T1, C# and the EVAs
T1, C# and the EVAs
There may be more acronyms than you can shake a stick at in that title, but it’ll all come clear…
It’s been a very busy three weeks since I arrived back from Easter, largely due to many courseworks and deadlines! This past week we had the infamous T1 lab, where we were challenged to produce a Tune Generator capable of playing a basic ‘melody’ (read ‘hideous square wave beeps’). The overall system design is done for us, as well as several of the subsystems, but there is still a huge amount for us to do. We had to produce two different programmable logic designs: one to control the position in the tune, and one to determine the length of the note (the pitch is handled for us). Additionally, two different clock frequencies are required, as well as an amplifier to drive the speaker. Thankfully we were given a week off of labs the previous week else we would never have managed to design all of it! This lab is so big we have two scheduled slots for it, and it counts for triple marks!
After finally finishing all the preparation we headed to the first lab session on Tuesday afternoon. The first thing to do is to build the system up on protoboards. These are used extensively for making prototypes since no soldering is required, so it is easy to make changes. After about an hour we had built it up and connected it all together. Now, one thing you get used to in electronics is that stuff never works. Well not first time. Or second. And probably not third either, so we weren’t expecting anything to happen … but it did! It worked first time! We were shocked. The supervisor was shocked. We pressed START again and the (now delightful) little beeps came pounding out again. Wow! We were then told that last year only one group managed to get it working at all, so needless to say that we were very, very pleased to have it within the hour!
The other major deadline that has just passed is the C# programming assignment I mentioned before. I’m pleased to say that I managed to crack the code over the holidays, and have spent the remaining month or so trying to optimize it to run as fast as possible. My record is about an hour, which is very respectable, but I’m informed that the fastest known algorithm can crack it in about 3 seconds! That was achieved by Mr. Internet though, I’m afraid – I don’t think anyone here managed anything close to that. Still, I enjoyed having the chance to get my teeth into a big design project like that (and the same for T1), which is undoubtedly a good thing, since that’s what next year is going to be more like, and certainly in years 3 and 4 when we will be working on major individual and group projects respectively.
On a lighter note, I was delighted to be able to perform at the Southampton Guildhall on Thursday night. SUJO were performing there as part of the EVA’s (SUSU Excellence in Volunteering Awards) – basically the Oscars, but better. It was a very enjoyable evening, and amongst the highlights was the fact that Student Robotics won an EVA for ‘Best Student Led Project’. They really deserve it – congratulations! However, the highlight for me would have to be entering the building. Why? Well, being part of the band meant I was the proud owner of an ‘Access All Areas’ pass to the venue. The bouncers on the door were clearly fed up of having to turn people away since the house doors weren’t yet open and they’d already started trying to eject me before I whipped out the pass, leaving one grovelling bouncer in my wake. It felt great!
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