Friday, April 11, 2014

Jeanmarie Hall, my second home

Some majors have one building where many of your classes are held.  After my four years, I have to say mine would be Jeanmarie.  Jeanmarie is one of the three main academic buildings that are connected on main campus.  It has three floors with many different classroom styles and computer labs.

One room which I have become acquainted with fairly well is the Linux lab.  I've had three Computer Science classes in that room and have spent a fair amount of time there for my other Computer Science classes as well.  I'll say we have a love hate relationship for that reason as well.  I really love my major but occasionally, there were those assignments that I wanted nothing to do with again after that semester.

Some the department offices which are housed in Jeanmarie are the Computer Science, Mathematics, and Business departments.  There are some other professors scattered in there as well but for the most part if you are in any of these three majors, you will frequently visit Jeanmarie for advising meetings, to hand in papers, and for extra help during office hours.

If you stop by campus, be sure to check out the place I've come to love and know!  And to help you out here are some pictures of this place as well:
Jeanmaire Hall
A Windows Computer Lab
The Linux Lab - generally only computer science majors
only have access to this room 
One style room for lectures
Another type of classroom, I really like this one because
it is easier to spread out!
A setup for a more discussion based classes

Saturday, April 5, 2014

We knew it was trouble...

This semester I'm taking an Artificial Intelligence course.  It is an interesting course because unlike the past courses I've taken where we knew our programs would work in our controlled environment, there wasn't a controlled environment.  We still used a set of test variables but a lot had to do with our external environment.
Team Trouble
Our big project we did was right before spring break.  We broke off into teams to create a robot to remove toxic waste, or soda bottles which is what we used to represent the waste.  Our professor set up an obstacle course which consisted of us going down a ramp to remove a door before entering a ring.  Then we entered the ring and had to find the three soda bottles and remove them.  Once our robot removed the bottles, it had to head back up the ramp and shut off at the end.
Trouble, the robot

It was a tiring process.  We built our robot out of a LEGO Mindstorms kit.  It was slightly exciting for me since my brother used to make anything I wanted out LEGOs and I had no real skill for it.  We spent a lot of hours on this project because one thing this taught us was how difficult it would be to factor in external environments.  For example, if the color sensor missed the red dot on the floor, our robot would drive off the course.  Or if the touch sensor didn't registrar the bottle was in its grasp, then the robot would keep pushing the bottle around.  It was a bit frustrating but I learned a very important lesson during the process.

Trouble removing the door.  We built a lever to hold the door
until it was outside the circle and dropped it.
Trouble had a touch sensor and bars on the side to remove
a bottle from the field.
 We did fairly well during our presentation.  Our main problem was the search field was so big that it took awhile to find all the bottles.  Anyways take a look at this video one of my teammates made that shows Trouble completing the required tasks:


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NYC MOVE Trip

In my last post (Birthday Shenanigans), I mentioned that I went on a MOVE Extended Service Trip to NYC for Spring Break.  It was an exhausting but well worth it trip.  I had an amazing group and met some really great people while helping them out in anyway we could.
My Group <3
All our days were long but it was well worth it.  We traveled mostly by subway and foot since it is the most convenient in the city.  For the most part we mastered it, only after we lost two people on a platform on the first night.  We all made it in the end and we laugh about it now.

Our mornings normally started out working with God's Love, We Deliver.  It is similar to Meals on Wheels but at a much larger scale.  3 out of the 4 days we worked there, we help package food.  Me and 4 others in the group chopped 200 hundred pounds of onions while there.  We helped prepare other food and also organize the bags to be delivered.  On the last day, we each got paired up with a van driver to deliver food to the people.  It was quite an experience to meet the people in need and I think that affected me the most in the end.

On the odd morning (my birthday actually) we went to help sort inventory at Handcrafting Justice.  It was a different experience since we only interacted with the people who handled shipping.  We had fun anyways.
Sorting backpacks
For three of the afternoons we worked at The Mercy Center hosting some after school games for the kids who went there for homework help.  It was a lot of fun because the kids were great and entertaining on their own!  Our last stop of the day was the Covenant House.  We all really enjoyed going there because we got to hang out with people our age.  We played pool, air hockey, basketball, and a lot of cards.  It was interesting since a lot of us were from different areas (including the people there), we all had different games and such to teach each other.

One of the coolest things we did was on the vernal equinox.  There is the old tale where you can stand up an egg.  We actually did it!

By the time we got home at the end of the night, it was probably about 10pm.  After the second day we decided to nap anywhere we could, if we had time:
I wouldn't go back and change the schedule even though I was running on fumes by the end of the day.  I really enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know more about the different types of people in the area.  It was definitely a rewarding experience.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Birthday Shenanigans

About a week and a half ago I turned 22.  The sad thing about my birthday is it has fallen during spring break.  On one hand it means, "NO SCHOOL!!!"  but on the other hand it means, "no friends."  Yes, I have visited with friends in the past, but there is nothing like walking around campus getting "Happy Birthday!!" shouts from everyone.

This year, because my birthday was on spring break, my roommates decided to throw me an early birthday celebration.  My mom brought up some presents for me and hid them with my roommates so I couldn't touch them until a determined time.  I have to say they were pretty good about hiding them.  For me to find these gifts, they set up a scavenger hunt.  I was so excited and couldn't contain my excitement!!  Most clues were in our townhouse but they sent one to a campus printer which caused for a mini-field trip to Alliot (that's where they made me go to print).  Anyway it was a fun time and I couldn't ask for better townhouse-mates!

For spring break I had gotten accepted on a MOVE service trip.  I was excited to be doing service this year for my birthday.  It was just something I wanted to do.  Our trip was based in NYC.  It was a great experience and I'll blog more about it later!  My birthday was a pretty good day.  We spent the day pretty much doing our usual service.  However, a few people on my trip took to making fun of me or calling me, "Birthday Girl."

When we got home, I was kind of tired but still pumped up.  We dispersed to our rooms for a couple a minutes to throw our coats or change if we choose.  Every time I walked out of my room to go to the bathroom or give someone something, people would stop running down the hall and give me a stupid grin and say, "Hi, Maura."  I was really confused.  When I finally made my way upstairs, I realized half way up the walls were decorated with present pictures.  I stopped and called out if it was alright for me to proceed.  I was given the okay and when I got to the kitchen, the door was completely covered with happy birthday in large letters:

When I opened the door, balloons fell on me.  It was quite unreal.  Then everyone sang me Happy Birthday and they had cupcakes as well.  I asked them when they had time to pull all this off and they said they didn't.  They Faith Community we were staying with decorated everything and rigged the balloons.  It was so nice of them.

It was definitely one of my top birthdays.  And I'm really thankful they did all that for me.  I couldn't have asked for better people to go on the trip with!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Penguin Plunge!!

Today was the day I jumped into Lake Champlain for the third time!  The Penguin Plunge is held in 3 different locations in Vermont during the middle of winter.  It raises funds for the Vermont Special Olympics.  The Burlington Penguin Plunge raised over $400,000 alone.  I'm proud to take part in this event and appreciate all the support and donations I get for it.  For this year's plunge the air temperature was 23°F and the water was 32°F.  In the moment I tried not to think about it at all which helped me be able to plunge.  Check out some pictures from the event:

The hole in the ice is where everyone took the plunge
A bit better view of how frozen everything was
You can see me peeking out in the right side
After the fact - my clothes were already frozen
Officially a penguin for another year

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

School, Work, Social Life

AHHHHH!!!!! It has finally happened! It is my last semester at St. Mikes.  I don't want to leave this place in May.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Right?

Moving along then...

Last week I started an internship at Systems and Software in Williston, VT.  I worked full time before classes started to get trained and my feet wet without more than one thing going on.  So far I really like it there!  I'm learning a lot and gaining so much experience.  Apparently I'm getting rave reviews because today my supervisor was out of the office so these other people stole me to help them out.  Don't worry they are allowed to that.  One big thing about this company is sharing knowledge and resources.  Apparently I'm a resource.

This week started classes.  I'm taking three classes along with my internship.  I'm taking Computer Architecture, Artificial Intelligence, and Critical Thinking and Communication (aka a business class).  I'm really looking forward to some of the projects I get to work on this semester.  For example, I get to build a robot in Artificial Intelligence!  For my business class, I get to design, market, and sell a product!  We'll see how they go.  I'll have updates of these more in the second half of the semester when they actually start up.

So someone might say, when do you have a social life?  I tell them:  on the weekends.  It is true.  I went away last weekend to St. Anne's Shrine - St. Mike's retreat center - and the weekend before that I went skiing.  Here are some pictures from the beautiful clear day:



I do try to get outside on the weekends because it is so nice to be outside.  It does make me tired so you can generally find me asleep by 10pm.

I'm really excited for this semester and can't wait for some of the fun times that are planned!  It should be a busy semester but a good one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas, Grogan-Style

It's that time of the year - Christmas time.  No two families celebrate the holidays the same way, and my family is no different.  We change our strategy per year depending on people's schedules.  It is never a surprise the decorations don't really start going up until I come home because I have the most flexibility around the holiday.  I'm also glad because as much as I complain about decorating, I love doing it!  I'm not too good at it (you can tell by my wrapping) but put on some Christmas tunes and I'll do it all!

This year I got home and my dad surprised me by asking if I wanted to go to a Christmas tree farm and chop down a tree.  I surprised him by saying yes.  He wouldn't let me live it down the entire Saturday.  We, of course, went tree hunting on the brink of a snow storm.  It is normal for us to pick the worst day to do outdoor decorating around the holidays.  It was just my dad and I who went out and we have now been banned from being alone to pick out our Christmas tree.  Take a look:
Getting ready to chop down the tree (no I didn't use the saw, my dad did)
The suburban comes in handy, our tree fit right inside!
It took two of the tree workers and my dad to put it through the netting.  We should have know something was going to be wrong at that point...

The guys carrying in our Christmas tree
Upright, it just fits.
(Don't mind the hand my brother just did the tightening of the stand)
It finally clicked something may be off when we realized we needed to buy a new stand because the trunk was too fat for the stand.

Yep, our tree just fits in the living room
Our tree just barely fit in the living room.  We had to move some furniture around so it would fit and people could still sit and enjoy the tree.  You just can't sit on opposite sides of the room because you won't see each other!!

I put 12 strands of lights up.  There are now 11 strands because one strand completely blew and I had to rework the strands after the ornaments were up so the lights would still come on.  Anyway here is the completed tree:

My aunt sent us a mini tree which we decorated and put up next to the big tree.  Now you can enjoy either a small tree or a large tree, depending on your preference.
The mini tree decorated, lights and all!
Take your pick:  large or small?
We also decorated the outside of our house right after a snow storm.  My dad braved the weather to hang the wreaths up on the front of the house.  I decorated the railings to look like candy canes and we put a big red bow up on our front tree.

We're getting there to being prepared for Christmas day, but never the less a disaster may occur.  Last year I ruined a pie pan, cookie sheet, and ice cream scoop before Christmas.  Cross my fingers that doesn't happen again.