Today’s Rating: 7
The title of today’s blog refers to two major parts of my day. The first, involved a lengthy trip with Ahmed to first go pick up his ID from Cyride, then getting ingredients for and making a mac and cheese bake. The second half of the title points to a revelation that I had about our research for the whole summer.
Ahmed and I like to do meal prep together. Today, we decided to use up some of his pasta, as well as some bred, to make mac and cheese. Before we could ride the bus however, we had to find his ID. We looked for ~20 minutes, then he called Cyride to check if they had it. They earned Ahmed’s admiration for their efficient lost and found service. Then we went to the grocery store and bought a lot of cheese. Twas a good day. The food was good too, although I’m not sure we could call it meal prep because it was mostly gone within an hour. As a side note, we’re almost out of eggs, which is pretty impressive considering we had over 80 a week ago.
And now, for the main revelation. I have to focus on wording in order to avoid sounding pessimistic. The work we’ve done so far probably has not been very helpful to anyone. Instead of crafting a plan for us interns based on what would help the project, it seems more like we were given whatever work they could think of.
The first part of the summer we focused on becoming lab training. Yet our work does not require us to be in a lab. Next, we focused on SolidWorks and making parts to test. However, our graduate students already know SolidWorks so well that a part which would take us an hour to complete might only require 5 minutes for them. Another problem, is that we have no idea if the parts we made will actually work.
We need to separate particles based on their size. The parts we were told to make never had a mechanism for separating anything. Even if we had, the part would simply be a shot in the dark because no calculations were done beforehand to see if it would actually have the desired properties. Those calculations are done in a software called Comsol.
Today we learned that nobody related to the project has any experience or knowledge on how to use Comsol. Which seems odd to me, because the first step in this process ought to be making a channel that we know has the properties for inertial separation; The next step would be to make the part in SolidWorks; and finally the part would be printed. Instead, what seems to be happening is we are skipping the first step, designing a part that we hope works, then having it printed.
Therefore, to sincerely be of use in this project, we should learn Comsol. That way we could perform tasks crucial to the process that others could not. We would design channels, then we or the other undergraduates would make them in SolidWorks, then someone would print and verify. Seems to me like a good design because everybody is useful and nobody has to deal with too much. Instead, we have nobody designing proper channels, too many people creating parts, and 3D printed channels that may or may not work.
To wrap up, what I realized is: we should have been learning Comsol from the beginning. People who know how to use Comsol are what this project needed, and now, with two weeks left, I’m not sure if we can learn enough to be useful.
As a quick note, we were assigned another task. The task was to see if there was a way to print unobstructed microchannels. Therefore some of the parts we made were simplified to prove if we could clean the channels. In the end however, it looks like all it took to solve this issue, was a trip downstairs to ask a 3D printing expert.
The solution: print using a higher resolution printer (like the one in the basement), and clean with piano wire. While this hasn’t been tested by our team yet, I trust her expertise.
So I stand by my previous statement, we should have learned Comsol before anything else.
We haven’t given up though. Comsol is a terribly unintuitive program to use, but we’re going to try to learn it regardless of how little time we have left. If we can produce one channel that has the properties we want, then I believe everyone can work off of it.
We hope you’ll tune in next time,