The Intern Diaries: Suzanne Patt

Suzanne PattSuzanne Patt is a senior computer science major from Manitowoc, WI studying Wireless Sensor Networks this summer at Texas State University. She is one of four Ripon College students sharing their stories of research internships and jobs over the course of this summer.

June: Research, Field Trips, and Floating Down a River
July 2nd, 2013

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been here a month already! This past month has been a whirlwind of new experiences. My lab partner and I have made progress on our project; I’ve taken field trips to two amazing places and explored the local attractions.

My project focuses on wireless sensor networks. Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are groups of nodes set out in an area with the sole purpose of monitoring the area. They have a wide area of applications, but their most notable application is security. My partner and I are focusing on a specific type of WSN called a barrier network. These WSNs consist of nodes that are spread out over a barrier to detect for intruders. Our goal for our project is to explore various algorithms that have been designed to create effective coverage, and see if we can add to them to make them more energy efficient. We run our simulations in a program called MATLAB. The program comes with its own programming language, so a couple days were spent learning the differences between the MATLAB code and the C++ that I’m familiar with. Our first presentation went well, and our second presentation is next week. After that we have a third presentation as well as a poster presentation at the end of the summer. We still have so much that we want to accomplish, I hope we can get it done on time!

Two weeks ago, my research group took a field trip to the Southwest Research Institute. It was amazing! They showed us so many different projects, as well as having speakers from different divisions come and give presentations about their experiences working at SwRI. My favorite project was their autonomous vehicles. They showed us YouTube clips of their various vehicles, and then we actually got to go and see them! We saw a little robot that was still in the designing phase, but whose eventual goal would be to fix power lines. The number of different divisions and projects that were being researched at any one time was astounding. SwRI, or somewhere similar, would definitely be the type of place I would want to work one day!

We also took a field trip to IBM in Austin. We started our day with a presentation about all the different ways that IBM encourages their employees to give back to the community. I really liked learning about the different programs available to IBM employees and how IBM is always looking for new ways to improve communities across the world. Our tour was very interesting. I saw multiple rooms filled with racks of servers. I was amused when we were told that the air conditioning was specifically for the comfort of the machines, and not the people. Later in the day, we were given a presentation about the bigger projects that IBM has had a hand in developing, including WATSON, Blue Brain (software to mimic the thinking power of a cat brain), and gaming consoles like the PS3, the Xbox 360, and the Wii. I thought one of the neatest parts of the day was lunch because numerous employees were able to tell us about their projects while we ate. One of the most interesting people to listen to was the guy who was a lead developer for the PS3. Again, I really liked the diversity of people and projects. I think it would be hard to get bored at a job where your goals and projects are always changing!

Finally, while the research is interesting and the field trips are cool, my favorite part of being down in San Marcos for the summer is exploring the local sights. My friends and I went on a glass bottom boat tour of the spring that feeds the San Marcos River. The water in that lake is cleaner than the EPA standards for drinking water! We also went and spent a day exploring Austin, which ended up with us playing mini-golf. It was all kinds of silly fun. Another neat experience was tubing. We brought a cooler and tied all of our tubes together and spent an afternoon floating down a river. It was very relaxing! The weather here has cooled off this week, leaving us back in the low 90’s instead of the 100+ temperatures of last week. We still haven’t figured out our 4th of July plans yet, but I’m sure it will be a blast! All and all, this last month has been one of the neatest experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer brings!

Until next time,

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