He has seen Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has eaten ink detox organs and is shopping in a brand new BMW. Meanwhile, his research project with home-made piezoelectric nanofiber sensors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston is steadily continuing. Part two of the experiences of Julian Bos.
Part 2 - Integrated
Since my first report, I got a new roommate in Ashdown House. My room in Ashdown House is a small two-bedroom apartment. The second bedroom had been locked since I arrived. My roommate is Gabriel from Singapore. He will stay for two years to complete his Master’s program in Financial Engineering at MIT Sloan School of Management. We get on very well. It is actually great and less lonely to have a roommate. Gabriel brought all kinds of electronic gadgets: an Oculus Rift, a desktop computer, Nintendo Switch and a projector we use for games and movies. He can also use the car his father bought for his brother two years ago. Gabriel’s brother is now going to return to Singapore after completing his Master’s. The car stays behind. Gabriel can use it in the coming two years. Cars are very expensive in Singapore. When Gabriel’s father saw the car prices in the USA, he immediately bought a brand-new BMW 3 series car. We can now drive where we want. We can use the car to go shopping, although we also discovered the advantages of Amazon Prime.
The project is going better than before. I designed a special holder with parts using computer program SolidWorks and then 3D printed it. This holder holds a fairing, which is a thin metal bar with a cross-section resembling an aircraft wing. The piezoelectric sensor is attached underneath. The streamline of the fairing minimizes the water whirls behind it. These whirls could cause vibrations that might affect the output of the sensor. The whole construction is suspended from the towing tank platform behind a cylinder that is also attached to the platform. Experiments with two objects attached to the towing platform have not been performed before in this tank. Until now, the towing tank was only used to research the effects of water whirls on cylinders and other objects by looking at the forces measured by a sensor in the cylinder holder. I have done quite some tests already, which has given me plenty of experience in working with the Artificial Intelligence Towing Tank. All sensors have been tested. The tests continue with the sensor generating the highest electrical output. Unfortunately, the output of the sensor is lower than expected (100 mV), certainly compared with the higher electrical output of the sensor in the Ocean Grazer wave tank at the University of Groningen. I am now trying to establish the causes of this difference. The results are not yet perfect. There is plenty to do in computer simulation and other experiments, such as connecting an electric circuit to sensors to identify the power output. I am not an electrical engineer, so not knowledgeable in these subjects. This also holds for hydrodynamics, which is the main subject at MIT Sea Grant. This is a challenge but it also gives me the opportunity to widen my knowledge in other subjects. I can use all this new knowledge and combine it to find solutions for particular problems. If research continues to show that the sensors do not generate enough power through water whirls, my supervisor in Groningen may send me a few piezoresistive sensors to test in the MIT Sea Grant towing tank. Piezoresistive sensors work differently and could generate more energy through water whirls.
Gabriel and I find enough fun things to do besides our research work. We visited the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown Boston. People often compare this museum to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is huge. There were various exhibitions, including one on Dutch Delft blue. The museum also has a few famous Dutch paintings on display by Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. We continue to explore Boston. We ate dumplings and strange Chinese desserts. On one occasion, Gabriel brought me some Chinese food that he insisted I should try. When I had finished, he told me that I had eaten fried squid organs. They taste good, as long as you have no idea what you are eating.
We also went to the Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall and the Copley Square Farmer’s Market and visited many shopping centers and malls, such as Cambridge Side Galleria with over 100 stores and restaurants, where you can buy anything from electronic gadgets and clothes to snacks.
In the Science Museum, we saw a demonstration with the Van de Graaf generator. They dim the light so that you can see the powerful electrical shocks. You can also hear these shocks. They use different frequencies to show the shocks and make them audible as a Super Mario melody.
To have a better view of the Boston skyline, we went to the top of one of the highest buildings. When the weather is hot, there is nothing nicer than a day on the beach. With the European Club, we traveled by train to the beach of Manchester-by-the-Sea. The movie Manchester by the Sea was shot in this picturesque village. Behind the beach are trees, green plants and shrubs, which give a tropical feel together with the golden sand of the beach and the blue water of the sea. Before we knew it, we had to pack up and catch the train back to Boston. We also visited the famous local Samuel Adams brewery and had ice cream at Toscanini’s ice cream parlor. According to the New York Times, Toscanini’s ice cream is the best in the world. I don’t know if this true, but the ice cream tasted great!
Just for fun, we also tried to eat at as many American fast food restaurants along the east coast as we could, including Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Five Guys. But fast food is not the only thing we eat. We also try famous local dishes from New England, like the Lobster Roll. With the European Club, I had a meal at a seafood restaurant in Boston harbor. After this meal, we went to a movie theater to watch a movie. Holding a bag of bacon popcorn topped with melted butter in one hand, we sat down in mega-size, heated chairs with layback options to watch the movie. Can you get more American than this? Yes, you can when you celebrate Independence Day with the MIT visiting student association (VISTA). We spent the whole day playing games, drinking soft drinks and eating snacks, and ended the day with a barbecue.
Besides the outings, the exploration of the US, and my research work, I also give tours of MIT and demonstrations to groups of high school students. A number of highly intelligent but underprivileged kids from different schools visited MIT to see what we are doing. I told them how I ended up being there and what my project entails. I also gave them a tour through Sea Grant’s facilities and demonstrated towing tank experiments. They were highly interested. Perhaps some of these smart kids may end up here to do similar experiments a few years from now.
Most of the time, it is rather quiet at Sea Grant right now. My weekly supervisor is in China, the director is in Greece, and Professor Consi is on vacation. I try to continue my experiments, but this is harder now that I get less feedback and supervision. I managed to obtain a Harvard ID card. This allows me to work on my project in the quiet environment of the famous Harvard library.
Besides students from many other countries, I also met quite a number of Dutch people. I can sometimes communicate in Dutch because there are so many Dutch students here. I did not expect this. Of course, I don’t mind speaking English, as this is the language spoken in this country, but it is also great to speak Dutch from time to time, for instance when I skype with my dad and sister back home. They cannot visit me out here, but thanks to Skype, we can see each other and talk to each other.
On the subject of Dutch people in Boston: Prime Minister Rutte visited Boston after his meeting with Donald Trump in Washington. He went to Boston Dynamics and the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, and visited the Museum of Fine Arts. His itinerary was online, so I went to see him. I saw the Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the flesh in Boston! Because the streets he visited were cordoned off, I could not speak with him, but I did see him.
In the coming period, I will continue working on my project but I will also take time to explore the vicinity. I have to move to a different room, because my sublease period in MIT Ashdown House is running to an end. I was fortunate to find a nice room in MIT Edgerton House, only a few hundred meters from Ashdown and still very close to MIT Sea Grant. I can stay there until September 8 and then I have to find a new room until the end of September. I will send a new report next month. Time is flying, but I am going to make the best of the remaining weeks.
Julian's scholarship is made possible in part by FB Oranjewoud.