  • USLI Rocket Competitions 
  • SVP Solar Car Design and Analysis, summer races
  • Find professors to do (part-time) summer research help
Summer 2014
  • Internships if available
  • SVP ASC & FSGP 2014
  • Work
  • Unpaid summer research

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wake me up when summer ends

It's kinda unbelievable that in the course of a few years, Facebook has literally replaced every other thing on Earth. Messaging friends, posting snippets of thoughts a.k.a. 'status updates', uploading pictures (although the resolution kinda sucks), not to mention many other portions of the Internet. We are actually good to go if the Internet consists of Facebook alone and no other website. However, the quick and easy status updates of Facebook can never replace the organized, well-thought-out and literary aspects of blogging.

And yeah, so. Here I am.

Summer 2013 is coming to an end swifter than I knew it. Being at work, it splits your sense of time up into chunks of weeks, with every weekend at work feeling like every evening when you're in college. Time has sped up 7 times for me this summer.

Yet, it has also been a largely fruitful summer. My interning in Malaysia this summer brought me lots of experience working in industry, experience with actual aerospace designing tools, and stress analysis applying the exact methods and formulas I learnt and brushed off after the finals in college. By far I enjoyed learning CAD (computer aided design) the most, although I am as of now kinda sick of the blue background of CATIA after facing it for the 5th week in a row. Here's a screenshot of CATIA, with an imaginary canoe turned light airplane.

While I'm here slaving over Flabels and CATIA though, the awesome people in my solar car team finished our 11th solar car - Daedalus! I was there for the most part of the shell building, but the mechanical innards of this pearly white beauty was largely built in the summer. Over the course of one year, we progressed from designing, to analysing parts, to actually building this guy. Looking back, it was one hell of a crazy ride - but the craziest is still yet to come. Isn't she a beauty? :D

To be honest, I wished with every single bone of my existence to join them in their building of the car parts - the rollcage, the chassis, everything. Seeing the car completed is so relieving, as it is also heartening. One of the times where I curse the planet for being a little too big and the planes for being too slow and too expensive. 

Oh well, what's done is done, and I really hope that this guy gets to Australia in one piece! Wish us luck for the race too! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Picture featured is the new Airbus A350-XWB taking off in its first flight last Friday, in France. 

Just ended my third week interning at Strand Aerospace Malaysia, and it has been an enjoyable learning experience so far. 

As the all-i-can-do-i'll-do intern, I have been given tasks ranging from quality management to sitting in workshops with recent graduates to learn how to be a stress engineer. What that was most surprising to me is the amount of detail that goes to every work done in the company. Sure, it's aerospace, but the amount of detail that goes into writing stress dossiers, working with civil aviation, even running a company take lots of planning and strategizing.

Strand has also sparked in me a modest interest in civil aviation aircraft - namely the two giants: Airbus, Boeing and their range of products. A lot of engineers, working in the background, is essential for the design, to manufacturing, to selling, to certifying the aircraft before it can take you to the skies. Still in my opinion, space exploration is what we need to do, and small, civil general aviation aircraft (hooked on them during semester 2) are goddamn sexy.

Sometimes it's pretty fun seeing where I came from. From the dreamy small town of Kerteh, Terengganu (albeit with a huge oil refinery and one of the most well-equipped small-town airports in the world), to this industrial suburb of Balakong and studying in Kajang, then towards A-Levels in the heart of the capital, then to the University of Minnesota, MN USA. Doing A-Levels I began to rekindle my interest in space exploration, and in Minnesota exposure to real engineering got me hooked too, and in my job now the applications of what I've learnt in school is immeasurable.

But still I'm learning, and growing to become a good engineer. :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

UMN Semester 2 - Learn and Earn

Earlier this semester I quit my job at the Nova Module Factory at the U. I feel like I don't get a lot out of it, doing labour for 10 hours a week without gaining anything. Sure, the first few days you get to know the factory and the process, the chemicals they use but that's about it. Looking back now, I am sure I made the right decision. Engineering is so much more than just work! 

The biggest thing this semester is that I am now involved with the most awesome bunch of engineers ever - at the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project. As a (Mystical Council of) Aerodynamics team member, I got to oversee the whole process of making a solar car shell, from the initial mold cutting at Cirrus, Duluth, to sanding, to carbon fibre layups at the Delta Composite Shop at MSP Airport. 


And of course there’s the design part! Slowly but surely I am picking up CAD skills along the way, designing the ventilation system for the new car. Here’s my baby project on the solar car. It conforms to the geometry of the solar car, since it is to be attached to the shell!


One thing I regret is not being able to join the team on our car, Daedalus’ trial run at the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin TX this June as I am involved with an internship back home. All the best to my team!

Back in February I promised myself that if I can be involved in a new project, I will get out of Nova. UMNSVP doesn’t count since I am already involved from last Fall. Well, the new project came in the form of Ad Astra – the ‘open’ team for the Wisconsin Regional Launch Competition’!

rocket 20130425_17105020130427_10271920130427_11340820130427_11353420130503_160147

Formed just two months ago with a bunch of aerospace engineering students at various levels in their studies, we managed to piece together a rocket that flies to 2690 ft! From design phase to construction to competition day, every week there’s something new to do. It also opens me to the world of high-power rocketry, something I never even dream of back home.

For the launch, four members of the team including me travelled for 5 hours to Milwaukee, WI. In the middle of spring, that launch weekend was especially pleasant to us who was in 5 straight months of Minnesota winter. The competition is to get the rocket as close as possible to 3000ft, with the accepted range in between 2500-3500 ft. Our rocket achieved 2690ft, still lower than our simulated height but we were satisfied. To everyone and especially our team lead, Chris – great job, guys!

Looking back at the semester, I am indeed glad that I made that choice. Although it does make my semester all the more hectic and tiring, the effort was worth it, and it opens new doors to more exciting projects! Although I can’t wait for this semester to end right now.

This summer I’ll be back in Malaysia with an internship in a local aerospace company. I am looking forward to learn and do more engineering! Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Return to Baylor Park and First Comet Ever!!


They said that it was the few times in MAS history that stargazing is conducted in snow. Nevertheless, it is a huge change from the usual greens and browns that greeted me when I was here last year, and oh boy how glorious it was.


In the backdrop is the newly-built Sylvia A.Casby Observatory, housing simultaneous a 12-inch f/3 Takahashi Mewlon (which I heard was a used telescope donated by someone), and a 8-inch TMB-APO both on an El Capitan Astro-Physics mount. Note that there is a pier extender too that allows observation at low horizons.

If you don’t know what these are, just note that these are good stuff. Really good stuff.


And there’s Comet PANSTARRS! Like usual, captured on the awesome live video feed connected to a Celestron C14. The upper pic is when the sky is still slightly bright, and the lower one is at about its maximum brightness when the Sun is down. Clouds appeared after and swallowed the comet before it got below the horizon.

This would be my very first observed comet ever. Although it is not as bright as expected, I managed to find it myself with the naked eye, and also by using a 10x50 binoculars courtesy of MAS President and my astornomy sifu Dave Falkner. Dave is very kind, allowing me to hitchhike from Minneapolis to Baylor Park for a few times already, and sharing lots of stories about his astronomy pursuits from Indianapolis to California to Minnesota where we are now. He has also published a book about constellations and the related Greek mythology, how cool is that?!

There is some news circulating around that Comet PANSTARRS may be breaking up into pieces. That would be interesting to view over the next few weeks. Unfortunately the next Onan Public Star Party lined up is two weeks later and by then the comet will dim to about magnitude 4-5, making it impossible to spot with the naked eye.

There are more stuff than we will be able to see in the winter sky – but the wind chill brought the temperature down to 0 Fahrenheit tonight so most of us left after the comet disappeared. Here are some pictures of the other observations we did – The Moon and the Horsehead Nebula. They are all quite awesome! :D


Friday, February 22, 2013

On The Leading Edge

Let me show my school pride just for once.

It's not Caltech, it's not Stanford nor MIT, but its a hell of a huge place that lets us undergraduates do whatever the hell we want.

Including 12 feet wingspan airplanes, solar cars, model rockets among the other things I fawned over.

It's hard, it's mostly self-discovery and self-taught things that is not handed to you by your lecturer on a silver plate. However once you get the hang of it, the benefits are huge. And it puts you in a club of the 'in the know' people with more chances to join in more and more exciting endeavours. It's a stairway to more fun.

Going to a good school doesn't mean you will reap all the benefits automatically. You have to work for it. : )

P/S The University of Minnesota is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world, and in the world for Science and Engineering courses. The Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Graduate Program is ranked 4th in the United States. Just saying.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My SolarCar Romance

Track No.1 – Foam Gets In Your Eyes



Life in the Solar Vehicle Project shop – there’s always something to do. Right now, we’re in Stage 1 of building a solar car, which is making the molds to make the solar car body. Yeap, these aren’t parts of the solar car, just the base. Sometimes, in the middle of all these chaos, we wonder if we’re even building a solar car lol.

Solar Car guys have the chance to learn all about the mighty Creo, which inscribes all the essential proportions and designs of the solar car we’d always dream of. People in the Aero Team learn to use all sorts of glue, glue and more glue – most of them courtesy of the almighty gluemaker 3M. Really, you have no idea how many more sorts of glue are out there in the world. And of course machining is a big part of building a solar car, something I’m glad to experience and would like to do more practice on!

So take a tour of the SVP folks’ crib, and like us on Facebook! We’ll bring you more updates on D1 as the year progresses, hopefully in time for WSC 2013!