February 28, 2011

So here we are, almost halfway through the semester. We will all be headed home for summer break in less than two months, although many of us are going home for spring break (which is less than 20 days away!!)

It seems like so much has happened over the past two weeks. From our astronauts making Riddle history to parents visiting, I have had some of the best days since I’ve been here at Riddle.

Last weekend, the Women’s Center—yes, once again—sponsored a trip to the Kennedy Space Center. The FIRST Mentor program was lucky enough to go on a backstage tour of the facilities. Since the tour bus was filled with future engineers/potential NASA employees, our tour guide made sure we had the best trip possible. And what better way then being able to get an up-close view of Discovery on the launch pad one week before it made its final trip into space? That’s right; we got to see the space shuttle a measly one mile from where it stood! That’s about the equivalent of the length of our campus! The trip was bittersweet however—knowing this was the end of an era (not to sound cheesy or anything), but also seeing as the second launch pad was being torn down by two giant red cranes. It really made me wonder what’s next for us. Riddle is already focusing on sending a satellite into orbit…what’s next, a major in “astronaut training”? That would be amazing…

Because it was a beautiful long weekend, and the weather finally heated up to a very hot 85 degrees, our friends decided to have an outdoor BBQ. We have a few pits right by McKay (a freshman dorm/”Paradise Hotel”), so we just all got together and had a great time eating and playing volleyball. Much to my dislike, they decided to take an impromptu trip to the beach. At first, I didn’t want to go, considering I had a paper due on Wednesday, but they convinced me to go. Thank goodness my skin is dark, because almost everybody had bad sunburns!!

That Monday was homework day, which was mostly dedicated to studying for the two tests I had that week (tech report writing and computer-aided drafting). I must say I did fairly well on those, along with math and physics [from the week prior]. After Wednesday, for the first time in a very long time, I had absolutely nothing due. I didn’t even know what to do with myself, so I started researching for a potential project with a few friends. We are planning on designing an attraction to submit to Disney’s ImagiNATIONS competition, even though we can’t enter until our junior year.

Thursday was the next big day! Right after class, my roommate and I started getting ready to drive down to Titusville to watch Discovery launch from Cape Canaveral. Many, many people I know skipped their last classes to drive down (and many, many professors cancelled classes/office hours for it). I mean, come on, you must support the 1/3 of the crew from Riddle! Plus the flight director?? I think we win. Anywho, we made our way down at around 3 o’clock (which we aptly nicknamed the “Great Riddle Migration”), and decided a viewing site that would let us have a clear view while avoiding the huge crowds that gather at Space Park. We decided to drive down Kennedy Parkway, and got a pretty nice spot less than 10 miles away from the pad. Everybody held their breaths as NASA announced a computer problem in Houston. With only a 10-minute launch window, we couldn’t believe they couldn’t fix it in time. T-5 minutes and counting. 16:48. Countdown resumed. T-1 minute. Get your cameras ready! 10…9…8…7…Go for main engine start. It’s now or never…5…4…3…*puff of smoke seen at a distance*, 2…1…silence. A distant light shoots across the sky. A few minutes later, the boosters separate. A roaring is finally heard approaching. Everybody can finally breathe. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is so sad that we will only see two more…

And just like that, this past weekend arrived. Embry-Riddle hosted its annual Parent Weekend, where parents (of course) and family members can come visit us and take part in activities hosted by the University. My parents couldn’t come, but Jim’s parents and brother did, and we had an amazing weekend together. The highlight of the weekend was probably Saturday night, when we went to Disney Quest, a five-story arcade in the heart of Downtown Disney. Jim’s brother, David, is a video game designer, so he had a blast going through all the interactive areas. After that, we had dinner at Bongo’s Cuban Café, and came home at around 1 in the morning.

Sunday was a very bittersweet day, as we said our goodbyes. On the bright side, I bought my ticket home for summer break for really cheap through American Airlines! It was almost half as much as it would have been flying out of Daytona….so I say when you’re looking to come here, fly into Orlando and rent a car (these can be so cheap sometimes!)

Well, I suppose that’s it for me! Nothing too interesting coming up in these next few weeks, although I’m really looking forward to tomorrow! Touch N Go is announcing the lineup for the Big Show in April. I have my bets on Reel Big Fish and Less than Jake…so we’ll see if I’m right! Tonight, the honors program center is hosting a speaker, Michael Foy, who will speak on “the search for absolute silence”…should be interesting, I suppose. Also remember to sign up for the sneak preview coming up in April!

February 28, 2011

So the other day in Flight Physiology, my teacher takes out the attendance sign-off sheet. He notices that the first page is full and he told us that that means that we are halfway through the semester already. I couldn’t believe what he said. He was right though because I came to my room that night and found that we only had about 60 days left until final exams. Time does really fly around here, literally. The past week has been awesome. I had a friend come down and visit for a week and it was great to see each other and catch up. He met my friends and he seemed to really enjoy himself. Great weather meant that it was perfect time to spend a whole day outdoors. So our group organized a grill session outside McKay.

We all chipped in and grilled burgers, hot dogs, and then after we played soccer and volleyball. To make it even better we decided to head to the beach. I had to rub it in my friends’ faces. While they were up north dealing with snow and cold, we were sunbathing and relaxing at the beach. During the day, we totally forgot that it was only February!

The next day we decided to head to CityWalk, which is part of Universal Studios, for dinner. We ate at Margaritaville, one of my favorite places, and then headed over to Downtown Disney to look around, shop, and basically anything. That’s another thing you can throw in your friends’ faces. You will be driving distance away from Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, all those amazing places that people come from around the world to see. Also, this past week was the last launch of Discovery down in Cape Canaveral. I was in class until 3:30 and the launch was at 4:50. As soon as I got out of class we drove as fast but “as safe” as we could to make it. Sadly, traffic and elderly drivers led to us being about 10-15 miles away from the Launchpad. We pulled off the side of the road and took as many pictures as we could.

We could feel the ground shake and the deep roaring of the rocket. It was a surreal experience and so glad I was able to see it a bit closer than school. If you are in class during the launch, most teachers let you out to see it and some even take their classes up on the roof of the College of Aviation to see it. There only two more Shuttle launches April 19th and June 28th. Accepted Students Sneak Preview is April 16th so if you are able to come down, which I highly recommend, see if you are able to stay a couple extra days so you can see it. It is so much more amazing than watching it on a tv, even a high-definition 56 inch version.

This past weekend was Parent Weekend where, obviously, parents of students could come, visit, fly with their kids, and go to class with them. My mom made the drive down from North Carolina and it was great to see her. We spent our time just relaxing together and figuring some scheduling out for next semester and what I am doing during the summer, which I decided I might stay and complete my Instrument Rating because there is about a 15% discount.

A final subject is the Daytona 500. Although I didn’t go to the race, its presence was known. You could hear the race from anywhere on campus and could see the smoke from the tires burning raging from the track. I’m not a NASCAR fan but there was one benefit to the race and that was the fact that there were so many planes flying in and out of Daytona. The day of the race, there were so many planes landing that the airport decided to park the planes on the alternate runway. I’ve never seen so many private jets and charter 737s in my life. I also loved how Delta began flying 757s into Daytona because of the known increasing traffic around this spring break period. It’s always great to see a variety of planes taking off right in front of you as you prepare for taxi. This coming week I will begin flying my cross-countries, which are flights that are more than 50 nautical miles. So that means I will most likely fly to Gainesville or Melbourne for my first trip on Wednesday. Hope you dealing with cold weather up there, northerners. Over and out.

November 14, 2010

T-minus one month and counting until the end of the semester. This means December 14th marks the end of examinations (at least for me), and I get to go home. This last month is one of the busiest so far. Studying for finals, a project for computing, a glider to build—and all while maintaining a life outside of the classroom! Time passes so quickly and yet so slow at times. It seems like just yesterday that we held open house for the prospective freshmen (Look out for one in the spring, too!), and just last week that I took my first college exams!

I have accomplished a lot these past few weeks. I got to register early for spring semester classes thanks to the Honors Program—even before seniors! The reality that I’m not in high school anymore is really kicking in (I know, it took me a while…). I see kids out and about in Daytona Beach and think to myself: “Wow, I’m probably a lot older than these kids!” What really brought me back to reality was the fact that I got an almost unexpected visit from my Dad last weekend. The fact that I hadn’t seen him in well over 2 months made me very emotional. I was lucky to have him here for the weekend!

On Saturday of last week (the 6th), my father, my best friends and I went to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. It was truly an adventure getting there…we got lost at least twice. I must admit it was mostly my fault, but that’s beside the point…

See, the space shuttle Discovery, on its STS-133 mission, was supposed to launch the 1st. Every day, I would check to see on the status, since it kept getting delayed due to either weather or problems with the fuel tanks. Riddle was a madhouse waiting for news from NASA. Two of our graduates (that’s a whole third of the crew) are going on that flight. Teachers were even willing to cancel classes so that we would be able to appreciate one of the last flights of the Space Shuttle. We at Riddle take our aviation seriously—that includes space travel, too! Sadly enough, (though at the same time gladly, for safety concerns) the launch date was pushed back until the end of the month.

When we went to the Space Center on Saturday, we were able to see Discovery still at the launch pad while touring the facilities. It was a great sight, even though we were so far away…

This week, the Women’s Center decided to take us engineering girls on a little trip to a place we like to call Islands of Adventure. We were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the park, where we got to see some pretty neat stuff. For example, did you know that the Adventures of Spiderman cars cost $2 million each? They are a real engineering marvel with two on-board computers, both completely autonomous.

Homecoming was also last week, and, although I missed the big events, it was a lot of fun. We had country singer Josh Thompson, comedian Stephen Lynch, and a big tailgate party that weekend. Touch-N-Go Productions does an amazing job of entertaining the students. There is always something to do around campus.

Remember that EGR-101 project I mentioned last time? I’m so glad it’s finished. 60 pages of designs and explanations. I can now brag about how the team designed a rocket at only 18! We’re now moving on to gliders. The objective: design and build a working glider plane out of balsa wood using different equations. It should be a lot of fun, especially since we don’t have to write a technical report for it!

Well, I must get back to studying (a math test and MATLAB test next week…fun fun!). Please, please contact me if you have any questions. I was in your place last year, I know they’re out there!