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A thousand little blank puzzle pieces


Tuesday, July 30, 2013, by Lake Boddicker
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For the past two months I have been working on building an aerial tram with my two great teammates Devin Carroll and Faith Neff. This consisted of me sitting in front of a computer, occasionally graced by the presence of a sensor and motor, wondering why nothing was working. I think that I have gotten more of a tan from the computer screen than the actual sun. As I so found out, however, things did work, just slowly. But bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece things came together like a thousand little blank puzzle pieces.

[Here is the rat’s nest of wires that is in the aerial tram box.]The first piece of the puzzle that started to work was the data logger. This was one of the most confusing things to work with. We needed it to communicate to the computer, but no matter what we did it wouldn't talk. We called in an expert, my mentor, Mark Vanscoy. He was able to get the datalogger and the computer talking to each other after an hour or two. With that done we could get started on the glorious coding.

[The CR1000 datalogger]After the datalogger was working, the sensors followed suit. There were a total of three different sensors that would be put on the tram, one sensor to measure distance from the canopy, one sensor to measure net radiation, and one group of sensors to measure NDVI and PRI.

[Above is one of the sensors that were mounted on the tram. It is the four channel net radiometer.]The last piece that we got working was the one that took the longest -- the motor. After reading or, at least, thoroughly skimming, the two hundred page manual, I only had a slightly better understanding of how the darn thing worked. It took one week before I got the motor to move. It took another week before it was doing what we wanted it to do.

[The tram out on one of its measurement runs.]From there it was just a matter of building on the things that were working. Soon, the tram was mounted and the sensors were running. Sensors sensed, motor moved, and now two months later we have a working tram. There is much work to be done for sure, but we have a foot in the door and constructed a solid foundation on which the rest of the tram can be developed. 

Lake Boddicker

Quirky Q&A with Lake

What is the first thing you do when you get up every morning? Try to go back to sleep

What is the first word that comes to mind when I say the word " Awesome"? Possum

Would you rather see a movie, a parade, or a magic show? Movie

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