The ERA of U

At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, there are banners that are attached to the light posts with the famous saying, “The ERA of U”, a little play on the school’s acronym. Now that I am back for the fall, this quote is what motivates me to make my sophomore year the best one yet!

Although my freshman year at Riddle was nothing short of fantastic, like any hardworking student, I greeted summer with open arms and appreciated the chance for a break. My summer consisted of traveling outside of the United States for the first time in my life, seeing my first rocket launch, taking summer classes, and working at Universal Studios Orlando.

I kicked off my break by leaving the United States to travel to Gonaives, Haiti. It was my first time leaving the country, so of course I was a little timid. Some of you may be asking, “Rachel, what caused you to be so adventurous and act outside your comfort zone?” Well, my fellow students, I traveled to Haiti with an organization on campus called Project Haiti, which is one of the groups that make up the Clean Energy Club. The club’s overall goal is to not only to provide communities in Haiti with clean water, but to also educate them about sanitation and how to start up a business. Over the course of the school year, we designed and built a water pupurification system from scratch and traveled to Haiti and installed it at an orphanage in Gonaives. The experience was truly amazing. I met so many people and learned a lot about the Haitian culture. I even learned a little bit of Creole along the way!

Another highlight of my summer was visiting Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to see my first rocket launch, which was of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. It was my first time being to KSC, despite myself being a native Floridian. Everything about the launch was awesome, until the rocket actually exploded due to a faulty strut. I thought it was ironic that the rocket would explode on my first launch viewing. I had to tweet Elon Musk and tell him I was sorry I “jinxed” his launch, on his birthday. Although it was an overall failure, the launch only motivated me more to continue my degree in Aerospace Engineering, so I could one day design rockets. Ones that don’t blow up of course.

My summer adventures summarized my main point- that at Embry-Riddle, it really is the “Era” of “U”. Because of this university, I was able to help orphans in Haiti get clean water. Because of this university, I am able to learn more about my career goals and even become more passionate about it.

If there is one piece of advice I have for any new students at Riddle, it’s that you should make your college experience all about YOU. If you’ve always thought about joining the crew team, do it. If you want to join a sorority, do it. If you want to get your Level 1 certification for high power rocketry, do it. Why wouldn’t you do it? There is no better time to get involved than right now.

It’s really time for the “Era” of “U”!
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Music and Rockets: The Unlikely Encounters of the Third Kind

With the end of the semester nearly 2 weeks away, things are really starting to pick up across campus. From the events and activities on campus to my classes and projects that need to get done, there’s so much to do and so little time.

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Let’s start with the Touch ‘N’ Go Big Show. Every year (or is it bi-annually?) Embry-Riddle’s entertainment board, Touch-N-Go, has a concert on campus and this year they managed to book the Plain White T’s and Smash Mouth. While I never really had the opportunity to listen to their music as a kid growing up, I definitely knew who they were and was really excited when I found out they were coming to Riddle. Because I volunteered to cover the event for The Avion, I got the opportunity to meet both bands and interview them along with two of my friends from the newspaper. With heavy rain storms predicted, Mother Nature did not disappoint. But, despite the hour-long delay and heavy rain, the concert was absolutely amazing, until the generators that ran all of the equipment on stage started cutting out during the Plain White T’s’ performance. After the massive fireworks display and the bassist playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” with vocals provided by the crowd, the night came to an end and the show was over.

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Flash forward two days later and I found myself biking to the Student Center (UC) at 6AM Monday morning to cover SpaceX’s rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. This was my first rocket launch ever so to say that I was excited would be an understatement. Again, thanks to the power of college journalism, I was lucky enough to get media credentials through The Avion. Thanks to the media credentials I received, I got to actually go to the launch pad and saw the Falcon 9! It was truly awe-inspiring to actually be at the Kennedy Space Center because it’s like you’re standing in a time-capsule: everything looks like it did back in the 1960s! Even the buses we rode on were the old iconic flat-faced white buses that were common during the 60s. Unfortunately the launch was scrubbed T-minus 3 minutes until launch which meant I had to come back the next day. After emailing my teachers and getting their approvals, I was good to go. All in all, after seeing the rocket launch and meeting all of the people I met, including a student from Embry-Riddle’s Prescott campus, it made me realize how lucky I was.

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So, year 1 of college complete. I probably look like an idiot sitting in the library looking bewildered but wow. I can’t believe 7 months of college flew by that quickly. I’m really excited for Fall 2015 and what else is in store for me at Riddle. Unless I’m told to put out another update before I leave on the 30th, enjoy the summer, do adventurous things, and remember to be curious.

Fall Semester Comes to a Close

Greetings, everyone!

It’s official: Fall 2013 has ended and winter break is upon us. Although here in Daytona Beach it certainly doesn’t feel like it, with temperatures continuing to hover around the low-80s. Everybody back home loathes me this time of year, when they’re starting to get the big snow falls and I’m just wishing I could wear a sweatshirt. I suppose nobody is really ever happy with the weather they have. I got this photo from my aunt, taken outside her window:

and responded with this one, taken outside mine:

Usually my Facebook posts about the weather aren’t well-recieved. But it’s just so much fun. 😉

My last post was right before Thanksgiving break, so I suppose I can start there. I had a good time spending a few days back home, even though I spent a lot of the time working on homework and final projects. The end of the semester was poorly timed this year, because the week after the break was the last one, so everything is due. I don’t know what the general opinion is, but I think that the last week of classes is way more stressful than finals week. Finals week is actually pretty chill – you only have to go to school for finals, and have a lot of free time. Which is, of course, deceiving, because you really *should* be studying, and not staying up until 5 am playing Pokemon Y or anything along those lines. But I digress. Nonetheless, it was nice to see my family and friends back home, even though I’ve adapted to Florida and spent the whole three and a half days perpetually cold. It’s only funny to make fun of them for the weather when I’m not there, I suppose.

This is what was happening in my simulations for my Spaceflight project – the blue is the orbit of the Earth and the green is the orbit of the moon. Which isn’t so much an orbit, but a beeline straight out of the solar system.

I got back to Daytona early on Saturday, and had a massive homework assignment due at 11:59 PM that night. So much for having a break. I think I turned it in at like 11:58:43 or something like that – oops. Then it was final projects, papers, and exams for the next week and a half. My biggest project was probably the one for my Spaceflight Dynamics class, which involved simulating a three-body orbital problem in MATLAB. It was going well until I made some calculation error and was flinging the moon straight out of the solar system. But I ended up fixing that, woo! Aside from that and the ten page paper on black holes that I had to crank out in one night, everything else wasn’t too bad. I had finals in thermodynamics and astronomy that I thought were pieces of cake (not that I didn’t study, mind you.) The only thing that gave me real trouble was my EP 501 final exam – I only needed a 62 on the final to get an A in the class, thanks to my midterm exam and homework successes, and I was legitimately worried I didn’t even get that. But I managed to pull off a 78 (don’t even know how I scored that high, to be honest) and thus managed to secure my 4.0 Master’s GPA for another semester. Still waiting on grades for my undergrad classes, but from my calculations I am looking at straight A’s! Not to brag :)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch as seen from campus!

Another cool feature of last week was SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch, which scrubbed on the first two launch dates but went off the third time. And I got to see it from campus! It was super cool; we went up to the top of the AMS building where there is an observation deck for watching planes go in and out of the airport, and got a really great view. Even saw the stage separations of the rocket!

Stage separations of the rocket as it went up into space!

This week I’ll spend some time helping pack up the labs to move over to the new College of Arts and Sciences building, and then I’m homebound on Wednesday for about a week and a half. It’s crazy how quickly this semester went; I feel like it just started yesterday. But that’s life I guess!

That’s all I have to talk about in this entry. Haven’t gotten word if I will be writing again next semester, but I hope to be able to continue to share my stories with you! Feel free to always email me questions, or just to say hey, and I wish you all a happy holiday season and a successful rest of the school year!

Also before I close out, I’d like to dedicate this entry to my dog, Skip, who passed away last Friday. We got Skip as a rescue in April of 2001, when he was thought to be 2-4 years old, so he had a long life, and was always very happy and full of energy. He was a really great dog, and we all miss him very much.

My brother and I with Skip, 2004



October 2012

Hello again!

Every week I spend here keeps getting busier but better.

I am so happy to be an engineering major! The classes can be tough, but I love learning everything. In my Introduction to Engineering class, we just completed a launch systems project where we designed a rocket to take a payload into space. That was fun, but now we are starting on an even cooler project where we take on a project that solves a problem proposed either by the Daytona Beach International Airport or Americare Home Health. My team will be creating a prototype for a device that will help people with dexterity problems put on socks. I also recently turned in my first college paper and took my first test. I put in a lot of hard work and I was very pleased with the grades.

One of the activities that I’m involved in is the new Robotics Academy through RAER (Robotics Association Embry-Riddle). This is an intensive program for students interested in robotics, so that they can build leadership skills to participate in other sections of RAER. Recently, we designed a small competition for high school students who attended the Volusia Manufacturers Association Expo. In the tournament, we gave the teams of students a LEGO NXT robot built with a basic chassis and pre-programmed for a simple mission. We also provided them with extra LEGO parts and software to alter the program in order to complete the mission. The teams faced off to gather ping-pong balls placed in a 4×8 foot arena, and whoever had the most points at the end of the match was the winner. It was really cool to see everything the teams came up with.

Delta IV launch

Last week I also got the amazing opportunity to go to the Delta IV launch on Oct. 4th to report on it for the Avion. I had never seen a real launch before, and it was incredible. I got to stand on the NASA causeway with all the press, which is about 2.7 miles from the actual rocket. Yesterday I even got to see the recent SpaceX launch from outside the Student Village! Even for being so far away from the Cape, the rocket lit up the whole sky.

This weekend also brought TEDxEmbryRiddle to campus, where distinguished speakers talked about their research and life experiences. The theme was “Powering our Future,” which really intrigued me. I’ve watched TED talks online before, so it was awesome to actually be a part of a conference!

We the Kings performOne of the things that I was really looking forward to as a college student was all the free events. This week is homecoming week, and I am looking forward to all the fun activities. Jim Gaffigan is coming to campus, and Touch-N-Go productions brought in We the Kings for a concert on Sunday evening.

Well, I’m off to more clubs, activities, and of course, studying. Until next time!