School, Space, and Stuff

Oh man, I’ve really been neglecting my dear readers – it’s been a while since my last post! Luckily I have plenty on which to fill you in!

Beautiful shot of the new COAS and new Quad, courtesy of my friend Johanna Petrocelli.

Beautiful shot of the new COAS and new Quad, courtesy of my friend Johanna Petrocelli.

Spring semester is well under way, and I certainly understand why they call it the “semester of death” – five 300-level EP classes together aren’t easy! I’m learning things from designing camera lenses to programming microprocessors to how to design a satellite form the ground up, and boy is it a lot of material. College always has a point where it really hits you what your major is, which is usually around the third year. The first couple still feel pretty high-schooly course-wise, with general calculus and physics, maybe delving into some advanced mechanics like solids or fluids, but overall it’s very general. Once you start taking 300-level classes like Spacecraft Systems Engineering, you really start to get a look at what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life… and you better hope you love it! Which I really do.

It’s crazy to think that I’m almost done with my third year of college. My advisor has been dropping words like “thesis” and “GRE” and I’m just like, yeah but that’s way later – except it’s not anymore! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about grad school lately, and I think I’m going to do a PhD in Planetary Science, and have even started looking at some schools – really leaning towards UC Boulder; they have a great program, and Colorado is gorgeous. Nonetheless I still have two years left here at ERAU, so I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself.

Time does fly though, we’ve already started registering for fall classes. I’ll be taking three undergrad courses: Space Physics, Electricity and Magnetism, and Senior Design, as well as two grad courses: Advanced Planetary Science (excited for this one!) and a PhD course titled Computational Atmospheric Dynamics that my advisor teaches and talked me into taking (nervous for this one!) He says that PhD classes aren’t much harder, but he already has his PhD, so how can I really trust that? :P Nonetheless, it’ll be good knowledge to have for when I write my thesis, which will be on computational atmospheric dynamics, so I can see why he wants me in the class.

My work in the lab is going well. I’ve been working on learning FORTRAN to make some changes to our 1D wave model (yes, people do still use FORTRAN!) The other day I was able to successfully implement a feature that allows multiple simulations to be run in a row, without having to come back and reset the parameters. For example, we can run a 1 meter wave, a 2 meter wave, and a 3 meter wave all in a row, and then just get all the results at once to compare, rather than having to go back to the lab in between just to change one number and hit start. I’m very proud that I was able to get that working – FORTRAN is a very different beast from the modern-day programming languages I’m used to working with!

My parents and I at KSC!

My parents and I at KSC on my birthday

So what else has been going on with my life in the last couple months… Well, I turned 21 in February, and celebrated by (can you guess?) a trip to KSC! My parents came down to both visit me and escape the frozen wasteland, and it was a lot of fun. We did the Cape Canaveral: Then and Now tour, which was about 3 and a half hours of bussing around to different historical buildings and launch sites. We even got to go into a couple of the intact control rooms from which they controlled some of the first manned launches! It was a very cool tour, and a very fun birthday. And totally more fun than waking up the morning after your 21st birthday and not even remembering it (though I did go at midnight on my birthday for a long island iced tea at Applebees, so I didn’t completely ignore that right of passage.)

Me with Sally the Space Hamster

Me with Sally the Space Hamster

For my birthday I got a 1/200 scale model of the Saturn V rocket from my parents, which looks gorgeous next to my 1/200 scale model of Space Shuttle Discovery. I also got a lot of birthday money in the mail, which I used to purchase a new furry hamster friend (living alone gets lonely.) Her name is Sally, named, of course, after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and she is hilarious and adorable. I built her cage out of a plastic bin (trust me, I’m an engineer), and decorated it with lots of fun space stickers… which she keeps eating, but we’re working on that.

Some of the stickers that I have up in her cage

Some of the stickers that I have up in her cage

She likes her spaceship :)

She likes her spaceship :)

Teaching her to eat my homework

Teaching her to eat my homework



 

Obligatory picture of my boyfriend and I with Disney ears in front of the castle - that crane thing kinda ruined it though >:(

Obligatory picture of my boyfriend and I with Disney ears in front of the castle – that crane thing kinda ruined it though >:(

I also got to visit Magic Kingdom for the first time in February, and it’s name is well-deserved. It really is pretty magical, and very well-done. It was a super fun trip. I’ve also gotten to see a couple more launches in the last month – one from KSC, one from campus – and attended a really cool colloquium about weather on other planets. Planetary atmospheres are incredibly interesting, I could definitely see myself doing that for my PhD.

Me with Eric Whitacre! Composer extraordinaire

Me with Eric Whitacre! Composer extraordinaire

For those of you who don’t know me, beyond being a total space geek I’m also an avid musician. Well, used to be… my one dislike about ERAU is its lack of any music program. So, unfortunately, my saxophone sits neglected in my closet. Nonetheless, in high school I was in every possible band – music was my life (I even have a saxophone tattoo.) But I digress. Last week, my favorite band composer was in Orlando giving an informal Q&A at UCF, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket. Eric Whitacre! He’s unbelievably cool – and I told him that at the end when I got to meet him. His talk was both funny and inspiring; he told us stories of how he got inspiration for some of his pieces, and had a lot of advice for aspiring musicians. It was a fantastic evening, and really made me miss band. And I got him to sign one of my favorite band pieces. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: living so close to Orlando really presents a lot of opportunities! Because EVERYONE visits Orlando at one time or another. And it’s only about an hour drive.

Well, I guess that’s all I have for you guys for now – I’ll try to write more often, sorry about that! I’ve got some cool projects on my radar that you’ll definitely get to hear about once they get going. I’m still waiting to hear back about my internship applications to NASA and SETI, so maybe in my next entry I’ll have some good news to share. *fingers crossed*

Until next time!

And feel free to email me, I don’t bite. :)
schroel2@my.erau.edu

Rockets, Racecars, and other fine things

Hello readers, it’s been a while since I’ve shared some stories with you, but let’s catch up!

It’s been a busy first few weeks this semester, mainly because of my new position at The Avion Newspaper, which I believe I mentioned before. I work as the News editor, and I manage the content which we run each week. It’s an honor to do, and I love all the new things it has been teaching me. You can read all of our issues by clicking here

My classes this semester are:

Physics 2, Turbine engines, Crew Resource Management, FMS Systems, and Aviation Legislation. It’s a pretty good variety of subjects and will keep me busy. I’m starting to get to the point in my degree program where the courses are much more specialized.

On to the cool stuff now!

My press badge. SO COOL. In the background is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

My press badge. SO COOL. In the background is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

On January 23rd I got the opportunity to drive down to KSC, (or Cape Canaveral, The Kennedy Space center, or whatever you prefer to call it) There, I was covering a rocket launch and had full PRESS accreditation as a reporter from The Avion Newspaper. I went with my managing Editor, Matt Micholowitz. We spent the evening hanging around the press area before we got on the bus to go to NASA static test road to watch the launch. United Launch Alliance was launching their TDRS-L satellite, which is a communications satellite for NASA’s Space Network. The Rocket was a Delta V-401 configuration and launched at 9:33 pm. It was really cold that night, and i was surrounded by a few dozen other anxious photographers waiting to get the perfect shot. My best photo we included in the Avion after I wrote a story on the launch, you can see my photo below. It was so cool to get to attend this launch, and I couldn’t have done it without being involved in The Avion Newspaper.

The Rocket lifts off at 9:33 PM, it lit up the entire area, it was awesome!

The Rocket lifts off at 9:33 PM, it lit up the entire area, it was awesome!

A few days later on the 25th  I got to go to the ROLEX 24, which was a 24 hour Endurance race featuring some of the most powerful supercars in the world. I spent 8 hours at the D  a  y  t  o  n  a    S  p  e  e  d  w  a  y with some other Avion Photographers: Trey Henderson-Editor in Chief, Matt Micholowitz-Managing Editor, Richard Weakly- Advertising Manager, Austin Coffey- Photo Editor, and Lynsay Hurilla-Business Manager.  I held a Canon 60D close and took some great photos!  it was the first time I got to use a professional quality camera and glass. The atmosphere was in an uproar of revving engines and screaming tires. I stayed from early afternoon until late at night, this allowed me to get a great variety of photos at the event.  It was the first time I had been at the track and will not be soon forgotten. I had a blast spending a day there, take a look at my favorite photos below.

A lot of power in this picture!

A lot of power in this picture!

rolex2 rolex3 rolex4

So as you can see, it’s been quite a ride so far this semester, my opportunities have opened up a lot through being at the Avion. These are the lives of students at ERAU, we get to do incredible things. It’s an honor to share them with you on this blog, as always, you are free to contact me with any questions about flying and life. It’s fulfilling to write this page, but the real value in it for me is when someone contacts me and wants to talk.

I get pretty busy here at school, and sometimes it can feel discouraging. It wears me down. Throughout last week I had a song in my head, it was from Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. All week long it played over and over:

“If you want to view paradise,

Simply look around and view it,

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There’s nothing to it.”

So, you know what I did? I took time in the middle of the day to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. Sure maybe I had other things to do, but the time i spent refreshed me to get through the week. It was much more important that I was focused and relaxed.  Sometimes you just have to escape into paradise for a while, and that’s what I did. Those words have become sort of a motto for me. If you want to make an impact, then just go do it! don’t let anything hold you back. If you look for the good things in life and take joy in them, you’ll be propelled by that Joy to do things you never felt possible. I’ve done things and gone places while at ERAU that I never imagined I would do.

wonka

Please email me at wilkinsz@my.erau.edu if you have any questions or just want to talk to someone about ERAU.

 

A banner tower circled above us for most of the daytime. I couldn't resist snapping a photo.

A banner tower circled above us for most of the daytime while at the 24. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.

 

 

What a Week for Space!

Hello readers!

They had all sorts of MAVEN stuff up at KSC this weekend – loved it!

Boy was last week a great time to be a space-enthusiast (and a Kennedy Space Center season pass holder)! I hope you’ve all heard of the MAVEN mission that is en route to Mars as of last Monday. It’s a NASA mission that will be studying the evolution of Mars’ climate and atmosphere – Mars Atmospheric Volatile EvolutioN. And because my research interests are the Martian atmosphere, I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings us. But more exciting were last weekend’s festivities down at the Cape. All weekend they had speakers and specialists giving cool presentations about the mission and other aspects of NASA science, and I was there Saturday and Sunday to see it.

My lame tourist photo with Atlantis

Saturday morning I was up bright and early (legitimately early, I’m talking about 6 am) to head down to KSC with the Honors Student Association. I’m not member of HSA (though apparently I’m *technically* an “inactive” member just for being in the honors program), but they let me come just because I’m friends with the whole executive board and my season pass gets them free parking without costing them a dime on admission. So, y’know, it was a win-win. Of course the first thing we did was head over to the Atlantis exhibit, as none of them had seen it yet. It’s still just as breath-taking the second (and third) time around. After that we went over to listen to a NASA speaker, who was the director of astrobiology, give a presentation about MAVEN. It wasn’t super technical, but very cool all the same. The most entertaining part was the group of probably 5 or 6 year old kids who thought they knew the answers to all of her questions: “Why are we interested in studying Mars?” “Because it’s so hot? Because it’s the only planet without life?” Kids these days, am I right? (I assure you, my children will be completely educated about the universe and its workings before they are even toilet-trained.) They also kept asking about the astronauts on the MAVEN mission; I suppose “un-manned” just doesn’t make sense at that age. But I digress. After the talk I went over to speak with NASA’s director of astrobiology, because I never pass up the opportunity to schmooze a NASA employee. We chatted a bit and I expressed my interest in Martian science, and she gave me the name of somebody to contact asking about possible internships. No word back yet, but she’s probably pretty busy with the launch and stuff. We’ll see I suppose…..

Beautiful photo I took of the rocket garden at sunset.

Bill Nye the Science Guy in the flesh! Bow-tie and all.

Sunday afternoon I was right back down at the Cape to see their featured speaker, who was none other than…. Bill Nye the Science Guy! He gave a fantastic talk about why space exploration is important. Which was really cool to see in person, considering my American public schooling in science consisted pretty heavily of his show (I know you all can relate! Or at least those of you in the USA – my boyfriend, from India, didn’t even know who he was! :O) It was another great day at the Space Center, aside from my car almost running out of oil for some reason and having to stop at a Sunoco in the middle of nowhere to put three quarts in. And trust me, I can tell you the physics of how an engine works, but I certainly don’t know my way around one!

We couldn’t see him super well from where we were sitting so mostly watched the screen. Still cool!

MAVEN’s smoke trail in the sky, seen from near campus.

Monday was the big day – the launch! Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to go down to the Cape to watch, but I did go out to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse that is about half an hour from campus to try and see. We had a clear view of the coastline where it launched from, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see it take off. It was okay though, because I had a live video feed on my iPhone that way cooler than watching a bright dot in the sky. And when the clouds moved out we were able to see the smoke trail it left behind. MAVEN has been on its way for about a week now, with only 9 months and 2 weeks left to go until it arrives!

I really did take this with my iPhone. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Oh, I forgot to mention, as if spending the day at KSC and seeing Bill Nye on Sunday wasn’t cool enough, I got to spend some time on the university’s telescope to do some moon observations for my astronomy class. It was exactly the night of the full moon, and what a sight it is through a telescope! By the way, if anybody tells you that you can’t take pictures by holding your iPhone camera up to the eyepiece of the telescope, they are very, very wrong. I took what are probably the coolest photos ever taken with an iPhone camera, hands down. I’m very excited to get our new telescope next semester, which will be the largest in the state of Florida! Hear that, prospective students? If you’re interested in space, ERAU is definitely the place to be. :) See below for some up close photos of the moon’s surface, taken by an iPhone camera….

 

 

Well, the semester’s winding down faster than I expected. Last week I spent a lot of time working on homework and projects, hoping to have some time to relax over Thanksgiving. I’m getting on a plane Tuesday afternoon to head back up to Minneapolis for the break (unfortunately there’s no snow to greet me). Which fell at a terrible time this year, because we get back next Monday and that’s the last week of classes! I’ll probably be working most of the break, since I still have some final projects to finish up and exams to study for.

My gorgeous new space book :)

I almost forgot – this week was also the 15th birthday of the International Space Station. And Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was definitely a big week for space! Also, I won a really awesome space book in a raffle at Cookies & Craic (a bimonthly get-together for the ERAU Physics department, where you get to eat free cookies and chat with faculty and students.) It is leather bound and has gold page edges and a cloth bookmark and beautiful color photos. I love it. :) Also, NASA has started posting summer internships, and there is a planetary science position posted for Ames Research Center that I really really want. So pray to whatever deity you worship and cross all your fingers for me to get that – thanks!

Beautiful on the inside too

That’s all for now folks, tune in next week for my exciting recollection of Thanksgiving break and final project panic mode! Because I just wouldn’t be a proper college student without the latter.

And email me! I promise I don’t bite. SchroeL2@my.erau.edu

-Lynsey

Summer B and Twelve Hours at Kennedy Space Center

Hello again to all my lovely readers!

I apologize for not having written in a while, though I haven’t really had anything interesting to talk about. Now that I have some stuff, commence blog post.

Spending the evening studying up on some circuitry.

Summer B is already well upon us; I’m taking Electrical Engineering this semester. It’s definitely a change from last semester’s math class, but so far I’m enjoying it. The material is very straight forward, and the instructor let us vote not to have a final. Although that means midterms will be weighted a lot more… could be a blessing or a curse, tune in later to find out. The thing I am enjoying about circuitry is that it makes both logical and mathematical sense. When you look at the equations, you can see exactly what they mean and why, just by understanding the way electricity is moving. And I have a good solid circuits foundation from Physics III, for which I am thankful, as most of what we have done up to this point has been review. Boy does time fly though; last week was our first of two midterms and our fifth of ten labs. That means Summer B is half over, and Fall is just around the corner!

I’ve been a lot busier with school this semester than last, which is ironic because it’s a junior-level undergraduate class versus the master’s level class I took last semester. I suppose it’s probably the lab component that’s keeping me busy – an extra 4-6 hours a week, plus writing two reports. As a result I haven’t had as much time to spend in SPRL, but with CEDAR behind me my task for the time being is just reading up on some literature. A good, firm understanding of one’s field is always great, but doesn’t make for good blog content, so I’m afraid that’s really all I have to say about that.

The fourth of July holiday came and went, and I didn’t really do much. I’ve learned to play some new songs on my acoustic guitar, and picked up a copy of Final Fantasy VIII. Per countless recommendations I’ve also started (and nearly finished) watching Game of Thrones. I won’t say anything that could spoil it for those interested in watching, just that it certainly lives up to its hype. I also went down to the Port Orange library yesterday to see a guy from NASA give a presentation on Mars. It was a really cool presentation, and I even slipped him a business card afterwards. I don’t know if I’ll get anything out of it, but I never pass up an opportunity to give my business card to a NASA employee. :)

The Atlas V lifting off! Not a great photo, but you really can’t get anything much better without one of those fancy schmancy cameras that I’m not fortunate enough to own.

Standing underneath the Saturn V at the Apollo center. It is a massive beast of a rocket!

I know that all isn’t very exciting, so now I’ll get to the exciting part: last Friday. It all started with waking up at 5 am and leaving the house with the sun still down. If you know me, you know that that does not happen. In fact, I live by a general rule that if you wake up and the hour is not yet double digits, it’s too early to be waking up. So, you may be wondering what got me on the road at 6 am, and the answer is SPACESHIPS. You may or may not be aware that on Friday there was the largest Atlas V launch to date, which took place around 9 am. We booked it down to Kennedy Space Center and arrived at about 7ish (the sun didn’t come up until we were well down I-95), and then got on a bus to be taken to the Saturn V center at KSC. If you weren’t aware, KSC has bleachers set up there, and it is the closest you can get to the launch publicly (i.e. without sneaking onto secret government property.) After a ten minute delay due to upper-atmospheric winds, the rocket finally went off at 9 am sharp, and boy was it a sight.

One of my pictures next to Atlantis. What a sight it was!

I think we spent half the trip posing in front of cool signs.

That was pretty much the best day ever. After the launch, we spent the day at KSC, and didn’t leave until they closed at 7 pm. And let me tell you, if you’re a space-enthusiast, KSC is even better than Disney World. We saw the new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit first, and it was AWESOME. So well done. There were some really cool short movies before you even got into the exhibit, with the last one being projected onto a dome so the shuttle footage was all around you. Then the screen lifted up and right in front of you, not more than ten or twenty feet away, is Space Shuttle Atlantis. You could get within nearly an arm’s reach of it – it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The Space Shuttle exhibit is also home to the Shuttle Launch Simulator (which was at KSC before the Atlantis exhibit opened, though I had never had a chance to ride.) That was a really cool experience. They say that astronauts have ridden in it and said it’s as close to a real launch as you can get in a simulator.

Panoramic picture of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Click for the full-sized beauty!

NASA shuttle astronaut and astrophysicist, Dr. Sam Durrance.

Standing next to a full-size lego model of the Mars Spirit/Opportunity rover. Of course they can’t display the real ones because they’re still over on Mars.

Another cool thing at KSC is the Astronaut Encounter, where they have an astronaut come give a presentation and then you can take pictures with him afterwards. He gave a really great speech, and it was cool because, not only was he a shuttle astronaut, but also an astrophysicist. We also watched an IMAX film about the Hubble Telescope, walked around in the future explorers building (they had some cool Mars stuff there), and took tons of pictures all over the park. It was really a twelve hours well-spent. It was dark again by the time I arrived back home, and I collapsed into bed and slept straight through until about noon.

KSC is running a deal on annual passes right now in celebreation of the new shuttle exhibit, and I highly recommend taking advantage. It is only $5 than general admission, and because parking is $10 and the pass gets you free parking, it’s actually cheaper to get the pass than it is to go once at the normal rate! Plus you save 20% on all food and 10% in the gift shop (which is literally the coolest gift shop I have ever been in), and can get guests in for $10 off. It’s only about 45 minutes from campus, and makes for a fantastic trip – so head down there! I plan to go at least two or three more times before my annual pass expires.

That’s all I have to say for now. Another week starts tomorrow, and before long August will be upon us! (I apologize for the photo-heavy post, if you have a slow browser!)


October 6, 2008

What an experience this has been. I think it’s just starting to sink in that I am in college now! I finally get to live my dream of becoming a pilot. The past couple of weeks were just simply amazing. As I said in my last post, I have started my flight training and it has been the best experience of my life. I am learning so much from my instructor and I have a blast during my lessons. Now I can’t take my mind of flying, I am so addicted. In my other classes, however, we are starting to get into the core of the course and the real heavy-duty work is starting to emerge. I already have a few big papers due and I am pretty nervous. I have to do a 7 page paper for my IT 109 (Introduction to Computers and Applications) class. I also have a 2 page paper due for my COM 122 (English Composition and Literature) class. I also took a few tests. Last Thursday, October 2, I took my first test in Pre-Calculus and today I had my second test in Private Pilot Operations. I have no doubt that I passed them!

Outside of school work, there is so much to do on and off campus. I am still involved with the newspaper, TFO and First Generation. First Generation had its first trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral this past Saturday October 4. I was unable to go but a few of my friends did and they enjoyed it! TFO is starting to get a few things started on campus. We are currently looking at ways we can gain more members and also ways in which we can fundraise. And as for the newspaper, The Avion, things are getting crazy! We are usually in the newspaper every Sunday from 1 till whenever, slaving to produce the newspaper for which our staff has won so many awards. Even though it consumes so much of my time, it’s a very rewarding experience and it makes you feel proud when you see your name in print. Apart from clubs, I and my friends have been to the beach a lot! We play volleyball, play on the sand and do some reading or just for fun, dig a hole and bury someone in it! Sometimes when we are bored in our rooms, we either play flight simulator or play musical instruments.

As for my roommate, he was trying out for the flight team. However his efforts did not earn him a spot on the team, but he does have the ability to go to practices if he wants. He is a little disappointed that he didn’t make the team but he now has time to get more work done and have a flexible schedule.

Even though I am having so much fun on campus, I still think about home a lot. I am starting to accept that I am away from family, and I realize it’s not a bad experience. Being far from home is teaching me a lot about being a responsible person and being able to take care of myself. I call home a lot and everyone there is so proud of me, and that motivates me every day to get up and get my work done.

I hope you guys are being successful in your college search. Don’t be a stranger, shoot me an email or an instant message and I will be more than happy to answer any questions you have.

Until next time!