Jack McCardell: Summer 2015 Sundial Experience

Enrolling in the sundial program was possibly the single best thing that could
have happened to me during my college experience so far. Not only did I get to move in
early and get a feel for what I was going to be doing for the next four years, but I got to
meet a lot of really cool people who were my age, and loved to learn science. It helped
me build some connections that I would not have otherwise. All the mentors are very
nice and helpful. They are all roughly my age, so they know exactly what we incoming
students are experiencing as they have been through a similar process just one to two
years before us. Going from high school to college is a major step in one’s life. It can be
stressful and scary and they know that. The mentors provide great advice that will help
you adapt from high school to college. They are all very understanding and only want to
help you succeed here at ASU. They are big on the mentoring by allowing students to
sign up for the mentor class where you request a mentor you got along with or thought
was most helpful during these two weeks.
 
It is very important to build connections in the science field, or in any field for that
matter. The more people you know the more opportunities you have to get experience
or research. By actively participating in the sundial program I was able to make many
connections with professors, guests from all around the science department that would
eat lunch with us, and even the mentors. The earlier you can start researching the more
experience you will gain and find out what you really want to study or do for a career. It
will also look excellent on your resume if you are applying for grad school or a career.
Since I have been working with the same people for two weeks now, I feel I can go up
to any of them and ask about their research with them being happy to tell you about it.
Which could open up doors to research in the lab with them if you seem interested
enough.
 
The sundial program has also changed the way I saw math. I had always viewed
math as inapplicable to my everyday life. After seeing how we can find the light’s focal
length or find the depth of a shadow I realize that the math I am doing is now applicable
to my life and it seems real, instead of just random numbers that don’t seem to mean
anything. It makes math a lot more satisfying as you can see your math actually
describe what you are seeing, whether it be a picture of a shadow on Mars, or where
are the light rays meet after bending through a medium. In high school I always thought
of science and math as similar yet very different at the same time because in science,
chemistry specifically, we did some math but it wasn’t anything beyond simple
calculations. However, I now feel that physics really brought the two together. Originally
I had come into SESE thinking I would want to study environmental science, but now,
after going through the sundial program, I changed my major to physics. Sundial really
opened my eyes to all these new possibilities and showed me that with physics I can go
in almost any direction. Someone from the program stated that with physics you can go
a mile wide, while only scratching the surface.
 
Another reason this program got me interested in physics was doing the
communications project. Our team of scientists needed to figure out a way to use the
internet on Mars. The first step we took was we set up 2 circuit boards. One would be
used to light up an LED that would work as our message sending device; we called this
circuit board light. We set this up by connecting one wire from 5v to the light source
which would deliver power to the LED. Then we added a resistor so the LED would not
burn out due to being over powered. The second Circuit board we set up was called
shadow and the would receive the message with light sensor. It was set up almost
identically to light except with a light sensor instead of an LED.
 
The next step was to use Arduino to write code so that we could tell the LED how
many times to flash and for how long. We had it set so that when the light was off the
receiving end would receive a 0 and when it was on it would receive a 1. However in
order to send a message at long distances we used a optic fiber cable. This was used
because it could take in light without allowing any to escape until the light reached the
end of the cable. To send the message we ran the code which caused the LED to flash
through the optic fiber cable. The other end would reach another computer that had the
light sensor and could pick up the binary code then translate it back into characters.
 
Overall the sundial program was an invaluable experience that I will remember
for the rest of my life because it is showed me what I really enjoy doing and could see
myself doing the rest of my life. I would encourage all future undergraduates to sign up
for sundial next year. It really does help you adapt from high school life to college life.
You also get to make great friends before school starts so you at least know a few
people you can talk to or do homework with before classes even start. It also built some
great connections that I could potentially use for research. One can make a lot of great
friends through this program I encourage all those future physicists out there to enroll in
the sundial program.
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