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.