Archives by Month: June 2012

Colby During the Summer – Work

I know I’ve already talked a bunch about what Colby is like over the summer, but I thought I’d give you guys sort of idea of the things we do here! I think I’ll start having my next couple blog posts each being a part of this: I’ll start off by talking about our jobs here, then go on to what we do for fun in our spare time over the next couple weeks!

 

Work:

Although for the most part people have different types of jobs around campus, the majority of us work for professors either as a research assistant or something like that. Students who aren’t research assistants generally either work for some sort of campus facility – the athletic center, bookstore, or PPD. No matter the type of job, for the most part the hours and restrictions are very lax – most of us see our professor once every week or two and really just kind of do our own thing. Not that it gives us an incentive not to work hard, it’s just kind of nice to have a position that is very independently driven and something you kind of just show up and do. If we’re out late the night before and aren’t looking forward to a rough morning, it’s usually not too much of a problem just to show up to work a couple hours late the next day and make up the time at some other point. I usually don’t do that too often but it’s nice for sure to know that we have that option. If we do need to take planned time off, generally professors have no problem giving us a couple days here or there as long as we end up working around the amount we’re supposed to.

For just a quick overview of what else people do on campus, I’ll sort of skim over some of the other jobs I know of besides my position with the CS department. The biggest group of students by far works for one of the science departments – either for geology where they go out in the field and study rocks, chemistry where they basically mix chemicals in the lab all day (I think, not really sure what they do!), or for the environmental science department. The ES department is currently working on the Belgrade Lakes Project, and while I don’t know much about it, it seems like every other student I talk to is working on it. From what I do know, Colby got a grant to help out a bunch of lakes around the area – so what many students do is drive out to the lakes, wade in the water, take water samples, conduct surveys, and drive around in boats. Not a real job, I know. Whenever I ask other students who work on the project how their day was, they talk about driving around Maine, going in the water, and kayaking around. I get a little jealous.

Besides the science department, a lot of students just do pretty typical RA things – reading books and taking notes for professors, looking through websites, and other things. While everyone works pretty hard, (we’re Colby students after all!) generally most people I talk to finish the work they have pretty fast, so a lot of days are just spent kind of maybe going on Facebook once in a while and the like. My position is a little different, and because there’s always ways to improve our robots, we usually always have some new task to look forward to. But I guess I like that feeling – always having something to do and feeling productive, while at the same time having a very relaxing and not pressured job.

See you next week,

Nick

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Meals at Colby – An Inside Look

I can’t believe I haven’t had a blog about this yet, but I thought I’d let you guys in on a student’s view of the dining halls at Colby! It’s a bit biased, and my food tastes are a little unusual, but here it is:

 

The Spa

Technically the Spa isn’t a dining hall, it’s a seperate business on the Colby campus that is given a block amount of money by the school in order to have prices that are decent for a college students budget. The Spa is located in the middle of Pulver (our student center) and I really think it’s the social center of campus – although most of the time it is pretty quiet and not that busy. (it has a very cafe type feel – students writing essays on their computers and eating, studying, drinking coffee) However, sometimes it can get quite rowdy, like on a Friday or Saturday night at like 1 AM. Although I wish it was open a little later than 1, going to the spa on a weeknight and getting a late night quesadilla is probably one of my favorite things about Colby. While the rest of our dinings halls have great food, the quality of food at the Spa is even better, as it is a real company (I think?) and you have to pay to get stuff there. Quesadillas (cheese, buffalo chicken, bbq, veggie) are one of the more popular things to get, but they have tons of subs, sandwhiches, burgers, fries, and more that are restaurant quality and are pretty cheap because of Colby’s subsidy. Although it does end up being five or so bucks for a meal at the Spa (which is pretty good, considering what you’d have to pay at a normal restaurant or cafe) you can actually go there once a week for free. You’re limited to what is called the “meal plan” of the day – which means there is a specific order that the Spa will give to you (well, two, since they have a vegetarian option) but usually it is a great break from the busy dining hall, and I actively use it each week.

 

Bobs

Everyone but me loves Bobs, it seems. While I love the food at Colby and feel like a you know, middle school kid, complaining about the lunch food, I can’t say I have a huge passion for Bobs food. Then again, I have a ridiculously simple pallet and am way more happy eating say, chicken fingers, at a high quality restaurant than some fancy dish. Probably the reason I don’t like Bobs is because Bobs has “good” food – which I’m not a fan of. That being said, it is nice to mix it up sometimes, and for me last year when I lived right next to it, it was very nice to just hop over for a quick lunch or dinner. The atmosphere is very different than Dana – no music playing, no booths, there’s a fireplace and couches, and the whole left wall is made up of windows overlooking the soccer fields. For the most part, I am the huge exception for a Colby student in not liking Bobs – pretty much everyone loves the food there.

 

Foss

For me, Foss is pretty similar to Bobs – good, healthy food, which means that I’m not the world’s biggest fan. Foss is different from Bobs in the respect that it is supposed to be the “vegetarian” dining hall at Colby- and while an initiative to make it completely meatless never went into effect (thank god), it is still pretty meatless for the most part. They do still have their famous buff chix wraps and pulled pork and mac n’ cheese, (best dish at Colby, hands down) but generally this is where vegetarians and the like go. Not to worry, if you don’t eat meat and you live on the other side of campus, every dining hall has a vegetarian option at all times.

 

Dana

Ahh Dana. My second home. For me, it’s the Dana atmosphere rather than the food that just makes it awesome – it’s big, and split up into a bunch of different sections, which makes meals sort of private and enjoyable but the same time you’re with pretty much everyone. There’s booths, private dining rooms, and then a bunch of differently set up tables. The service area itself is huge, with tons and tons of different options – if you can’t find anything, Dana will always have quesadillas and Dana-burgers – not hamburgers (they’re really the same but everyone calls them Dana burgers) that you can pick up. Besides that, the food is awesome. Can’t really say much more than that. Last of all, probably the best part of Dana is the music. Bobs doesn’t have music, Foss usually has classic rock and light music (which is nice from time to time) and Dana has.. well, I don’t really know how to put it. Colby students refer to Dana music almost as it’s own genre. I guess you could say it’s a mix of pop, and then a lot of random stuff.

 

Anyways, that’s all I have for this week.

 

-Nick

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Robot Soccer

Since I’ve already been at Colby for three weeks working with the Computer Science Department, I thought I’d just fill you guys in on what I’ve been up to! First of all, my official summer job title is a “systems administrator.” To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what that means but I think it means that basically I do a lot of different stuff. I work helping out making sure the networked computers in the Robotics lab are up and running, however my primary job as of right now is to work with two other research assistants (RA’s) to program robot soccer. We have four DarwinOP robots to work with (with each costing more than your average car) and are continuing the research that Colby students and our professor have done on them for the past couple years.

 
So far, they have written walking modules, ball tracking modules, and kicking modules. That means the robots (well, one of our robots, we would need to transfer the software to our other non pretty much blank robots) can walk, (sort of) detect a ball, (sort of) and kick a ball. (sort of) As of right now, they can’t aim for the goal or account for other robots. That being said, there is a lot of work just to kind of fix what we already have which it seems like the rest of the summer will be spent on. Hopefully in the future (the next year or so) the robots will be able to actively play a soccer game. But it is a lot of work.

 
My job specifically is kind of both to learn and help out the other RA’s. I have very little CS experience compared with them, and one of the reasons I was hired (I think?) was kind of to learn and get familiar with a bunch of different CS concepts that will hopefully help me in the future too. Already I feel pretty comfortable with C (which I just taught myself over the last few weeks) and can navigate the terminal pretty well too. I was able to ssh (log into, to put simply) into my computer in my dorm from the robots lab the other day and open up things on it, which was pretty cool.

 
Below are pictures of one of the robots, Frodo. We named each of the robots after the Lord of the Rings hobbits, so we have Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin. Additionally each of the Robotics lab Linux computers (the computers that I am responsible for keeping up and running and connected to the server) is named after a dwarf in the hobbit – so we have balin, (the server) bofur, bifur, nain, kili, thorin, dori, etc. We’re in the middle of doing some non hardware related coding so I wasn’t able to get that many good pictures of the robots up and running but I thought I’d start off by just showing you what we have and what they look like when they’re non operational! I should be updating this page later this week with some real operational pictures. It’s pretty cool.

-Nick

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Tangled Schedules

As I’m approaching the beginning of my junior year, I’ve started to try and get my academic future organized. Although I had been trying to do this since freshman year, it never really happened until recently. And I guess looking back at it, that’s the way it should be – no freshman should have their Colby career mapped out. Anyways, I think I know exactly what classes I’m going to take until I graduate, with one or two exceptions. Schedule confirmations for the fall semester just came out, and just as I hoped I got into all the classes that I wanted. I’m taking CS231 (a computer science class based in Java) that I need to take next semester to either minor or major in CS – so that class is kind of a big deal. My lab professor (Professor Maxwell) is the same professor that I’ve had for every single Colby CS class so far (and the guy I’m working with over the summer!) which is really nice – one great benefit of going to such a small school, and having such a small minor or major. The CS department only has three professors, after all. That will be the fourth CS class I’ve taken, which means I need to take six more in the future to major, or three more for a minor. (A minor needs six, but one class I’ve taken so far only would count towards a major)

My next two classes are both government classes – one is with Professor Corrado, who I had for Presidential Nomination Politics, Campaign Finance, and Political Theory. He is an amazing guy – I think I’ve talked about him in the past and probably will in the future. Anyways, that class is called the 2012 Election – and as those of you who are my avid Twitter followers have probably been able to tell, I am extremely pumped for it. The other government class I’m taking has something to do with post-communist transformations – I needed to take it to satisfy the gateway requirement for the government major. Still, it’s a government class and as the entire government department is so ridiculously over qualified, I’m sure it will be awesome. My last class I’m still not a hundred percent sure of what I want to be, but I think I will either take an easy course to boost my GPA, or try to take one of the philosophy courses that gets rid of my literature requirement. Then, I would only be left with my non lab science to fulfill which is going to be terrible but I think I’m going to take bioethics or something easy (I know I know, bioethics really isn’t science) when I’m abroad in Sydney in the Spring.

Which leads me to the rest of my Colby curriculum – for JanPlan I think I’ll be taking another CS course that would go towards a possible double major, and then second semester I’ll be in Sydney where on top of my bioethics course I’d take a CS course to fulfill a very specific course at Colby. (I would need this one course in particular to major) Since I don’t know what classes they offer yet it’s kind of hard yet usually they have the same sort of stuff that they have the semester before. Anyways, the other two classes would probably be pretty easy classes that I’d take out of interest – like architecture or something. Additionally, I might try to get my thematic requirement for my government major out of the way. Senior year my schedule would be heavily filled with four 300 level CS courses, a senior seminar, a math course for the CS major, and then some easy courses to get my grades up, or maybe I would only take three courses a semester! JanPlan I would either take off or do something fun.

Time to go do some OCS stuff – sorry if I bored you, I thought I’d give some of you guys who are looking at Colby an idea of what goes through an upperclassman’s mind looking at schedules!

See you next week,

Nick

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