One afternoon in early September, Carnegie Mellon University was busy with students even though it was raining outside.
The school campus on Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was unlike September 2020. Last year the university was empty after COVID-19 restrictions kept most students at home.
After a year in which many students were working from home, the eating and study areas were again full of people – all with face masks indoors.
Last September, Zac Manchester was in his freshman year as an assistant professor at the school’s Robotics Institute. Carnegie Mellon is known for its science and technology programs.
Manchester came to Pennsylvania from Stanford University in California, where he taught aeronautics or flight science.
Manchester communicated via video links with one of its former Stanford students during the 2020-2021 school year. They were working on a project that developed a series of small satellites known as CubeSats. The satellites each weigh about one kilogram.
Manchester watched Max Holliday build the CubeSats in his California kitchen. Manchester said Holliday did “pretty heroic, insane things trying to get the satellite”. Things to fly.”
The three-person team prepared the satellites so that they could be included in a SpaceX rocket that was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 24, 2021. In orbit, the satellites work together as a group, for example to take photos and communicate using radio signals.
“Accepted circumstances, we did a pretty good job [the work] done, ”said Manchester.
Now Manchester looks back on that time. Could the satellite project have done better with more personal testing? Yes sir. Did it work out well enough? Yes sir.
“We built some satellites and took them into space with a team of three, with one person doing most of the hardware work from their kitchen. Everything considered; I think we deducted something that was pretty impressive that we made it. “
Now that he and his new students are working together in Pittsburgh, the first goal is catch up about working in the “real world”.
Manchester and its students spent most of 2021 writing computer instructions and making computer-based predictions about how robots and Drones Move. These are called computer simulations. Now they need to find out if their predictions were correct by testing them with real robots in the laboratory.
Manchester said he was never surprised when robots “faceplant or crash” the first time.
“And this is known in the professional world as ‘Sim-to-Real’. gap. The simulators are cool, but they never really reflect reality. And there is always a little extra ‘Pitfalls‘when you’re trying to do something in the real world.
Manchester said he and his students could do a lot of work via video, even with some working outside of the US in their home countries.
By the summer, they had completed most of the programming and simulation. In September, even his students who had been outside the United States were in Pittsburgh. That allows his lab to “make a pretty big push this fall to get our stuff working on real hardware,” he said.
In the courtyard in front of the Robotics Institute, Bart Duisterhof, a Ph.D. Student from the Netherlands, spoke to VOA about his goals. He wants to find a way to cut the cost of robots so the average person can buy one and make life “more like a science fiction movie”.
Science fiction is short for science fiction and means imaginative films or books about the future.
He once worked in the aerospace industry but then moved to Carnegie Mellon to learn more about computer science and robotics. Duisterhof also said he wanted to test his ideas in the real world.
“Because maybe we’re only designing something that only works in the simulator, and when we discover it [that] In 20 years, that’s a pretty big problem. “
Evan Cohen is a master Pittsburgh student. He said he looked forward to getting back to work personally because scientists often solve problems by accident. Video calls help people stay in touch, but they don’t allow scientists to look around a laboratory and see what other people are working on. It is much better to be on campus, where students and professors can talk about their projects in buildings and while eating.
“A lot, I think, just works side by side with someone and something just comes out of nowhere. For me this is one of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had. You get an idea that you didn’t have before. “
“What is such a thing?”
Cohen explained that he and his classmates were trying to help a robot detect barriers. When meeting via video, they were unable to fix the problem. However, when they met in person and began “handcraft“With the robot it was easier to“ guess and check ”your ideas.
“I’ve been online for a full year so I’m happy to have a semester personally, ”he said.
I am Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English based on his coverage in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mario knight jr. was the editor.
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Words in this story
Things – n. (informally) used to talk about things you don’t specifically describe
circumstances – n. (pl.) how something happens; the specific details of an event
deducted – v. Do something successfully (informally)
impressive – adj. Worth paying attention to; remarkable
catch up – n. do something that you could have done before
drone – n. some kind of small airplane that flies without a pilot
gap – n. a difference between two things or groups
cool – adj. (informally) approved by; address in a generally accepted manner
Caught – n. (informally) an unexpected problem or an unpleasant surprise
Ph.D. (PhD) – n. the highest degree from a university or college
Master’s degree) – n. a degree that is usually awarded to a student from a college or university after one or two years of additional studies following a bachelor’s degree
handcraft – v. trying to fix or improve something, e.g. B. a machine by making small changes
semester – n. one of two normally 18-week periods that make up an academic year at a school or college