When one thinks of “lab”, most often times, a chem lab or bio lab with pipettes and flasks pops up in one’s mind. However, as an electrical engineering undergrad, entering a new lab is always surprising because of how different different EE (electrical engineering) labs could be. You could have labs focusing in photonics, chip design, or transistor material, so each would look and feel different because of the vast variety of fields within EE.
As I opened the doors to the robotics lab, I was already in awe of the unique style and feel of the lab. Almost every desk was uplifted by a stage that my faculty adviser, Dr. Byl, had added in a while back. On the right, there were an array of kitchen appliances, and scattered around were nice relaxing plants. The lab not only felt cozy and at home, but also meant business at the same time. I look to my left, and I see a huge contraption that looked like a part of a Transformer robot from the movies. I found out that it was actually known as a hopper, which the lab used to study how a robot can balance and move at the same time, similar to a pogo stick.
My desk was located on the left side of the lab, and it has three great views. On my right, behind the railing of the stage, the hopper lies dormant until the lab decides to work with it again to study one-legged locomotion. The lab has a lot of open space in the middle which eliminates the claustrophobic feel a typical compact office or lab would have. There are a few plants within the lab which contribute to a nice open work environment.
The next view from my lab chair is my computer. This is where I get my research project work done, and it’s seriously hard work. Robotics involves a lot more math and programming that I anticipated, but it gets fun once you learn how to do the fundamentals. Although it can be difficult to spend hours here learning how to code some simulations or getting down the concept of reverse kinematics, the cool healthy atmosphere of the lab helps me push forward regardless of how difficult the obstacle.
What I admire greatest is the last view I have from my desk, which is the ocean that borders our school here at UCSB. I always take a moment from time to time to look away from my work and take in the view from the fourth floor of Harold Frank Hall. The ocean is always a beautiful blue, and the palm trees flowing with leaves of green. The window is big enough to let in the light of the vast blue sky and fills the lab with photons from the Sun. Looking out, it helps me solve some difficulties I am having with my work and clears my mind so that I can finish the job in a smooth manner. I am extremely fortunate to be here at UCSB studying in this lab because the environment I work in bolsters the efficiency and fun of the research I am doing.