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 Facebook.com; 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.

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