Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Normal noises at Little River Research.

We've been busy at LRRD the past few weeks, planning consulting jobs (we're mapping the Cache River this fall), conference travel, and finalizing the complete redesign of our Em2 model.

It seems every day brings an important decision (Do we spent ~$10K, at least, to go to AGU in San Francisco this fall?), we're doing and planning so much with a staff of three, and communicating with hundreds of clients and colleagues.

These busy days flash by. Photos photos from the last two remind me how lucky I am to work here.

Top photo: Tugi Papau helps us redesign of our website. Very exciting; the new one will be WordPress-based, super editable and dynamic.

Adam, Meriam's son, eats his lunch today--he's been coming by on his summer off now and then. Meriam's kids are wonderful and we love to have them around.

Besides English, Lily speaks Thai, and Chinese; Meriam is fluent in Italian, French, and Arabic; and on the whiteboard you can see Arrete de me harceler!! "Stop hassling me!" (Meriam, I can't make Blogger show le petite chapeau, I know it's mispelled.)

My wife Kate with our 10 year old German shepherd, JaJa (named after this guy). JaJa is joining me at work as he recovers from knee surgery.

And here's the near-final version of the new Em2 digital pump controller. It'll run hydrographs, send data to a laptop via USB, record run time for experiments, and be hackable and programmable by students.

I've been working on this with three collaborators day and night for a few weeks now.

And last, Meriam and Adam seeing the controller, for the first time, past the prototype stage and in one piece, all contained in a box.

Thanks for the photos Lily!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gravel roads, NSF, dumpster diving, IGERT students.

A few photos from today's work.

Little River Research & Design is on a roll.  Like the kind I remember
on gravel roads in Arkansas way back, mostly great fun but with seriously unpleasant jolts.

Bumps like a rejection from NSF last week. And very cool stuff (the
wind in your hair and pine trees whipping by) like nearing the end of a six-month project to completely redesign the Emriver Em2.

Orders for the new models, from the coolest organizations, are piling up.

Today I gave a talk to SIUC's IGERT grad students.
After a week of working with three collaborators on electronics and software for a new Em2 pump controller, I was mentally fried.

I apologized to the students for this, started my talk, and then a chair leg broke and I landed on the floor.  Lily laughed hard.

A couple of days ago she contributed a bump in the gravel road by leaving a valve open and flooding the lab.

Good thing she laughed, the students didn't know what to do. 

The chair leg failure was oddly like our NSF rejection,  a superficially embarrassing event having little to do with our accomplishments and capabilities.

Not a bit embarrased.  Get up, be patient and keep doing good things.

My wife Kate and Lily insisted on a reenactment of the fall, so here you go.  The chair is a beautiful 1960's laminated wood thing I dumpster dived and repaired.  My favorite chair ever.

Fixable with patience and skill.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Geomorphically Incorrect Art #3

A couple of nice "what the future will look like" paintings from this cool little blog.  No artist mentioned, but it is signed.

Clearly this one is geomorphically incorrect; it's a built channel.  But there are some serious problems with hydraulics and, unless the channel is depicted during a flood event, capacity to pass large flows.

I love the plantings on top of the spillway.  Has the Army Corps ever done that?

What design problems do you see?
For a real life giant concrete channel, check out the South Fork of the Zumbro in Rochester, Minnesota.  Sedimentation problems, anybody?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Em2x nears completion.

 Last week was eventful, with bad news from NSF on a proposal and an anthropogenic flood event in our lab.  And many good things; we now have quite a waiting list for what we call the Em2x--our new version of the Emriver Em2.

I've worked many days straight, just a few photos for now.

Starting from the top, our old-school oscilloscope (I love this thing) which is getting a good workout; Lily gathering data, a prototyping layout, and various components we're working on for the Em2x's electronic pump control/data collection system.

I've had a lot of help, especially over the weekend as we closed in on hardware and software design, which is based on the open-source Arduino board.  Thanks again to Chris Alix, Chris Krumm.  And also to Henry Chan at .

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Electronics, fluid mechanics, and our new Em2.

We're wrapping up  the pumping part of our redesigned Em2.  The new model will use electronics to control a 12-volt pump and send flow rate data to an LCD display (and also to a PC via USB and possibly wireless connections).

We're using an Arduino board as the brain for this; it'll be totally open source, understandable and hackable by users and students.

Today, after a few weeks of intense work, we got the final conceptual kinks ironed out, thanks to Chris Alix of Prairie City Computing, Chris Krumm of Tropo Studios, and others I can't mention. 

Many thanks to them.

Immersed in electronics and the physics of pumps over the last few weeks,  I've been floored by commonalities between fluid mechanics and electronics.  Most geeks understand this, but what's exciting here is that we can use the controlling electronics for the Em2's pump to teach hydraulics and vice- versa.

Beyond comparing current and pressure in hydraulic/electronic circuits by way of analogy, we're building a system where they interact, with data collection for both!

Resistors are like riffles--converting flow into heat.  A low pass filter in our circuit (a resistor-capacitor network) that smooths an electrical square wave is much like a pool.   There are some very cool analogies with basic bedload transport process to explore.

Bottom photo shows a first working prototype; this is a big day for me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Emriver outreach in southern lllinois.

We're super busy at LRRD with consulting work, redesign of the Em2 model, and other projects. And anxiously awaiting word on the NSF proposal we submitted in January. If we're funded we'll be doing a lot more work like this, but for now it's all pro bono.

Lily's done two cool programs, one with SIUC and the other with the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale.

She worked with Andrew Podoll (a GK-12 HEART Fellow at SIUC) at the Science Team of Saluki Kids Academy at SIUC last week, which is part of Carbondale's "I Can Read" program. The photo shows how much kids love the models.

Lily took an Emriver Em2 to the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale for River Week, and Andrew was kind enough to volunteer to help.

We are working hard to find funding for programs like this; so far it's all out of pocket. But I get a huge kick out of seeing these kids enjoy our models, and Lily's getting great experience using them with young people.  And of course we want to do good things here in Carbondale.

The last photo shows Meriam Lahlou, our business manager, with Lily Hwang and Andrew Podoll.  Thanks, Andrew.