Tuesday, January 31, 2012

UK Flapjacks > US Flapjacks

The packaging from a UK Flapjack.  I would have a picture of the Flapjack itself, but I ate it too fast.  
So I was having a discussion with Ben Wood last week about a British pastry called a Flapjack.  I told him that these were pancakes (as what they are called back home).  He thought that was really weird.   We had a small battle about this on Facebook.  He posted a good looking recipe: UK Flapjack Recipe.  And today, at lunch, he brought me one.  I have been feeling really bad, with not much of an appetite, so I didn't eat it until I got home from my module tonight.  IT. WAS. AMAZING.  Of course, anything with 22% pure butter probably should be, but it did make me feel a little better just for a bit.
Now, I've taken some NyQuil, which should be knocking me out momentarily, so I can get a good chunk of sleep before the module tomorrow morning.
Thanks Ben for sharing!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

First Day of First Module

So I'm off for a busy busy week!  I start my first module for my Master's in Entrepreneurship and Innovation today (the Master's that is attached to my EngD degree).  It starts in 30 minutes and runs every day this week from 9am to 6:30pm, with an hour for lunch.  Friday we do get done at 5pm.  A module is like a class/course back home.  I am taking Collaborative Product Development, which is an elective course (not one of the 7 core courses for the degree).  Jay suggested it would be a good course to help me with the PLM and Open Source Hardware Design I am currently researching.
I was lucky to get a ride from one of the other EngD students in my office this morning, Nikki, who is currently working on finishing up her EngD and is in the writing phase.

I had a VERY busy weekend.  I went to Leamington on Saturday to find a birthday present for my mom (I found one, but her birthday isn't until February 17, so I can't tell!) and ended up hanging out with some of the guys that live in my apartment building.  They are all post-grad students, working on various Masters at Warwick.  The guy across the hall from me, D, is from Singapore and seems like he will be a very good running partner for me (fast!).  Then there is Miki, from Bosnia down the hall (who grew up in Germany because of the war in the 90s), D's roommate is from Taiwan (I don't want to mess up the spelling, so I'm going to check on that) and there is another guy from Greece as well.  We cooked dinner (lamb...mmmm) and talked about a whole range of topics...from American politics (everyone knew more about American politics than I would guess 90% of Americans even know) to economics.  It was very interesting to get a global perspective on what we do back home.  I am really starting to see the difference between the British and Europeans.

Then yesterday, I went to church and went to a luncheon after church, where I met more members of the church and found out about a community centre in Kenilworth that sounds like a cool place pretty close to my flat.  Last night, I made a big pot of soup for the week (since I have long days and won't want to do too much cooking when I get home) and did laundry.  I also rearranged my bedroom a bit, so I'll have to get some pictures up soon!  Maybe tonight, if I'm not too wiped out!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cabinets and eBooks

So it has been a couple of days since I blogged, so just thought I would post an update.  Lots going on!
On Tuesday, we got a cabinet delivered in the office that needed to be built, so I helped Ruth get started on it.   Nick and Tom came in and also helped.
Ruth, working on the cabinet door hinges, and Tom in the background, supervising.
Tom, working on the same hinge that Ruth was working on earlier......

The finished (and currently empty) cabinet, out in the hall outside the office.  Eventually, it's going to display things for the Sustainability research group, like awards and such.

Back of the cabinet is a mirror.  Look!  It's my new boots.  :)
Last night, I headed out to the pub with my advisor and some other guys from WMG, to celebrate Daz's and Neil's birthday (two of the guys that work at WMG).  I enjoyed one Guinness + Port (not realizing that it was a £7 drink...thanks Steve!) and one regular Guinness.  Guinness here is much tastier than home.  Anyway, it was quite a fun time.  I got to chat with several of the guys about America and different places and whatnot.  I definitely enjoy the British sense of humour.  I was also introduced to some bar food last night.  Pork Scratchings, where is kinda like Pork Rinds, but way worse, were had.  Along with various roasted nuts, which I liked much better, and finally, Wasabi peas.  I have pictures of these, which I'll post later.

At lunch today, Stuart and Ben had a game of darts in the lunch room, which I took pictures of.  Ben won today, but only by a bit!  :)

Ben, playing darts!

Stuart playing darts!
On the work side of things, I found the library after Steve suggested that I do some reading on PLM as a whole.  The library here is completely self service- I found the books I wanted online and then found them from the directory and was even able to check them out myself!  Most of the books I can have until May, but two of them were 3 day check outs.  I found one of them online, in PDF form, however, through the library website, and got it onto my Kindle.  It's a pretty interested book so far, and I am finding some correlation between what I've been reading on Open Source Hardware Design and PLM.

I will post more in detail about that later as well.  Want to read a bit more first before I discuss it.

Anyway, that's it for now!  Post again soon!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hockey! (and Lamb..)

Well, I was out pretty late last night, but the game was a fun experience.  We lost (kinda badly) but it was still interesting to watch.  Before the game we went the the Dirty Duck, which is a pub on campus that also sells food.  I had a burger and a Guinness.  The guys from the Formula Student team I was going with were Murray, Sagar, and Quirin.  Murray's roommate, Dave, joined us there and we all went in Murray's car to Coventry to the Ice Stadium.  We got to the stadium about an hour before the game started, so we hung out in the pub attached to the stadium for a bit.  They segregated the University of Warwick students from the Coventry University students by making us use separate entrances.  Since we were coming from the away team, we weren't allowed to use the front entrance.  They also split the seating in half in the stadium, so Warwick people sat on one side, while Coventry people sat on the other side. 
The teams warm up before the game
I got to wear Murray's extra hockey jersey, since he also plays (but not on the varsity team) which was a 2XL and went down to my knees.  I'm sure I looked ridiculous.  Murray took a picture of me on his phone, I'll post it when I get it from him.

The zamboni!!
The zamboni came out after the warm up and resurfaced the ice.  I think it would be fun to be a zamboni driver.  :) 
After the ice was ready, we all stood for the national anthem.  I was glad to find out I knew the tune- they were playing My Country, Tis of Thee!  Which apparently, we stole and changed the words to.  Oh well, I sung the words I knew.... :)
Here's the version I know:

And here's the actual song:

Playing hockey.  University of Warwick players are in the blue jerseys.

Warwick team huddle.
In the first period, Warwick only scored once...but Coventry scored 6 times.  A valent effort was made in the remaining two periods, but the final score was 10-5, Coventry.
Final score.
Overall, though, it was a fun experience.  I had fun taking pictures and trying to understand all the chants and whatnot.  The wave was done through the crowd several times, which is always fun as well.  After the game, Murray was kind enough to give me a ride home, so I didn't have to bike at midnight. 

Anyway, I also meant to post the picture of the lamb roast I tried the other night for dinner.  It was tasty.  Really tasty. 
I got a roll from the bakery, and made lamb gravy with a hint of mint from a mix. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Perfect Weekends

Well, I've had a pretty calm weekend, but have been keeping myself fairly busy!  Yesterday, I slept in (it was glorious) and decided I was going to go to the coffee shop downstairs and read my kindle and treat myself to a cinnamon latte.  (which is still more manly than a vanilla latte- who gets those?)  Before I hit the coffee shop though, I was distracted by a shoe sale at one of TWO shoe shops in the square.  (and I was worried I didn't pack enough shoes).  I was checking out the sale shoes, and another customer started chatting with me about a particular pair...then asked me if I was from Ireland.  Don't know how one mistakes my accent for Irish, but I'm going to take that as a compliment.  Anyway, I found a lovely pair of boots on sale in size 4.  I didn't know my UK size, so I went in to see if the boots would work.  I got properly sized, and found out I am exactly a size 4 in UK sizes, so therefore took that as a sign that I was meant to get the boots.  They are quite comfy and a quick check online found that I got them for £5 cheaper than they could be found online.  WIN!
Then, I made my way to the coffee shop and settled in to reading for a bit
So relaxing....
After reading for a bit, I thought I would go shopping up and down the main street, just to see what was around and try to find something for my brother, Graham, who's birthday is February 3rd.  I happened to find him the PERFECT gift, and I'm really excited about it.  However, I don't want to ruin the surprise, so I'll take a picture of it and post that on his birthday.  I need to figure out how to post it, which I will do sometime this next week.  I also found a yarn and craft shop, which is dangerous.  I got some yarn and a crochet needle so that I could make a headband that I had wanted to make for a while.  I ended up making two last night, because they were so quick and easy to make.  Here's where I got the pattern from, which my friend Leslie passed onto me: Headband pattern.
Here's a pic of my headband...well one of them.  I still need to find a button for the second one I made.
I crocheted this with merino blend wool yarn I found at the little craft shop.  So cute.  Leslie will love the shop when she comes to visit in March!
I also decided to have fun with cooking this weekend, I made a chicken, broccoli and gnocchi dish, with pasta sauce and fresh basil (and garlic and onions of course!).  I got some lamb for tonight, along with a bunch of veggies, I'm going to try to make some sort of roast, loosely following a recipe I found online.  I also tried out the bathtub in the second bathroom in my apartment last night, using some muscle soak bubble bath and salts I found at Boots (which is like a CVS).
I went to church this morning.  There was a visiting pastor who was quite good, discussing the value of small congregations in rural areas.  His main message was not to overlook the small!  Very fitting for me, I would say.  I also got to meet two automotive engineers as well, one retired.  The other one just got a permanent position at McLaren automotive and is only in Kenilworth on weekends.  I told them I would like to discuss their careers with them later, as I get more into my work at the University.
I then decided I was going to take my old bread down to the little pond in the park and feed the birds and try to get some neat pictures.  Here is what I came up with:
No fishing!  :)

This little guy was getting ready to jump

I thought these roots looked cool.

I'm in love with these swans that hang out at the pond.


Pigeon...I think!
Well, I'm off for a run!  I'll post about how the lamb turns out later!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

I've had quite a busy Friday, but it's been good!  I spent the morning trying to make sure I was organized for meeting one of my advisors, Jay, to clarify a direction to be on track for a publication in the fall.  I met with him for about 30 minutes in his office, and I found that what I had sort of converged on- the idea of looking at specific businesses as case studies with open source hardware design- was about the same thing that he had in mind.  I feel a lot better about where I am going now, the next thing to clarify is finding the right tool, process, methodology to figure out what my measurables are for this paper and part of my EngD.  I am taking my first module (course) starting on January 30 (a week from Monday) for a week on Collaborate Product Development, so I am hoping I get some good ideas out of that that will allow me to go forward to write a good paper.  The literature review I've been doing over the last few days has not shown me very much in this area of research, so I will be a pioneer of sorts, which has pros and cons.  I also got to have lunch with Jay and another post grad student, Radu Sora (check out his blog here: Inner Sparks ).  Radu is also a new student, having just started in the fall and is also working with Jay.  He is originally from Romania, but spent some time recently in Norway, working for Thomson Reuters.
After lunch, I went down to the pits to see if I could catch anyone working.  I got to see a tube get notched for the roll cage yesterday.  I was lucky to catch Ryan, getting ready to take more measurements for the timing of the KTM engine we had worked on on Tuesday.  I got out my netbook to help take data, and Ryan proceeded to measure the intake and exhaust valves of the engine.

Here is the engine, all put together, with the measurement equipment all set up to take measurements on the valves
After taking measurements, I hung out around the pits for a bit, talking with a lot of the guys on the team.  I signed up to go to a hockey game in Coventry on Monday night, so that should be an interesting time. 
I also was asked to post a picture of the car, that is in the pits.  It is technically still last year's car, that the group is taking apart and re-working.  Here is a current picture of it:
The Formula Student car.  The group is making a role cage, and also modifying the engine to run on E85 this year.  They also hope to find sustainable alternatives to carbon fiber for the frame. 
So that's what is going on with that right now.  I'm sure I'll be learning a great deal more as I continue working with the team.

In other news, I found the tastiest juice at the grocery, so I just thought I'd end with a picture of that.  :) 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Rainbow

So it's a lovely morning here in the UK!  I biked into work again this morning, I'm getting my time down.  Took me just under 30 minutes this time- I'd like to eventually get it down to 20 or so.  There was quite a lovely rainbow from the view of my desk this morning, so I thought I would share:

Cloudy, yet sunny!  (just one, not a double)
Anyway, I'm going to continue working on the PTC software, then see what's going on in the pits, then read some more.  Grab some lunch somewhere in there, and possibly go for a run at some point (I've brought all my gear).  There is an event in Leamington tonight, not sure if I'm up for going yet or not.

I also got a very interesting article, written by an astrophysicist and his wife, about comparing the space race with the current "race" in new energy technology.    (check it out here : Why "But We Walked on the Moon!" doesn't mean what they think it does )You really should read the entire article, but I really enjoyed this quote, towards the end:

"It is here, i think that the parallels between the Moon Shot and our current need to make an energy transition are clearest and most important. We picked, for the purpose of political distraction, a goal that actually took us away from being an effective presence in space - by focusing on something that looked impressive but didn't get us anywhere important and that we knew couldn't easily be generalized, we failed to hit the "bullseye" of an actual "space age" in which manned space flight was meaningfully integrated into our future."

Anyone who has known me the past few years knows my passion for and work with the renewable energy industry (and subsequent frustrations with the current course of things).  I think this commentary hits the nail on the head- we just can't sit back and expect the technology to be developed and anticipate a seemless transition from on infrastructure to another.  We all have to be active participants in this fundamental change to our way of life- ON A GLOBAL SCALE- if we are going to be able to transition at all.  

I admit, as an American (and a human being in general), I don't like the idea of much changing in my daily life.  However, I've moved to an area of the world where energy is a bigger commodity than back home (a gallon of gas (petrol) is almost $10, compared to our $3.50 right now, they pay about $0.20-$0.25 per kWh, where I was paying $0.09-$0.12 in Indiana).  The way they live here is different from home, but I think fundamentally, is not any less comfortable.  I still have access to hot shower, my commute (on a bike!) is only about 30 minutes one way, and I think they do it all with considerable less energy than we use in the States.
I look forward to any discussion on this, feel free to post in the comment section!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just put a V8 in it

So I didn't post about working with the Formula student team yesterday, but I really had a great time.  I worked with Ryan Kenyon, a 4th year student working on the team.
FYI about the team and university structure in the UK:
After high school (13 grades or years here) students go onto University (Uni) for 3 years to get their bachelors, and then can do an additional year (at least in the Engineering programme and I think some other programmes as well- like business) to get their Masters.  The Formula One team at Warwick is structured entirely of 4th year Masters students- that is students that have stayed an extra year after their bachelors to get a masters in engineering- be it mechanical, automotive, etc.  They have to do a group project as 25% of their course work, and if they are selected to be on the Formula student team (there is a highly technical selection process, I'm told), that is their project, along with 75% of coursework (known as Modules) here.  So, correct me if I've gotten any of this wrong, or missed anything, but I think that's generally the gist of how things seem to work.

Anyway, I got to work on a KTM 525 cc, 1 cylinder, 4 stoke engine, that had been modified to 600 cc.  A single cylinder engine is usually used in smaller applications, like smaller motorcycles and dirt bikes, because it is a simple engine, easy to maintain and work on.  It offers a lot of torque (thus giving motorcycles like the Suzuki Savage the classification as torque-y) but it doesn't really produce a lot of horsepower or high RPMs as other engines, such as a 4 cylinder.  A KTM bike with approximately an engine of that size would look like this:
This is a KTM dirt bike, with a 525 cc, single cylinder, 4 stroke engine in it.  Source: www.kevingerard.com/CoolDirtBikes.htm
So, the point of this motor (consider they already had a engine for the car, this was a back up used engine they had purchased as a back up) was to make sure it was running properly, check the timing on it, etc.  Now, I have a very rudimentary practical knowledge of engines, though I can theoretically (for the most part) understand how they work, this was the first time I ever got to really touch the bits of one.  We were putting on two of the valves to test the timing of the engine.  (Didn't get that far yesterday, though got a lot of the pieces fit together).
It was really interesting, and we had a great guy helping us, David Cooper, a technician who I think worked at Honda for a number of years.  His knowledge of engines was ridiculous, I hope I retained about 10% of what he told me about what was going on.  It was pretty interesting.  Also, come to find out that David was an Aston Villa fan, which was the soccer (Football) team I got to see play with folks from Birmingham when I went to London in August, so it was good to meet a fellow fan.  I might see about going to a few more games with him.  His son plays in the Villa league, in the under 12 division and shows a lot of promise as a footballer!
Anyway, here is a pic of the engine, in pieces, but I helped fit some of the pieces together!
This was where the valves were in the engine.  See how two of the four are in place, with lighter springs for testing.  There are beefier springs that are put in place to actually run the engine.
Today, I spent time working on getting the latest PTC software downloaded onto the super computer at work, and reading a lot of journal articles on topics of open source hardware design and action research.  I had a nice chat with Steve about the direction of my research and I have a personal goal to have a few ideas brainstormed by Friday about possible publication ideas, so I can get a publication out in the fall.
So that's about it in my world today!  Post again soon!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Famous American Cranberries

So I biked to and from campus yesterday, which took me about 30 minutes each way.  It wasn't too bad, especially when I started shifting gears on the hills....there aren't really steep hills here...just long ones.  I'm not nearly as sore (like not really at all) as I anticipated I would be from that today though.  I am excited to use my bike a few times a week to get to and from campus, it's a pleasant ride and I really enjoy it.

I decided last night as well that I was getting sick of microwave dinners from Waitrose (though they are indeed tasty) and that I was going to make chicken and vegetable soup.  I got all the veggies from the store (carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, onion) and used my new small pot to make a very delicious soup.  I also got some cookies for afterwards- the cookie (biscuit) selection was huge!  I finally decided upon white chocolate cranberry cookies (which were perfect with a glass of milk before bed).  They had "famous American cranberries" in them.  I didn't realize that our cranberries were famous!  :)
THE FAMOUS (!)  American Cranberries. 
Today, I am going to go work in the pits (where the Formula One car is being built) and learn how to do some of the work on the car.  I also am going to start working on helping to maintain and organize their website.
Post again soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Double Blogging

Just a quick note:
I set up a blog with the University of Warwick as well, to be in their system and connect.  Check it out here:


A Tipping Point

When I had dinner with Ben Bowlby last Wednesday, he mentioned a series of YouTube videos done by this guy.  These videos are done by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, an organization that has been around for approximately 250 years.  There is one on energy use that I've seen a while back, that is interesting, but I particularly found this one interesting this weekend.  It's about our educational systems and I think a lot of the ideas presented will be playing a role in my work the next few years here.  The video's a bit long, about 12 minutes, but it will definitely keep your interest.

A lot of ideas are presented in the video, about education systems as a whole, but I particularly liked the Divergent Thinking, in the last few minutes of the video, and the discussion of collaboration in education and creativity.  I've been looking at Hacker Spaces, on recommendation from a friend, which are physical places where people can meet to learn, socialize and collaborate on projects.  Here are some links to Hacker Spaces in the UK:
I think it might be interesting to check some of these places out, see how they function, see how people collaborate in person and what is being accomplished, then see how to extend these types of collaborations to an online medium. 

Another thought that was presented to me today from Dr. Goodman back at IUPUI was the idea of maybe doing a case study of open source design with the senior design projects that MET and ECET senior students are required to do in order to graduate.

Anyway, that it's for now.  I rode my new bike into campus today!  Woot.  The hills seem a bit more intense than I anticipated...I am sure I will feel it tomorrow.  Ah, the joys of getting back into shape.

I have a meeting with the Formula One group this afternoon, where I shall figure out my role and see how I will be working with that project.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Church and Allotments

Just a short post today.
I went to the Methodist Church again this morning, it was a very nice service.  I met a very interesting woman named Jane (I'm trying to get better at remembering names!) who was telling me about an area sustainability group in the Kenilworth/Coventry/Warwick area.  She was talking about how they implemented various green activities around the area, like pushing for PV on residences.
Here is a picture of the church
The front door of the Kenilworth Methodist Church
 Jane was also talking about having an allotment, which is the little garden plots I took a picture of on my run yesterday.  She was saying this was a common thing to do, was to rent a small area of land for gardening.  So, that is what that is!

Tomorrow, I start working with the Formula One SAE group on campus...not quite sure what my role will be just yet on the team, but I will be trying to figure out how to get rid of the steep learning curve that occurs every year due to the complete turnover of the team members.  I hope to figure efficient and effective ways to allow for problems and solutions to be documents so that a sort of SOP can be developed and added to each  year.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pictures from a Run

So the weather today was just lovely, sunny and around 35 degrees F (1-2 degrees C).  I took some pictures on my run, so I'd thought I share them.

This is overlooking the park in the middle of Kenilworth, where there are some trails and paths around.

This was a plot of various gardens I found running down a side road in Kenilworth

Another view of the park

A small pond in the middle of the park.  Notice the swan couple out in the middle.

This was an old water tower that someone made into a house.  At night, there is a green light that goes around the top.
So anyways, it's quite lovely here, even though it is winter!  I got two cards in the mail today, one from my mom with pictures of Holly in her Mermaid costume...lol.  The other was a lovely card from my grandma.  I will have to take some of these cards into campus to decorate my desk!
I will post more soon!

I now have a bike! And other news!

So I suppose I should start at last night.  I headed to the Virgin and Castle, the oldest pub in Kenilworth and a very nice pub at that, to hang out with Steve and other people from Warwick.  I met the most interesting Welsh physicist named George, who still does research at the University of Warwick, but has retired from teaching.  He used to do work in plasma physics.  I also discovered that one can put a shot of port into a glass of Guinness and it is quite tasty.  I also chatted for quite a while with Alex, the son of one of the guys that comes into the pub, Andy and his friend Bex (short for Rebecca).  They were both in their early 20s, so it was interesting to get a different aged perspective.  I quite enjoy the Guinness at the pub, which you can get regular or extra cold.  I made the mistake of ordering it extra cold, which is apparently a tourist-y thing to do.  I shall know better next time.
Here is a picture of the part of the pub.  Note the half-full Guinness on the bottom.  Yep, that would be mine.  

This morning, Steve gave me a call and said he was able to go help me pick up my bike.  Nick Mallinson (I have to clarify because there is also Nick Higgins, who is another EngD student in my group) was very kind to drive me over to Halfords in Coventry to purchase a bike and a helmet, but they would have to assembly it (since I needed the 14" frame) so I had to go back to pick up the bike today.  I was glad to have taken Steve with me, he noticed a bit of the paint was scratched on the steel portion between the handlebars, which could lead to rust later on, and we had them replace that part.  Steve also brought his dog, Pepper, along on our adventure.  It was nice to have dog along, makes me miss Holly a bit.  Pepper is a six month old Labrador/Schnauzer mix and is a very well mannered dog.  She sat in my lap for much of the trip.
This is Steve's dog, Pepper.  She's a sweetheart.

So now I'm home, got my bike up to my flat easily (it's good to have an elevator/lift).  They put lights on the front and back, it came with a bell, I've got a pump attached and a lock!  I also got a decent helmet, so I am all good to start riding, though I think I am going to clean around the flat a bit, pick up a few things at the grocery, start some laundry and go for a run first.
This is my new bike, an Apollo Cosmo.  It's very light, with a 14" frame.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Organizing Ideas

This is in the main hall of the IDL building.  It talks about the PLM project with PTC, of which I am a part.

So I've been introduced to a lot of paths and ideas so far this week that I could go on for my EngD programme.  On Monday, I met with one of my advisors, Jay Bal and we discussed some ideas about open source hardware design, what it means and places to start investigating what is being done in that area.  A sub-area of that is the area of e-learning, looking at different models that work, testing drivers that motivate people to learn and succeed, and recognizing different drivers for different groups of individuals.  

On Wednesday night, I got to have dinner with the CTO of the Delta Wing Team, Ben Bowlby, who along with being a leader in motorsports design, is very interesting in looking at ways to apply the open source hardware design ideas and processes to the area of motorsports, to help make the innovation in this field more efficient and creative.  Today, I met Tim Brotherhood from PTC, my sponsoring company that is mentioned in the above picture from the IDL building, and was able to have a conference call with several individuals from WMG and PTC about discussion ideas and directive for my EngD.  What was mainly discussed today was PTC's involvement for over the past decade in a global education program that is working to motivate and rigorously education future scientists and engineers through educational outreach.   One of the projects that Tim was working with was a Real World Design Challenge, which is an engineering competition for high school aged students in the US.  Other projects I can and may look at are the Formula One SAE design competition that is taking place at Warwick, as well as the Electric Vehicle Grand Prix, which Warwick participated in last year, hosted at Purdue.  So, a lot of ideas, centered around education, open source hardware design and product life cycle management.  I am currently trying to get all these inputs organized for a meeting tomorrow to try to solidify a direction (know that it is likely to evolve and change, as is the case with a doctorate degree) and get started in a preliminary direction.  

This degree program, rather than being one big dissertation for me, will be made up of several case studies and ideas, unified by a central theme, which I think will be good to allow me to explore my many interests, especially around education and improving efficiency, while finding connectors throughout.  I'm sure I'll have a better understanding of all of this over the next few weeks, but this is where I'm starting this week.

I haven't forgotten about my colleagues and mentors back at IUPUI either.  The educational side of this project can have some neat project ideas for international collaboration in the future, I think, based on what I know they are working on there.  Purdue already has the Center of Excellence for PLM, which is why they are also a key player on board here.  

As far as living in the UK is going!  I am enjoying public transportation as much as one can, though I am looking forward to getting a bike soon.  The bus isn't bad, even with having to wait, though I may want to invest in a bus pass eventually.

I've been enjoying cultural discussions in the office as well, as I come to realize that I am one of many two or three Americans in all of WMG. (And I haven't met another American yet).  I am really grateful to all the input and advice I am getting from Stuart, Tom, James, Ruth and Kerry.  :)  I still really really love it here, I love the weather and the people and the food !  (Yes, the food has been pretty good!).  I will blog at some point about Stuart's sports passions, as he has shared much of that with me and it's pretty interesting.  

Ok, that's about all for now, I hope everyone is all caught up!
Post again soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Office

I meant to blog last night, but I got sleepy sort of early and was happy to have a whole night of uninterrupted sleep.  It was spectacular! 
I took pictures of my office yesterday.  I really like the desk I've been given, right next to a window!  (after the last nine months or so of a windowless office, this is quite nice).  I also have the option of working in the IDL building next to Jay Bal's office, so I may toggle back and forth, depending on who I will be working with for various projects.

This is my desk (there is Stuart sitting across from me).  I've got the computer working and everything.

This car is right behind my desk.  I got a picture of me sitting in it in August when I was here earlier.

The view from my desk.  Very lovely.
So a lot has been going on, I'm still settling in.  I ended up getting a landline in my apartment, on which I can recieve calls and dial the emergency number (999), but I don't make outgoing calls on.  I thought this was wise, since I'm currently living alone and I haven't seen or met any of my neighbors just yet.

Work-wise, I've been reading up on e-learning and open source hardware design, as much as I can between office chatter and lunches.  I'm finding this topic really interesting.  There is a motorsports conference today, and I may be having dinner with some of the people from there this evening to discuss more of what is going on with open source hardware design, so I am excited about that.

I am also looking into getting a bicycle soon, I've found the perfect one at a store called Halfords, it's quite light and has the right frame size for me and everything.  Nick Mallinson has offered to help me go pick it up sometime in the next few days, possibly tomorrow.

I've been riding the bus to campus since Monday.  I find that riding it in doesn't take too long.  Today, I had to wait about 20 minutes, but between waiting and riding and walking to the building, it took me 40 minutes, door to door to get to my desk today.  Not too bad, considering that was my normal commute in Indy, generally.  And I don't have to drive or own a car.  Getting a bike should reduce my commute time further.  Sometimes, depending on when I get to the bus stop, it's taken me as little as 20 minutes, door to door, which is fantastic, but not reliable. 

I finally went for a run around Kenilworth last night, it was quite pleasant. I'm really enjoying the weather here, it's perpetually autumn, which is my favorite season!

I was told today by one of my office mates, Tom, that apparently Lucky Charms is banned from being sold in the UK.  Which makes me quite sad.  I shall have to get some shipped from home. 
Well, that's all for now.  Post again soon!

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Official Day!

This is my student ID.  P/G stands for Post Graduate, the term for Graduate students over here.  Remember the dates go DAY/MONTH/YEAR, so its only valid until January 8, 2016

So today was my "official" start date, though I did go to campus on Friday for a bit.  I got up a bit late (sleep has been a bit tricky the past couple of nights, I think I am finally feeling the jet lag), but I still was able to make the bus at 8:30 am and was on campus around 8:50.  I went straight the University House, hoping to beat the queue (line) to get my student ID this morning.  When I got there, there was no line, so massive win!  However, I did have to wait a bit, since there were technical difficulties with the card printer.  No worries, though, at the end of it, I got my ID.  (see above)
I then walked to my office in the IMC (International Manufacturing Centre) building and called my advisor, Jay Bal, to speak with him about my project.  I went over to his building, IDL (International Digital Laboratory), which is right next door to the IMC.  There, we talked for about two hours about ideas for my EngD and where I will be starting.
I will be starting this week doing a literature review on what is going on in the area of open source hardware design.  Similar to the ideas of open source programming (like Linux), open source hardware design would be looking at the design of a product and contributing all sorts of perspectives to the design to optimize it.  I will eventually be using the Formula One SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competition here at the University as a case study for this.  Part of what I will be looking at as well will be the aspect of e-learning and how it can apply to open source hardware design.  I think what I have been doing previously at IUPUI with the online course development might give me some neat insight on this, but I also was given several directives from Dr. Bal that I will be exploring this week and seeing where it leads me. 
I am excited for this program.  It was really stressed today that this degree will be what I make of it.  I plan to make something really worthwhile and useful.  :)
Ok, I'm going to try to get some sleep now.  Hopefully my body starts to adjust to the local time soon.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Steve, the Persevering Spider

So, to continue my story of my journey a bit:
On Friday morning, at 9am, my advisor, Steve Maggs, was kind enough to pick me up and take me to campus, where I was able to get my desk sorted (for now), and apply for a bank account on campus.  Steve was having some issues with his car, so his wife and daughter ended up picking us up Friday afternoon.  His daughter is 7 years old, with the cutest little British accent of course.  At school on Friday, they apparently named a pet spider Steve.  But his name wasn't just Steve, it was Steve the Persevering Spider.  What does Steve the Spider do, you may ask?  He perseveres.  It was probably the coolest thing I've heard since I've been here.
I also was able to grab a couple of pints on Friday at lunch and in the evening with all sorts of university people, whose names I need to work on remembering, but it was quite entertaining.  I learned about a pub game called "Spoof."  This is where everyone has a choice of 0-3 coins they may choose, held secretly in their hand.  Depending on the number of people playing (i.e. 6) there is a maximum number of coins that may be in everyone's hand collectively.  The goal of the game is the exactly guess the number of coins in everyone's hands (collectively) in a round.  If you do, then you are safe.  The last person remaining must buy everyone a round of beer.  Quite an expensive loss, so I decided not to participate until I get my first paycheck. 

I found a Methodist church this morning as well, and enjoyed a nice little communion service.  I remembered to take my camera, so please enjoy some pictures of the area where I am living. 
More to come soon!
The closest grocery store.  Apparently, it's very posh.

Going into Talisman Square from Waitroise, headed towards my flat

One side of the square.  The entrance to my flat is just past the Clarks shoe store.

Other side of the square, they are going to add more shops, it seems.

The view from my flat, I can see the back of the grocery store! 

Additional view from my flat.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I made it!

So I am pretty much all settled into my flat!  It was a long journey, with lots of adventure and stories, but I am finally here, in my bedroom, on my netbook, writing my first blog post in the UK.

Here's a recap:
I spent the last few days before I left  trying to decide what stuff I could pack in my three suitcases and what needed to be left behind- extreme triaging.  I couldn't have done it without the help of my best friend, Melissa.  <3
I finally got up to Michigan around midnight on Tuesday, and my flight left at 8:15 pm on Wednesday out of Chicago.  My mom and my brother were taking me (which is good, because I had a lot of luggage).  My very good friend, Michael, also came along, because as I was working with all my stuff on Tuesday, I realized that it would not all fit in my car.  Michael was kind enough to drive it up separately in his truck and offered to also go to the airport, which was a huge help for my mom with all the driving. 

Once at the airport, we got some food and waited for my flight a bit.  I called AT&T to get the unlock code for my phone and to cancel my cell service.  (This means my cell number no longer works, but email and facebook always will!)
My mom, Graham and me at the airport

 When I got on the plane, I ended up sitting next to another American from the Chicago area who was also going to be studying abroad in the UK, at the University of Sussex.  We chatted for nearly the whole ride, except for about 2 hours when I tried to get some sleep.

Flying from Dublin to Birmingham, the sun was shining!
I had a few hour layover in the Dublin airport, which was a nice little airport with a bar and shops and whatnot.  I  had a half pint of Smithwicks (I WAS in Dublin afterall) even though it was 9 am, with my new friend David, who I chatted with on my first flight.  I also found some pay internet stations where I was able to log on and email my mom and some friends back home.

I was picked up at the airport by one of my graduate advisors, Steve Maggs, and the program manager of the research group at WMG, Nick Mallinson.  They got there just about the time I got all my luggage together, which was perfect timing.  They took me from Birmingham to campus to pick up my flat (apartment!) keys and then took me to Kenilworth, a little town up the road from campus where my flat is located.

My flat is actually a lot bigger and a lot nicer than I expected it to be.  One of the best things was having the internet all set up when I arrived.  I had been emailing with the Student Internet company before I came over and wasn't expecting it to be ready, but it was!  It was really great to be able to get online the first night in and Skype with my mom and others back home.

The apartment is all new.  I'd say its about 750-1000 square feet of space, with two bedrooms and two full bathrooms.  My bedroom has a bathroom attached to it, with a cool standing shower, while the hall bathroom has the full tub with shower.  Here are some pics of the place:
Looking into the living room

The kitchen, which is attached to the living room.  I need to get some bar stools!

This is really cool.  The box on the top is the boiler, which is essentially a tankless, gas powered water heater.  It heats my water AND the apartment, through radiators in each room.  The washer below is ALSO a clothes dryer, has setting for each.

The hall bathroom, with the full tub.  The toilet is flushed via a silver button on the wall

My bedroom, with my green duvet that Steve and Nick helped me pick out on my first night there!  It is essentially the most awesome blanket ever.

My bathroom

Looking down the hall to the living room from my bedroom
So, that is the apartment!  I am getting pretty sleepy now and I have been battling a cold since I left the States, so I will stop now, but much more to come soon!