Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Heidelberg and the first day of research

I feel like so much has happened since I wrote last I'm not even sure where to begin. Sunday was a pretty chill day. In the morning Mandy, Darcy and I went to a nearby catholic mass then afterwards Mandy and I went running. We found our way to the only body of water in Darmstadt-- a small lake. We found some trails near the lake and enjoyed a nice run through them.
Monday was a random German holiday so we took the train to Heidelberg for the day. It a short 50 minute train ride there then we all split up and spent the day walking around and exploring. Darcy and I were the speed walkers as well as the more fun and adventurous of our group (in my opinion at least) so we went off by ourselves and found this delicious and cheap Falafal place. Darcy doesn't speak German so I got to practice my German. It wasn't perfect but I managed fine. Next we walked up a very steep hill to get into the castle. It was beautiful! We spent a while exploring and taking pictures and finding areas that were blocked off to climb over and explore. Then we snuck into the "Studentenkerzer" or student prison for the university back in the day. It was a place where students who were caught drinking or being loud or performing other "illegal" activities were sent. The walls were covered in graffiti which was interesting but it would not have been worth it if we hadn't snuck in and not paid the entrance fee. On our way back to the train station Darcy and I crossed to the other side of the river that runs through town to avoid the touristy section of town (where there was too much English and were we saw a Claire's Accessories!!). The area we walked by on the other side of the river was residential with some cool German looking homes as well as a nice public park. It was fun to people watch.

Today, Tuesday, was my first day of research. Darcy, Mandy, Ivan and I are all working with one of the research centers at TUD called "FZD" (I forgot what I stands for). We had a large group meeting with our PhD student advisers where we got a presentation on some of the research projects that they are working on. All of them are young, funny, and laid back. My adviser's name is Fabian which I was pumped about! Talk about a very German name! After introductions and the presentation we all went to lunch along with Daniel in the cafeteria. After lunch we drove with Gunther in one the brand new 6 series BMW's they have (they also have a 7 series BMW) to the testing track. The testing track is an old airport where the US used to be stationed until just last year. On our way to the other side of the track Gunther casually asked us if we would like to take a test drive across. Naturally we all said yes. We got up to 100 mph and 60 mph around some VERY sharp turns. It was so awesome!! After just getting to ride in a Mustang last summer and having to where a helmet and sign a million release forms, getting casually asked to drive in a BMW super fast was pretty incredible.
Later, I met with Fabian to discuss my research for the summer. I am working, primarily on my own because it is separate from his main research, on designing a trip recorder for a vehicle. I need to find the best measurement device to measure the acceleration of the vehicle then we will begin testing a car at under different driving conditions. I will actually get to do some tests myself and we will likely be taking a 100 km drive through the German countryside on the autobahn. He is giving me a lot of freedom and really wants the project to be mine. I'm actually really excited. After meeting with our professors we all headed with our professors to the nearby Bier Garten (actually part of the cafeteria) for a beer or ice cream. I love the laid back atmosphere here! My adviser is super chatty, he doesn't speak the best English and I insisted that he could speak German so I could learn more but he wants to practice his English. Daniel (our "babysitter") and the other professors were teasing him that he needs to be careful of what he says in German because I can understand it. Which is true because I have surprisingly been able to understand good majority of the German conversations around me. Fabian also was very interested in Engineers without Borders. They have it in Germany too but it sounds like it is very different than the American EWB. He is hoping to head to Ethiopia to work on a project soon so he was very excited to hear about my project. Also, he is a runner as well as Benedict another one of the PhD students so he said we could go running sometime. There are some nice trails on the other side of town where the engineering building is. We also found the athletic center that has a nice soccer field and beach volleyball courts.
So in conclusion, a GREAT day! I am really excited to have a whole new group of people to hang out with. All the PhD students have plans on teaching us about German culture and taking us places. It was nice to split off from some of the rest of the REU group and now I think I have a real chance to work on my German. Also, Daniel is checking into to seeing if we can have 1-2 hour German lessons. For the more advanced German speakers of the our group we could begin learning technical German. I hope this works out because I was really bummed that I won't be able to take technical German at Valpo. Lastly, the outlook for the tomorrow: Riding in sweet German cars on the autobahn. Rough life for me. Oh and sorry about the lack of pictures. I finally downloaded my pictures to my computer but it's super slow to put them on this blog probably because my internet is slow.

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