Thank God January is Over

I’m pretty sure I’ll never really be a winter person. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I’ve realized that I’ve completely wasted the past 22 winters of my life.

In honor of the upcoming winter Olympics (which I ultimately hate every aspect of, but that’s a blog post in itself), I’ve extended my foray into wintertime sports going to Indiana’s Perfect North ski resort. Yup, in a mere 10 days you will see Chris Uberti tearing up the Alpine downhill ski slopes.
Alright, probably not. But my first crack as skiing went surprisingly well. Given my past experiences with sports (Baseball, Tennis, Soccer) I don’t consider myself a coordinated person by any means, and my ability to stay upright on a bike should be considered a miracle. Heading to the Midwest’s premier ski resort with the Purdue Cycling Club I sincerely believed that I would be shredding the gnar on the bunny hills all day long. When we actually pulled up to the hills and I saw first hand how steep the hills were and how fast everyone was going, I nearly wet myself. I’m used to the gradual switch back climbs of cycling…that and the biggest snow covers hill I’ve ever been down is the massive 100 foot Slayter Hill here at Purdue.
So we all get booted up (by the way, cycling shoes are a piece of cake to walk in compared to ski boots) and head over to the “Learning Area” full of people going down something that could barely be considered a downhill at a speed that makes snails feel fast.
So after some coaxing from Brian and his friends (all of whom have been skiing a few times before), I followed them to the chairlift to one of the blue runs, which seems like an easy color. Besides, I was feeling confidant. I had, the day before, watched a whole five minutes of instructional YouTube videos, on how to ski: Pizza and French Fries are all you need to know.

After a full three runs, I decided to hit up a black/blue hill, which in the Midwest the increased difficulty apparently means just a slightly steeper hill. Skiing, as I found from each crash, is really about some simple rules, In addition to junk food. First, you don’t corner with your inside ski, you just end up on your ass. Bend at the knees. Don’t lean too far back. Look where your going. Use your knees to turn. Going fast is really a lot of fun…but someone like me has absolutely no control at those speeds. And finally it is really hard to stand up after you’ve fallen down, especially on steep hills.
We even hit up the “Terrain Park” to hit some sick jumps. Here’s a video I expertly took of Brian shredding some gnar:
Once the sun went down the resorts lights came on and you automatically felt like you were going a lot faster. Plus, after 7 pm the place cleared out. We were able to ski from the run right onto the chairlift, making it so the only time we spent off the skis were when we were going up the mountain. By the end of the night I was able to hit the black diamonds, and only crash spectacularly once each time down. This was a great improvement over the five times I crashed the first time I tried a black diamond. I didn’t feel too bad at that attempt because between my third and fourth crash on the run, I saw a snowboarder eat it on the same hill and slide nearly a half mile on his back.
I never really mastered the art of skiing in one day but I did really start getting the hang of it towards the end of the night. The absolute fear I felt at the beginning of the day was down to a mild adrenaline high, and I was really have a lot of fun. So much so that everyone from our group left a whole hour before and the people who I gave a ride down had to call me to tell me they had been waiting in the lodge for half an hour for me to finish.
This might sound cheesy and like a South Park episode, but I really learned something from this trip. With school and cycling I’ve really been doing the same thing over and over for a while: mainly just school and cycling. While both of these things are fun and all, they are very familiar to me by now, and with familiarity comes comfort. I know exactly what to expect and have some confidence in myself in both areas. Because of this, I’ve really forgotten how much fun it can be to do something that is really foreign and outside my comfort zone.
That is part of the reason I got into cycling in the first place, because it wasn’t your suburban Baseball or Soccer. It was something completely weird and I seemed to be good at it, and the reason it was fun was because it was so challenging and when I put effort into it and I was able to get better. That’s not how everything goes, I know. I spent a lot of time playing sports like Baseball and Tennis and never got very good, which was frustrating. I guess I realized that because of this fear of failure I haven’t been going outside my comfort zone for quite a while in many ways. Things like my job search and school have been progressing a tectonic plate velocities pretty much for this reason.
Insert generic ‘sports teach you life’s most important lessons’ analogy here.
I applaud anyone for making it through the cheesiest two paragraphs in this blog’s history.

Back to School, The Last Time!!

So this time, I promise, is the last back to school blog update. It is incredible the amount of stuff that happens in the first few days back starting up a semester. In particular the moving and shaking that has gone on with our Afterburner project. The project, which last semester made progress at the pace of cavemen doing auto insurance, has now adopted a frantic feeling of ‘oh shit, we’re not even close to being done’. This is a slightly unwarranted notion. We are running short on time, however the competition at the Air Force Research Laboratory is not until May. Giving our team four whole months of time to make progress on our designs and it’s iterations. This should be plenty for some fine young Engineers produced by the Aerospace program at Purdue. Besides, with schools like Michigan and the Air force Academy, it should be a slam dunk for us.

So to the nitty gritty. Like I said our project got jump started by some universal sense of urgency. This included a trip to Honeywell in South Bend, where their fuel control design and landing gear testing divisions are located. For me this was the first time I’ve actually witnessed Aerospace Engineering outside the academic world. To be honest, it didn’t seem all that different, mainly the people at there seemed a whole bunch smarter than us. They gave us some great pointers about our project and revised our fuel system such that we don’t have to regulate pressure, which is very complex and expensive.
After the boring part of the meeting they took us on a tour of the facility, showing us the testing chambers used for the fuel control systems, of which they produce every control system on American fighter aircraft. One of the guys giving us a tour mentioned that when he went to work abroad, he still felt right at home with the set-up of the lab. After working at Purdue’s HPL last semester I know what he meant, upon entering the testing area’s I immediately recognized all the different types of fittings, pressure and temperature transducers. They are all small things but it gave me a feeling that I’ve at least learnt something for the past five years.
The fuel system test cells were cool and all, but after that the showed us where they test landing gear wheels and brake systems. They recently wrapped up testing of the Airbus A380’s landing gear. The video below is from their Rejected Takeoff test, where the brake is tested to it’s absolute maximum. We were shown the brakes for this guy, 6 pizza sized carbon disks, all an inch thick are pressed together when braking. In the test below, they reach excess of 2500 F, and not surprisingly catch fire, and melt all the metal components attached. Keep in mind the drum on the right, is 20 feet in diameter and about 6 feet wide of solid steel.
That’s all for now.


There were no bike races this past weekend, so I officially made $0 in the last week. So I’m officially unemployed, looking for work and having none. How have I come to join the ranks of thousands of auto workers? The simple answer is neglect, the compacted answer is thus: I assumed that I would have a certain job when school got out for the summer, and having a heavy course load furthered my motivation to hedge all my bets on an unsure proposition. It didn’t work out. So now that I am perusing the wonderful wonderful sites such as wondering how bad it could really be to take care of an 89 year old person, I am realizing that finding a worthwhile job does unfortunately require some sort of forethought. 

On top of that I failed my Spacecraft Dynamics class AAE 440. If you know this class, and you know Mrs. Howell and her ‘I’m not going to give you a decent book and just give you half blank notes’ teaching method, you might just understand and hold some sympathy in your heart for me. Since I failed the class, I will now not be able to graduate in just one semester. I suppose I could suck it up and risk failing another class by adding an additional class to my current work load, but if I failed another class I’d still be graduating next spring. I always have thought that college has been the best time of my life and I’ve learnt the most from being there, but somehow the prospect of spending a whole additional year waiting around for my undergraduate degree doesn’t make me want to go out and jump with joy. I’m really ready to be done, I need to do something different, and I need to not be living in Lafayette, IN. You know start a new chapter or something cheesey like that.
I came home to Northville this weeknd to see my brother graduate and win a district highschool baseball tournament. The graduation ceremony was as all Highschool Graduations are, the principal told the class how special they are and how they have the potential to change the world, Mr. Rumbell (the HS band director) looked like he was having great time conducting ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ for the thousandth time, and the class president gave the absolutely most cliche speach I’ve heard in my life. As I was half dozing to “Our class can change the world…” and “I know you have all touched me in some way and I hope I have done the same to you…” I was trying to think how I could inspire myself to reach for the stars, and land on pluto or something. Well…I couldn’t inspire myself, however if you can be inspired by graduation speeches and motivational posters consider yourself either very lucky or seek help immediately. Despite my lack of inspiration summer marches on to Fall semester (or more importantly deadline for Summer Semester registration) and I still don’t have a job, and 100% of good internship prospects were gone in March. So next week begins my regression into seeking jobs I have already had or thought I’ve moved on from to simply give me something to do for the summer, I’m not quite a P-R-O cyclist just yet.