Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekly Blog #33- Final Presentation Night

Last Friday was ISM's big event, Final Presentation Night. FPN day was probably the most stressful night of 2nd semester, in large part because of the sheer amount of requirements and items to take care of. Whether it was finishing my Final Product or coordinating the abundant papers and props with my volunteers, I felt very overwhelmed with these tasks on top of trying to memorize my speech and ensure a certain number of attendees. One important lesson I learned throughout the planning process was the benefit of keeping a positive outlook. Rather than letting a responsibility loom over me for a week, I could have viewed these assignments as a way to showcase my knowledge and end senior year with a bang. Luckily, I gained this insight when the event started because the large and eager audience inspired me to showcase my passion for EE and my journey through ISM. I executed my auditorium introduction well, and although I only had 2 attendees at the very beginning of my presentation, I ended up with a full house of around 15 people, each eager to try the random number generator and mechanical flashlight. FPN was a successful and memorable event, especially the IHOP "dinner" at the end. :) ISM has helped me come a long way since last fall, and I will always remember how much it has taught me about professionalism, my field, and myself.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Weekly Blog #32- Almost There

This week, my mentor and I met up to go over final product. We originally planned to do a logic gate demonstration with sensors and lights, but this weekend, he managed to find a circuit that acts as a random number generator. The principle behind the circuit is that the battery supplies power to the small chips, and when time runs out (depending on how long you held the button), whichever chip it last reached is responsible for certain bulbs. The 7 bulbs form the outline of a die, so if the 4 corner bulbs light up, you have the number 4. It's not as interactive as the light sensors, but the logic behind it is really interesting and clear. I remember in computer science, if I wanted to create a random number generator, I would just type out a few lines of code and call a command, but I wouldn't know how the computer actually did that. Although I'm not too focused on how everything works/only hardware, I like having an idea of what goes on behind the scenes.

As you can deduce from my title, this Friday is also the night of FPN! I have a lot of work to finish in terms of my speech, setup, and product. A lot of ISM students (myself included) have focused on the work and the dreaded deadline for final product, but I must keep in mind that this is an opportunity to demonstrate what I've gained throughout the year. This presentation and product, if executed well, could inspire someone to be a part of ISM or even pursue electrical engineering.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Weekly Blog #31- Final Final Product

This week, I met with my mentor to go over my Final Product. We finalized the two-part product into an overview of the different types of applications of ICs and a logic gate demonstration with a circuit, lights, and sensors. I had done a lot of research in a broad scope, analyzing logic gates, types of IC chips, and various applications of each, so I've been more informed over the past few weeks and will be able to write a more comprehensive report of IC applications in different industries. I've also researched logic gates and how they function, as well as how certain circuit components work (i.e. sensors and transistors). Next week, we will assemble the circuit and logic-gate demo!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

FPN Mock Speech #1

(The speech is broken into 3 parts due to lack of storage on my phone)

Weekly Blog #30- Mock Speech 1

This week, I finally recorded my mock speech for FPN, which I'll post shortly under the videos tab. In the beginning, I was pretty reluctant to get up, change into my suit, and rehearse my 20 minute speech and rerecord multiple times. I waited pretty late to get started, but once I did, it wasn't nearly as tiring as I had expected. If anything, I was more thankful that I had rehearsed and recorded this speech because it only revealed the amount of practice I needed and the improvements I could make. I recorded it so many times because I kept stumbling over sentences that weren't worded as perfectly as written, and even at the end, it wasn't as smooth as it could have been. I also noticed some awkward movement in terms of shifting my body weight or having fast gestures, so this video will help me improve the current state of my presentation. I also realized that the bulk of my speech was about my original work, so I may try to incorporate more about my ISM journey, given that I had a few extra minutes to spare. Overall, I realized that I need to start memorizing parts of my speech every day or two to really solidify my presentation.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekly Blog #29- Speeches

My invite is complete- and everyone is invited! I finally finished formatting and proofing my invitation which will go out next week or so. I chose the dark green color with the faint orange line to match my board design, which resembles a green chip. Before I get into the more difficult tasks (like the 30 minute speech), I wanted to mention how something as "simple" as an invitation required a lot of proofing and attention to detail. I had originally missed paying attention to symmetry, like spacing at the top and bottom, and articles, like "of" or "to." Even the fonts and sizes took a lot of messing around with. Our teacher emphasized that the little aspects show professionalism and appeal to guests.

However, the most important issue to consider right now is my speech. How will I prepare a 30-minute speech that captivates the audience yet demonstrates the skills and knowledge that I've gained? In my experience, after half-memorizing my Original Work speech and research/intro speech, I've realized that rote practice and memorization are the only ways to successfully execute a long speech. I'm not one who can eloquently improvise with only a basic outline- I end up cutting out important topics, talk too quickly, or use too many filler words. As much as I don't like the aspect of writing, memorizing, and rehearsing a 30-minute speech, I recognize that it is the best way for me to deliver a memorable presentation. I am starting to prepare it this week, and we will see where I'm headed next time!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weekly Blog #28- Logic Gates

This week, I met with my mentor to discuss plans for Final Product. We decided that a logic gate demonstration with lights would be a good interactive portion of my presentation, so next week we plan to test it out. One of my original ideas for Final Product was to create a kid-friendly game or kit involving logic gates, so if the demonstration test run works smoothly, I might try to develop that idea. As for programming the IC chip, we decided that it may not be feasible to purchase a chip and download and learn that specific program. However, I will continue my research on the functions and applications of different IC chips, watch tutorials, and read example code to get a good idea of what I might be exposed to.

As FPN approaches, I've decided to amp up the design/marketing aspect of my topic. Electrical engineering doesn't attract the most excitement or interest for most people, so I'll probably add lights to my invitation and find more ways to incorporate interactive and eye-catching designs. Additionally, a lot of the people I'm inviting will be attending other students' presentations, so I want to maintain a large audience.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekly Blog #27- FPN Presentation

This week, I finally claimed my room for FPN! I kept receiving the regretful "sorry, 4 people already asked me" response, but luckily, I managed to get the SPED room which not a lot of people thought about claiming. This room is the first one down the 2nd history hall and is conveniently located to the right, which Mr. Wysong says is the direction people tend to turn to. As I have completed my invitation and program design, my next big area of focus is the speech and final product. The speech is due pretty soon, which means that I will need to finish a large part of my final product if I want something to talk about during the 35 minute presentation. Although final product is due on May 20th, the speech is due in mid- to late-April. Looking back, I really should have started the speech about two weeks ago. Last week was packed and the next two weeks will be pretty hectic, with college visits, tests, and AP mock exams. It is truly never too early to start planning, because my future self will thank me immensely. At least I can say that this will give me some insight for college when I have mid-terms and finals!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Weekly Blog #26- Invitations and Programs

This week, I finished my invitation design and I am almost done with my program! As I prepare to finish putting together my portfolio, I'm starting to see the amount of time all this "setup" takes. Balancing time spent on final product and immediate assignments has been a struggle for me, but at least my eyes have been opened to how quickly this deadline is approaching. With prom this week, college visits next week, and AP tests coming up, I realize that my final product must be treated as an immediate assignment too.

Last week, I found a website that had level-by-level code and simulations for learning VHDL. I clicked on the very first demo (basic logic gates) and was pretty confused by the code and simulation. After more searching, I've found a site that has really good explanations of IC chips, thoroughly explaining every basic concept I will need to know ( However, I was a bit curious if the use of multiple gates (especially in the NAND case) for lower cost might slow down the process or increase size. I'll see what my mentor has to say!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Weekly Blog #25- Final Product Development

This week, one of our assignments was to complete a Product Progress Assessment. As I read the questions (such as "Have you kept up with your calendar? What are some successes/failures you've had? How has your mentor helped you so far?"), I began to realize how close the deadline is. I have not followed my calendar in terms of order, so it was pretty difficult to assess my current progress in my final product. However, I do really need to dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to my product if I want to catch up to my calendar and challenge myself in terms of programming and applying my knowledge. I'm starting to face the reality that self-learning C++ is difficult when there isn't a grade at stake or a daily assignment. However, I'm also viewing this self-learning process as part of my final product- though I may not produce a tangible, functioning IC chip, I need to make sure that I at least learn how it works and how to program basic functions.

One positive aspect of my lack of order is that I actually completed one of my last steps, which is to research the applications of an IC chip. I had hoped to master the basics and then look into its usages, but I got a little too curious and just researched a few days ago. I think this might even be better because I'll have more time to think about how I can make my product more useful and how I can expand my ideas in the long run. Overall though, I do need to catch up on my calendar so that my mentor and I have more to work with and can prepare for any change of plans.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekly Blog #24- FPN Plans

Time is really flying by, because this week in ISM, we started thinking about our own plans for Final Presentation Night. That means two things: I need to finish the organizing part and I need to really get going on my final product. Although I've started the basics of C++ and how IC chips work, I haven't gotten my hands on a physical, programmable IC chip yet. This will probably be something my mentor and I discuss at our next visit.

But back to FPN, we covered a lot of details about how to prepare in advance and be prudent about our use of time. We have to consider the room, the decor, our mentors, and our volunteers during quick transitions. Another important thing to consider is the invitation and how to draw in the most people to attend my presentation. The invitation has to look professional yet eye-catching, but the real problem is getting a large audience when everyone in ISM is asking a lot of the same people. But I would say the biggest challenge as a whole is talking for most of the 2-3 hours at FPN. The first half of FPN is greeting and talking next to my board in the cafeteria and then right after is the 30-minute long speech. I am a bit intimidated, but I've been to FPN as a volunteer twice and it has always run smoothly in the end. It's important to remember to see this not as a burden in terms of preparation, but as a chance to express creativity and showcase my hard work and what I've gained throughout the year.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Raytheon Tour!

The Friday before break, I finally got to tour the Raytheon plant in McKinney! My mentor and I had discussed this since my first interview with him, but with forms and different priorities (as it wasn't terribly urgent), we pushed it back a few weeks. This time, I toured almost the entire facility, walking in heels for an hour and a half (not very proactive on my part, I'll admit). I could tell the place had pretty tight security, with the gates, a couple of guards, and no photography. There weren't a lot of signs outside, so it took some navigating to find the main entrance. After I went in, I greeted my mentor and proceeded to tour the plant.

Some of the areas I found most interesting were the reliability analysis section, the simulation area, the clean room, and the RF testing area, among others. Some of those areas require thorough prevention of contamination, such as the full-body cover up in the clean room, while others are intended for workers' protection, like wearing a lab coat and grounding tape to prevent electric shocks. The simulation area has many chambers for high pressure, turbulence, vibration, and temperature to test the durability of products in a high altitude situation. Nearby is the reliability analysis section, which focuses more on small-scale components such as soldering strength, materials used in chips, and inefficiency. I didn't actually get to go in the RF testing rooms, but based on the pictures, they looked a lot like sound-proof rooms with the walls and floors lined with pointed foam triangles. These triangles help absorb RF waves and prevent reflections that could interfere with the signal being tested. On the other hand, if the triangles were not made of foam, but instead metal, you would actually need a surface with as few pointed areas as possible to prevent reflection (this was shown in one of the bomber's wings, which was smooth and slightly curved to prevent radar detection).

Now, if you're wondering where the software engineers come into play, many are located in the cubicle sections with small conference rooms nearby. Most of the "interesting"-looking sections are actually where technicians and hands-on employees work, whereas the software writers and managers tend to be in the cubicle area. Half the time, I was confused as to where I was because of the many wings, labs, and cubicle areas (there were probably a few hundred cubicles total). But the most eye-opening realization I had was the fact that all these sub-sections (reliability, error analysis, etc.) were somehow interwoven to produce amazing defense software and devices. There were so many individual tasks for each sector that it was difficult for me to envision how this company could run with numerous projects simultaneously running. Overall, it was truly interesting to see the physical operation of such a large plant- something you can't envision unless you see the scale and specificity in person.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekly Blog #22- AcDec and Mentor Visit 4

Since Thursday, I was gone for the AcDec state competition in San Antonio! These 3 days of jam-packed studying were not easy, but it was worth the journey. This was my third year doing AcDec state, and I scored my personal highest. Although I did not achieve the awards that I had hoped, I can confirm that this was a memorable time in terms of team camaraderie and hard work. This year was especially tough for me as I had hoped that after a busy first semester, my schedule would clear up without orchestra rehearsals and college applications. However, I had assumed incorrectly as I encountered scholarship applications and greater plans for ISM. In the end, even with all the makeup work I need to finish, this journey was especially memorable because of the obstacles I overcame.

This past week, I also conducted my fourth mentor visit with Mr. Arellano. We discussed a couple of IC concepts and plans for Final Product. I will also probably tour the Raytheon plant next week, which I am very looking forward to doing!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weekly Blog #21- OW Speech and AcDec

On Friday morning, I gave my 20 minute speech about Original Work, SMART Goals, and reflections. The night before was particularly stressful because I had many important due dates throughout the week and was unable to dedicate sufficient time towards writing my speech and creating my presentation. In hindsight, though I missed out on a lot of sleep Thursday night, I am glad that I learned how to pull through difficult and time-pressed situations. I still regret not having spread out my work over the week, so hopefully this will be a lesson learned for the future. I also realized that I need to set my priorities straight, as I could have reduced the time I spent tutoring and dedicated that time towards AcDec and ISM.

Now that my speech and Original Work have been completed, my next important goal is coming up this week! AcDec State competition is in 5 days and I need to focus on studying and preparing for it. To prevent making the same mistakes in terms of preparation (where I would complete homework and immediate needs first, then be too sleepy to study effectively), I will prioritize AcDec by dedicating the first 2 hours I get home to studying. This will help me retain information better and be more confident entering San Antonio.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Research Showcase Video

Original Work- Oscilloscope Lab

Mentor Visit 2


Mentor Visit 1

Weekly Blog #20- OW Speech

2/12 has finally passed and the three-day weekend has started! This week, I finished my Original Work and took all my measurements from the circuit my mentor helped assemble. Although this week's workload was heavier than usual, I can proudly say that in terms of planning ahead, I finally learned from past mistakes. Over the weekend, I finished my EOL (Evidence of Learning assessment) a week in advance and began the general outline/script for my Research Showcase video. On Wednesday, I finished recording the parts involving me on camera and speaking. I would only sleep until I had finished editing all of the video, complete with background music, sound adjustments, and smooth transitions. Finally, during class on Thursday, I made sure to use that time to finish my Final Product proposal, and at home, I completed my Original Work lab report. This was probably the first time I had thoroughly planned in advance and it was worth it. I'm glad I implemented my self-advice and could testify that it works.

Of course, I still need to work on my speech for Original Work, which is expected to last around 30 minutes. However, having experienced a much busier schedule this past week, I am not daunted for this presentation on Friday because I have so much to talk about in regards to my lab report. I am also pretty excited to integrate some interactive components into my presentation, since my circuit and oscilloscope lab involved a lot of hands-on experimentation.

**If you'd like to check out my RS video, it can be found under the "Videos" tab! Original Work can be found under "Research," and EOL and Mentor Visit assessments can be found under "Misc."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Weekly Blog #19- Mentor Visit 2 and RS Video

This week, I went on my second mentor visit with Mr. Arellano. We solidified a complex circuit idea for Original Work and for the next mentor visit, we plan to assemble all the pieces together (the capacitor, diodes, and transformer) for measuring voltage. I received a fresh review over capacitors, MRIs, and transformers (as I had learned about them in AP Physics 2 last year), and received a better understanding of diodes and what the oscilloscope is capable of (for example, oscilloscopes can be used in industry to find the time delayed when measuring a signal). During this visit, we also discussed Final Product. I am pretty set on the IC case study and programming, where I'll try to attain an IC chip and learn how to program it. Although this does not have as large of a scope as I had hoped, it will significantly benefit me in my knowledge and experience with ICs.

One thing I really need to think through is my Research Showcase video. As 2/12 approaches (due date for Original Work, EOL 4, product proposal, calendar rough draft, and my Research Showcase video), I will try to finish my "storyboard" for the video by tonight- what to say and when, what to film during certain times, etc. I think the last time I made a video for a project was 9th grade, so this assignment sounds pretty intimidating but fun at the same time, given the freedom and lack of requirements.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Blog #18- Original Work and AcDec

This week in ISM, I worked a lot more on Original Work as the deadline is in less than two weeks! I tested signals from different sources, including contact with skin, a battery, and my dad's circuits for his work. This was actually pretty fun, because each graph had its unique characteristics and calculations. For example, the graph from touching the probe to my finger displayed a frequency of around 60 Hz. I had expected zero, but I found that this is because skin is conductive, and creates a crude antenna that picks up the electric field surrounding me (most wall outlets are 60 Hz). I have also found a couple of applications for oscilloscopes so far, including heartbeat monitors. One of the reasons why I chose EE is because of the fun involved in exploring an instrument or discovering something on my own. I am really considering creating a tangible Final Product, as my Original Work is more of an exploration of something that already exists.

As a brief recap of our AcDec meet, Liberty placed fourth at Regionals and will likely advance to State. A large part of our success in the subjective areas (speech and interview) was because of the practice we had in ISM class. Though I still hope to bring up my interview score, I will look forward to State and practice hard!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Weekly Blog #17- Final Product Ideas

This past week in ISM, I brainstormed ideas for Final Product and did a SWOT analysis of each one. With Mr. Arellano's idea of using logic gates to program lights, I thought of building an educational kit for kids to experiment on. This would serve a bigger purpose of enabling children to get a hands-on lab experience of electrical engineering and logical thinking. Current kits appear bland and intimidating, and the ones that are more eye-catching are virtual. Although this won't directly benefit me in terms of EE knowledge, this idea is more original and impactful. I'm not sure if I would settle on this idea yet, because I also have the option of programming circuit boards, which would give me experience prior to college, but may not guarantee a long-term impact. These are my two main ideas as of now, so I hope to keep brainstorming while building a foundation in coding and circuits. 

As for Original Work, I have completed the general procedure and graphical analysis of one of my trials. I will likely test another source this weekend and get started on my Research Showcase video. Once these are complete, I will upload them on this blog for all to see!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Blog #16- Mentor Visits

On Friday, I conducted my first mentor visit with Mr. Arellano! We went over a general outline for the next months leading up to Original Work, Final Presentation Night, and Final Product. Starting today, I will look into learning C++ to use for controlling circuits and as part of my SMART goals, I will watch one or two lectures per week (or chapters in a textbook) and will use the content to ask questions/discuss with Mr. Arellano. Besides short-term goals and technical knowledge, I hope to apply this foundation to my final product. Mr. Arellano suggested using C++ to program a function with circuit boards, which I could acquire through companies that may be willing to donate extra products. Along the process, he suggested that I keep track of my budget and schedule with an earned value management system, which could demonstrate my organization throughout the development of my final product. The main purpose behind my final product should be focused on finding a unique way to use circuit boards, and not just learn about them.

In terms of Original Work, Mr. Arellano is on board with my oscilloscope lab! I'm still finding more sources to analyze (such as an outlet, microphone, and phone) and looking for more potential applications. I am excited to see what my mentorship has to offer, and what I can gain from these short- and long-term goals. However, even with 1st semester over, I must remember to stay on top of homework and self-studying in order to receive the best results.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


SMART Goals are a thorough and specific plan of short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals:

Weekly Report #15- Mentorship and Original Work

Prior to winter break, I received some good news- I now have a mentor, Mr. Arellano! I actually found out during our Midwest trip to Chicago, which was very exciting and memorable. I will likely begin mentor visits this upcoming week and discuss plans for original work and final product. One of my goals is also to tour the Raytheon plant in McKinney (if the forms get approved soon enough) to get a glimpse of industry and production. On the note of original work, I have started some experimentation with my dad's oscilloscope and have recorded a graph using my finger as the signal source. This produced a surprising result as I did not expect much from a finger, so I will look into the reasons for the graph's signal in more depth, and research into potential applications of the instrument. In terms of final product however, I do not yet have an idea in mind, as the field of electrical engineering provides a vast number of opportunities and applications. I do plan to incorporate something interactive or business-related, as I hope to study in engineering and business in college.

Although second semester has practically started, I (thankfully) have not yet been a victim of "senioritis." I still feel the necessity to keep up good grades and learn material well, as AP tests will come soon and ISM has a lot to offer. I really hope to use as much of ISM as I can, since college apps and orchestra rehearsals are over. I will do my best to keep up with my SMART goals!