Annika O'Brien joins Parker and Stephen in the MacroFab Variety Hour Podcast.
Episode 200 is Coming Up!
Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. I am your guest, Matt Prater.
And we are your hosts Parker, Dolman.
And Steven Craig.
This is episode 193
Matt Prater started out as a radio chemist making diagnostic Positron Emission Tomography agents for 15 years, he had a stroke, then went to teach chemistry and research classes in public schools for five years. Matt then worked at Amex for six months, he is now teaching at the University of advanced technology in Tempe, Arizona, as a professor of robotics and embedded systems.
So Matt, thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to come talk to us.
Absolutely. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
So before we, before we started the podcast, Parker, and I didn't actually know this, but you've played around with antimatter before, right? Yes, absolutely.
I'd started at a college out of grad school. And that basically, they had a new series of agents called pet Positron Emission Tomography. And what they are, is they're radioactive materials, that that are that are 511 kV, so they're, they're relatively high energy for the diagnostic range. And basically, you can take these agents and inject them in a person with with whatever chemical substrate you want to attach them to. And they get
But they don't get super powers, but they, but they do get stabbed in the Lincoln Tunnel when they don't have their letter with them. We had one one person who was traveling to New York City, or no from from Manhattan to New Jersey, and she got stopped in the tunnel because she had the drugs traveling through our system. And they caught it on the sensor outside the car, to to look to look for dirty bombs and stuff. But but but she was just injected with one of our
they've got antimatter detectors.
It's not a radiation, what happens is we make a isotope called fluorine 18. It's, it's, we make it actually we start with oxygen 18 as a as a mass of a mass of 18. And basically we hit it with a proton, we create a proton beam, in a cyclotron, it's in a large large thing where where we spin with spin, we spin the proton around, well, actually, it's a it's a hydride, it's it's a, it's a, it has the one proton, the two electrons that we spin it around, and then we stripped the two electrons away when it gets to a sufficient speed, and we bombard it into this oxygen 18 and that produces fluorine 18, which is radioactive, what it does is this fluorine 18 It's, it's not real happy being a fluorine 18. So it gives off a positron, which is a the same thing as an electron, but it's antimatter. So it has a positive charge instead of a negative charge. And that and that positron finds the nearest electron so wherever there's an electron it finds it immediately. And it unlike it annihilates they they destroy each other in a in an anti manner manner collision. And basically, they turn straight from matter to energy, and they turn into two 511 kV, gamma radiation photons. So, they turn from matter from a positron and electron into the same thing but as energy as as photons as as gamma, gamma radiation. So we saw we made the we would make the the the material, the FAA team, and then for the first first seven years or six years, we would take that that and we did catch it to a sugar to a glucose molecule, and then you'd inject it in a patient and the glucose what happens is cancer likes to do two things. It likes to eat and it likes to make babies and and that and that's all cancer does. So so so when you have a liver cell that turns cancers, it stops being a liver cell, and instead of decides to eat and make babies and that's all it does, and then it makes more cancer cells. So what what the FDG this glucose attached to fluorine does is it sticks to the cancer, the cancer picks it in but it can't eat it. And then you put the person in the scanner and all the cancer lights up because it's all radioactive. I I did that for seven years or for six years. And then I moved to special projects. I did F miso, which is a hypoxic indicator. The Nobel Prize two days ago was, was was was awarded to three gentlemen that studied hypoxic cancer. And basically, I worked on later on, we had some studies here in the US, where we looked at at at an indicator of a fluorine based in the indicator for hypoxia for low oxygen level cancer. So we did I did that for a while, I worked on the Alzheimer's he indicator, flew beta band, which was bears product, and I worked on that for a while, and then I then I hit my stroke.
You know, and what's funny is, initially, when we had talked about having you on to the podcast, none of those topics were even spoken about. That's why That's why I was like, wait, wait, wait, we have to start with all of this. Yes.
Exactly. So So I so I had my stroke and, and it was a big one, it took away the use of my right hand, can I walk with a limp, so I'm so I don't walk great. And I can't run but but that's cool, because because I'm still living. And that's the important thing. When I did that, you know, I was out for about five months. And then I went back to work at Cardinal and Cardinal Health rose, making the positron emission tomography agents. And I did that for another three years. But when they decided to close down, my wife, who had gone through the stroke with me, and she she had said that one of the doctors told her it wasn't a matter of if I was having another stroke, it was when so she saw this as an opportunity for me to get out of the pharmaceutical industry, because I was traveling all over the place. When I the month I had the stroke. That year, I had I had put in like 260,000 miles on Delta. And, and I was playing them. And you know, we had done all the travel and stuff, but I was never home. So I had the stroke. And then I was home. I was that was sticking home. So when they closed up the the RMP here in Phoenix UI, my wife, my wife kind of said, You gotta find another job that isn't so stressful. So I decided to try teaching or going to teaching. And I thought I taught in the public schools at Highland high school for five years, I taught chemistry, because chemistry is what I did for forever. And then I also taught a class on research for a couple of years. And the research, we had independent research projects, it was a small class 10 students, we got into groups of two. And basically they would investigate, they do science projects, or innovative engineering projects. And it was actually at Cardinal that I got the bug with our dwee nose and stuff and also working with radioactive drugs, you can't actually do the chemistry to make them you have to have robots do it for you. So So I started programming when I was doing the chemistry stuff with with the nuclear agents. And then after, after that, when I moved to the public schools, I got more involved in in the, in the in the microprocessors and things like that. And then and then then I got my master's in software engineering and, and here I am.
So I got a quick question on that is, so you started doing programming on robotics that we're mixing all the all the chemistry for you because the radioactive material, what kind of programming language is that
in? Well, it was I didn't actually do the the raw program, I did more of the applied stuff. So I worked within the within the systems. But but it was actually it was a lot of DOS based stuff. We didn't have any Windows stuff. We had all dos stuff that we did so and actually, it was more like terminal programs where it ran on. And smalls, what are what are they called the PLCs PLCs. And then they ran on PLCs. And, and and then the and then we would read them on our on our computer or whatever, whatever monitor that that we had. It wasn't just like mixing the chemicals you had a lot of we started moving into the concept of conditions where where instead of it, Keating for a certain period of time, it would heat total certain temperature was reached, so wouldn't be a time. It was it was a conditional I'm stapling, and for that we got much better yields. As soon as we moved away from time and into looking at conditions, then we got things much better. And you know, then the that we started upping the yields and, and having a good time, because when you did good yields, then you don't have to do the run. You don't have to do as many runs and, and people get their doses on time and people aren't upset or anything, which is always good. You don't want to make people know.
Well, let's move on to a little bit of what you're doing now with your work at the University of advanced technology.
Yes. So so I'm, I'm a I'm professor of robotics and embedded systems. And, and basically, what we do is, is we have we have a lot of majors actually, you at started as a CAD school back in the 80s. It was a CAD School, which was fantastic. In fact, I guess it was the Harvard of CAD in the 80s. It was it was dedicated in grade. And then I guess they moved in a like, like, they had some game design people and they kind of moved into game design. And then in the 90s, they decided to, to get to to move out in the bachelors associate's bachelor's. And now we have associates island off we have associates, but we have bachelor's and master's degrees that we offer. And it's all technology based things. And our we have a we have, we have art as well, that's that's involved with the game with the gaming, um, quite quite intimately. So it's, it's a nice setup. I guess we're ranked I believe we're ranked in the top 10 or top 20 for game design schools, which is, which is good. Or at least in the US, I think it's top top 10 or top 20 in the US for game design. And it's fun, it's a small, it's a family atmosphere, we have about 1000 students. For for myself, I teach three different computer or three different robotics classes. I do a robot navigation, um, class for autonomous robots. I do embedded systems class where we completely leverage we know behind that we do we do Atmel Studio, and we do, we do em MP lab. So we do pic and AVR. And then I also do an introductory, like electronics class. So a robotics that's electronics. And then I also teach CSC 102, which is the the introduction to programming class, here at here at UA T. Everyone must take an English class and they must take a programming class. So this is the programming class that people start
off with, what language do you all start them out?
I'm curious why you don't start with C? Well,
it well, like for Rob, for robotic C is great. But you know, for general, general understanding and keep in mind that we're not just doing robotic students, we're doing art majors, and we're doing doing everything. And really the the web is so pervasive that that app that everyone knows the web, everyone deals with the web, and to get those people who are not used to programming kind of excited or saying hey, I can create my own web page and do it from scratch, you know, instead of going on to Weebly or something like that, to fill it in. Instead, to do it from scratch, they get pretty excited.
I imagine from that perspective is C would actually be not a very useful tool for most people. Especially going like a game development. Not a lot of game development is in C.
Yeah, you really need the game engines and things like that a lot of game development is done with the engines.
You know, what's interesting, though, I've had the chance to interface with with a handful of tech artists and processing is really a powerful tool to the you know, the coding, environment processing, and that is a mixture of Arduino style, see, yeah, for for for, you know, video and image processing and audio processing for for artists and so like, I totally agree, I think I think Java is probably a great place to start because it's you can jump in and do something right away. Yeah. Processing is pretty powerful in the in the art Oh,
absolutely. And I tried to steal as many as I can into into my robotics classes. So Hey, y'all give it a shot, you've got it, you've got to take your your nine major classes. So you don't give it a shot. It's it's pretty fun to eat. And that's and that I believe that's part of why they had me teach the CSC 102 is so I can try to build our program.
You can basically tell him, hey, it's video games in real life.
Exactly. And I tell the video game people, I kind of make fun of them. Because for them, if if they don't like, you know, the gravity that they can just change it, you know, if they don't like the speed of light that they can change it. You know, for me, I'm stuck with what nature gives me I can't, I can't just make what I want to have happen. I've got to work. I've got to work with Mother Nature.
Yeah, and taking damage and dying have different consequences.
Well, absolutely. You can't just you can't, you can't you can't just restart. Yeah, robots fall damage. Right. Exactly.
Exactly. Yeah. And restoring the health bar is incredibly expensive.
Sometimes it never completely comes back. So.
Cool. So are you are you doing any research yourself at this school?
Well, um, I do have some side projects that I'm working on. Specifically, I mean, the nice thing is, is is that, you know, I have my own testbed for stroke rehab and traumatic brain injury. I've got a I've got a testbed right here with me. So I can test things out. We actually filed a patent with with my high school kids, I had a group of high school kids, two kids, who were working on a project with me, where we were basically what happens is, when you have a traumatic brain injury, a lot of times you'll get spasticity. What spasticity is, is it is it's where the you have different systems in your brain, like you have the extension and you have retraction, you know, those are two things going on with your arm. Well, the extension is kind of on the surface of your brain, it's not very deep, the retention is very deep. So when you have damage, it's easy to damage the extension. But the retention is more difficult to damage. So what happens is when you start to recover and your your your your contraction comes back very easily. But your extension doesn't come back me with my right arm, I can't extend it by itself, I can retract. But I can extend. So what happens is that's called spasticity. And people who have traumatic brain injury will have this spasticity where they can only contract that. That's why like curling in the fetal position. That's that's your contraction taking over. So you're getting into that getting into that state, your body wants to get into that state, what you can do is you can actually fatigue the contraction, so that so that it stops contracting, and then you can work with it a little bit. So what I did is I worked with some students on and creating a device to measure my, my spasticity, and we can monitor it and we can watch it, watch it fatigue, so we could watch it go away by by working out by working with it. And we failed the pad, just a provisional patent we, we failed the patent with it. And then we tried to I had a place to try to sell the pen but they weren't super interested. So so we got to file it. The deal was we used a we used an Arduino with a Wi Fi adapter. And we and we recorded the data on a Google Firebase. So so we had some fun with it.
Wow, that's that's pretty cool. Especially for high school students. Yeah.
So the robotics and embedded systems degree, is that a kind of like a new degree or?
Yeah, yeah, it's kind of new. It's a UAP. We're real focused on this project based learning this this concept of, of instead of having you like the labs, instead of writing out the lab and having them follow the instructions, instead, we list deliverables. And we list some beginning references for them to look at for the lab and they really have to compose the lab themself. And they have the whole internet to discover how to do it. It's kind of to get them ready for the working world where we're someone isn't going to say, Okay, you follow these instructions and you're good to go. That's not what usually happens. You usually have to figure it out and try to figure it out without pestering without pestering your boss. So, so we. So two is very focused on this project based learning in the classes. And then we also have things called sips. SIPs are student innovation projects. And basically, a student has to do a SIP to graduate. And he also has to do a, it's a performance studio, which is where you work in groups. So CIP as an individual project, performance Studio is a is a group, a group work working together. And, and for the, for the studio projects, those are every Friday, we don't even have classes on Fridays, Fridays are just for the studio projects. So so it's still a school day, and I still come in. But instead of doing doing my classes, instead, we do a stand up in the morning, and we do a stand up when they when they go home. So we follow an agile scrum type type of scenario.
I want that at work. Come in, just get the build stuff and work on
stuff work on projects.
And I'm saying this sounds awesome, because it sounds like you're preparing them for the real world. I
know, it's crazy. I mean, and, and really, to be honest with you, you know, of the classes I teach. Two of them. Two of them are both taught with Agile and Scrum in mind, meaning they're ran as agile scrum projects, and the CIP projects, which are what the students do individually, those are taught in Agile Scrum to so they have to do stand ups, every class period, and then they and then they have to, you know, do demos and the whole nine yards. So it's pretty standard. It does, it's a lot of fun. And to be honest with you, the sips and the in the studios are the reasonable reason why I'm here, I love coming in and working with someone to get something to fruition to try to get a project past the finish line. And, and actually work work in the beginning and the molding, because because not only you know that they have to come up with a project, but that project has to pass muster, meaning it has to be innovative, it has to have something that that we don't have right now, if it has, it was just a repeat of something else, it won't work and they have to come up with a new project, it has to be something that's innovative. And then they have I think it's three semesters to work on it.
So do they have to? So if they come up with an idea, is there like a board? Or do they have to give a presentation in front of their peers of like, this is what I'm going to do?
Yes, actually, twice a semester. They, they they give a presentation in front of the the people in charge of their group like like, like for me, I mean, the the the advances in computer science, so the ACS, robotics and digital fabrication group. So if anyone has an ACS, a robotics or a digital fabrication project, then I'm on the committee to oversee it. So I saw I saw we do demos twice a semester, where where they have to come in and well, the for the first semester, the first meeting isn't really a demo, it's more of a this is what I'd like to do in the project. And then we we make changes and things like that and kick them down the right path. And then we go from there. But but it's a lot of fun. Like I talked to one student and I'm able to talk about his project. In Arizona, we have scorpions are a problem. They they just scorpions are part of the environment. There's some areas that have scorpions and some areas that don't. So one of the students, he grew up in a scorpion area. So what happens is scorpions are in their house.
It's tough, tough neighborhood. biker gang
scorpions. It's one of those things where they say that if the scorpions were there, the scorpions don't move. So so if you build the house, if it's a scorpion area, you're gonna have scorpions, if it's not a scorpion area, you won't have scorpions. And I guess they like that. They say they like foothills and things like that. So they like not in the mountains, but but on the edge of the mountains.
So they're named out to areas of people. Your foothills. Yeah.
Yeah, you walk around. Yep, yep. So So what he's doing is he's creating a mobile autonomous robot that uses a blacklight and looks for the scorpions because scorpions blow glow under black light under UV light. We don't know why but they but they give off they They take the UV light, and they convert it to light. Usually it's a yellow or orange glow. So these things, when you've got a black light, these things just sparkle. So what he's going to do is he's going to create a mobile robot with a black light, and it's going to search for scorpion. So when it finds a scorpion, it's going to be like a bulldozer on fun, it's going to scoop it up, it's going to toss it onto a glue trap in the back.
And the thing about it scorpions aren't like super fast because they don't have to, they've got up they've got a steamer so they don't have to run away. So it's, it's just a good you just come up, you take it, you pitch in the back and then and then what we'll probably do is we'll have it you know, talk to him about having it send a text, each time it catches a scorpion so that the the the owners can find out how many scorpions get caught. And if it gets too many scorpions, then it'll warn you Hey, you got to clear that trap.
On the first night. Wake up in the morning, you got 300 unread messages.
body count three.
You gave a lot of fun with that. So I mean, that's a that's just one of the projects.
And that was entirely generated from the student.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it was what what happened is he you know, the first it was kind of funny, actually, you might find this humorous. He was trying to his first, his first go to Project was trying to come up with a better pool cleaner. So like the tiger shark that he ran into,
I would back that project.
Because he was gonna bake up like a better pool cleaner. And I was like, Yeah, but you know, he wasn't anything like super innovative. Yeah, what's kind of tough, you're dealing with water. And I didn't know if you you're, he didn't, he didn't really come up with anything, like super knew about it. I think he just wanted a pool cleaner. And he didn't want to pay for it.
That's that's the kind of projects that Parker and I come up with.
So so he so so unlike your afterwards he you know, we we denied the the tiger shark project and I was like, you know, come up with five things that are a pain in the tail, you know, come up with five things that you hate to do or that bug you or whatever. And he went home and he's like, my mom is always complaining about Scorpion site. She hates having the scorpions around, like, Okay, well, let's figure out a way to get it. And, you know, he came up with a mode of action. And then he presented it. And like for me when I was when he was doing it, I had imagined instead of a glue trap I had mentioned having like turning barrels with spikes in it, you know, something like that Scorpion Shredder, yes, he has a scorpion shredder. I had a big ambition that but but but coming up with with the other, you know, the other professors, one of them said, Chuck, just put a glue trap just crap on with glue, and then get a big because they sell Scorpion glue traps, but the scorpions never run over it. So um, so he's like, just do a glue trap and, and have an indicator for when it gets to fall, and you're good to go to fall of score. Absolutely. It's crazy.
Oh, that's so do the students have to create project documentation for all of this? Like, do they have to present that and like their design documentation throughout the whole process?
Well, for us for the demos, they don't have to they don't have to present like whoa, like we don't have to come up with a you know, coming from the pharmaceutical world. I you know, medical device requirements and things you you have to do lab notebooks and all that you have to keep track of it. Now, now I I tried to tell them, hey, you got to keep a lab notebook. And anytime you you want to use a calculator, have a lab notebook there and write it down. Anytime you you need to do something or you want to think of something right in lab notebook. So we push it but we don't actually oversee it. So it's nice to have now Now for me, I'm kind of I'm you know, I just started in in May so, so I've been here what like like about six months, five, six months. And, and they didn't have a full time robotics before me. So so I'm on board. Yo, the other guys were all computer science guys. So I'm coming on and I'm like, Hey, where's where's the circuit diagram? What's going on? Where's your block diagram? You don't have any of this stuff. So so we're kinda young trying to make a little more A little more of the engineering practices that you guys do to kind of get them ready for the real world. So we're trying to do that, that that's our main focus. So they certainly don't have it now, but it's coming. It's it's definitely coming. And, and the other thing, we have a, we actually have a UA T space program, where we use balloons AI helium balloons to lift payloads up to 100,000 feet. So we we've actually had six balloons that have gone up to 100,000 feet and, and done some preliminary scientific calculations and then came down.
See if scorpions can live that high.
We shouldn't do that. Well, you know, you're supposed to do that to live things they don't. They don't like the life frown upon. Yeah, exactly. It's not. It's not good to do that. But I don't know if scorpions really calendar
like that. Scorpions.
Beans, and mosquitos, both both of them can go. I'm sure there's no problem with that. Yeah.
So the performance studio projects, which are the group projects,
so how do those kind of work? Now it's the same thing where we have, we have a sprint where they, where every Friday started the day they do, they, the they do a stand up. And then at the end of the day, they do another stand up. So we get that full day, and then we get the week, they're supposed to spend, like, I think it's 16 hours total a week on the project. So they spend eight hours during the day on Friday, and then they spend eight hours some time during the week working on the project. Now the way the project happens, it comes a lot from the it the performance studio is is actually from a game, a game design standpoint. Yeah, we started as a game design and CAD school back in the 80s. And they did this performance studio where we're what happens is issue is you come up with an idea for a game, and then you then then you try to sell it to get more students to come on board to build that game. So So we kind of do the same thing where that first day, we come up with projects, either their previous semesters projects or their new projects. And then and then once once we decide, okay, who's gonna go on what projects and some projects don't don't have any one and they die on the vine. But other projects, they you know, they build the project and they go from there. For my performance studio, I'm working with the, with the, the computer science one, we have two projects, two performance studio projects. One of them is spider bot. What they did is they is they downloaded a 3d printed mobile spider platform. So it has only a six legs instead of a but it's a mobile platform that has motors and you can run around the floor. And then for the brains, the mama spider bot, the main spider bot, she has a Raspberry Pi in her head, and then she has a camera, and then the and then they have two minion, baby spider bots. And those have red Raspberry Pi's heroes as their brains. And what spider bots goal is, is to use the camera to identify a person, you know, with AI, they're going to use AI and a camera to identify a person, and then indicate what whether that person is a friend or a foe. And if it's a foe, they're going to charge the baby spider bots at it. And if it's a friend and they're just going to keep doing what with what they're doing. Yeah, it's it's, it's kind of interesting. And then the second project is kind of an old school project where they're wanting to make ASCII DND so they have a Dungeons and Dragons game but with ASCII are completely ASCII art.
Like, procedurally generated or something like that. Yeah,
yeah. Yeah, they're gonna, they're, they're using a modern game engine. But the but the UI is all ASCII art based. So it's, it's painting with at signs and, and whatever other stuff to real ASCII. Exactly, exactly. It's, in fact, I think we might be using the Unreal Engine. I'm not sure. But yeah, I think it might be but yeah, yeah, that with with an ASCII UI, so it's kind of an old school meets new school setup.
It seems like your students get a pretty wide variety of things thrown at them or a wide variety of things asked of them.
Absolutely. We, we, it's, like I said, it's a very project driven curriculum. So and really, we want you when you have a project driven curriculum, the students have to love the process. subjects if they don't love it, it's not gonna work. So and the only way to get them to really love the projects is if they take ownership of them. So a lot of the stuff is pretty much student led student driven. And really, as a professor, my goal is just to make life easy for them are possible. I guess it's not really easy, but to make it possible for them to succeed. So but yeah, it's a lot of fun. It's, it's a great time.
So, what are some of the other projects that you have?
A Well, we have what is it the with the space program, they're working on a new recovery vehicle, um, instead of having a parachute, they want to make a paraglider. So they can kind of steer it when you get it up to a to 100,000 feet, and you do whatever you're going to do. And then you release your payload, you drop it, and instead of doing a parachute, where, because you're at 100,000 feet, it could be 60 miles downrange, you know, you don't know where it is. One thing they want to do is they're building a pair of foil, so they can kind of steer it so it'll fly back, or at least in an area where we're
on public land instead of like, say old man's backyard. Yeah, we've got a baseball. Yeah.
Absolutely. Well, you know, the thing about it, it's here in Arizona, we have a lot of public land, you know, there's a if you go down south of town, you can have 6080 100 miles with no one there. So it's it's, you know, you've got your your pretty well Safe, safe for that stuff. But but it's finding it. And in fact, we had our last one, it actually went down, and we didn't know where it was at, because when it came down, it flipped over. So it was on the antenna. So it's transmitting into the ground instead of into the world. So we didn't know we knew where it was that as it was coming down. But we only had like a, like a two or three mile square section where we knew was within this two or three miles, but we couldn't find it. So a couple like 45 days later, I think it was 42 days later, we had a storm. We have the monsoon storms in the summer where we get a lot of rainfall. Well, not a lot. But what a lot for us. We had a monsoon storm and actually blew the the payload over to the correct position. So 4042 days later, it started transmitting and we got the signal and we were able to recover it.
I'm surprised it still was active that long.
Yeah. Yeah, it was it was student design. They were they were they were sipping on the sipping on the battery not not taking big goals.
Oh, that's kind of hoping that story would go like the 50s era Roswell, where you can find your your balloon and up in like on the news headlines.
Yeah. Yeah, it was a UFO. Absolutely. So but yeah, it's so we've got the space project, yell at every student, like I said, every student here before they graduate, they have to do a set project, they have to do a student innovation project. They have to do performance studio. So we have performance studio projects. Yeah. Yeah, I was what what was going on? In fact, they had a sip yesterday. And the SIP yesterday. What was his? I mean, there's so many of them. I'm trying to I'm trying to remember. Yeah. It'll come to me as soon as we finish, and I'm sure I'll remember it.
Well, you know, one thing I'm interested in, in a, I guess you could say more traditional degree. There's such a focus on the fundamentals. You take physics one before you take physics two, and then you take physics infinity and blah, blah, blah, you get down the line. But do your students have to go through a, you know, the first two years of learning the fundamentals of how the world is, before they even start touching stuff
will kill that's the big thing is that we try to get them in early. I mean, they still have to do some fundamental stuff. Absolutely. But but we try to mix in some good stuff early, we try to get to like the, you know, trying to get the electronics and things like that we try to make it make it a little fun. And they can get involved in like the space project, you know, that they have a class for the space project. And we have, we have freshmen who are in our space program who are working on space program, and, and and we're we're making PCBs. Yeah. We have a custom PCB that we made for our space program and we're designing another PCB for the for round two, so so it's it's trying to get that mix the mix of the of the good stuff with the with the stuff that you have to do. Cool.
Do you think Steven backfat will send me back to school?
Basically, you would do the exact same projects you're already doing. Yeah. That would be my job now. Yeah, you can you could get a masters in it.
And that and that's the funny thing is, is, you know, for me, I come and I, we have another a computer science professor Tony, I come and sit, I sit with Tony. And I'm like, this stuff is great. I was doing this stuff for free on weekends. And now I'm getting paid for it. This is fantastic.
That's super cool.
So but yeah, it's it's fun.
So thank you so much, Matt, for coming onto our pockets and talking about your research and your robotics classes that you've been doing.
Absolutely. Glad you glad to be here. And I just like to say that that was the macro fab engineering podcast. I was your guest, Matt Prater.
And we're your hosts Parker, Dolman.
And Steven Craig.
Thank you, everyone.
Take it easy.
And also, before we sign off, is I do want an update on how well the scorpion Roomba performs.
Yeah, absolutely. With well, I'll get them to put it on the web for you too. So well. I'll get a web link for it. Absolutely.
I think it needs to have like a picture of the rocks face on it wasn't the rock like a scorpion in a movie? That Scorpion kick? Yeah.
Absolutely. It would be fun. Oh,
man, okay, drive it home is you can do augmented reality and then you have a marker on it. So you put your phone over it and you can do a really crappy CG Scorpion King on it just like in the movie
call it it's a movie to exactly give you purpose.
These are stretch goals. Right?
But I'll be sure to bring that up because Yeah, cuz that'll and actually because because we do have a lot of VR and AR here as well. Especially with the game design stuff. Yeah. Okay. All right. Thanks
a lot, Matt. We appreciate you coming on. That was great. Thank you
Thank you. Yes, you our listener for downloading our show. If you have a cool idea, project or topic. Let Stephen I know Tweet us at Mac app at Longhorn engineer or at analog E and G or emails at podcast at Mac fair.com. Also, check out our Slack channel. If you're not subscribed to the podcast yet, click that subscribe button. That way you get the latest episode whenever in least no. Yeah. And please review us wherever you listen as it helps the show stay visible and helps new listeners find us
Annika O'Brien joins Parker and Stephen in the MacroFab Variety Hour Podcast.