1st Tutorial Video Draft

Hello all,

These past two weeks I have been working on an intro tutorial video for PyMol. I was given some guidance from Dr. Bell on what to highlight, but the content has proven hard to understand without a background in Biochemistry. While the software interface is easy to understand, I lack the knowledge in the field to fully understand what I am discussing in the video.

We may need to re-scope how we create these videos. I am thinking that I will screen caputre Dr. Bell as well as record her voice as she steps through each video she wants to do, and then refine it with a clear script and animation. I will be meeting with her Monday, so I hope we can start creating the videos in this fashion as soon as possible.


Getting Started

I met with my Faculty partner Jessica Bell this past Monday, and I am excited to get started on this project. I will be helping Dr. Bell develop tutorial videos using Python scripting based software called PyMol, which is being used in her class Biochemistry labs. I will also be looking into R scripting, which is a free software package that can be scripted to map functions with dynamic data.

This past week, I have been exploring the interface of PyMol and have watched a couple of a tutorials on the software. I will be meeting with Dr. Bell weekly every Monday to discuss my progress and collaborate on my next steps. This weekly meeting will help us both stay on track and hopefully enable us to complete a number of videos that we can post to YouTube.

Working with the Laser Cutter

This week, my partner and I demonstrated our raspberry pi card swipe to Steve, the instructor in charge of the labs in Loma. We showed him that we are able to control a relay switch that can be connected to the power supply of any device. This relay switch will only trigger if a keycard is authorized to use the device. He was impressed with our progress and thought we might be able to take a step further. Though we can control who can turn on the power or not, he explained that he would like to see if we could use it for the laser cutters in the labs. There has been expressed concern with people using the laser cutter without permission, causing it to crash. Steve explained that he would like us to try to access the power of just the laser, as opposed to the entire device. This involved taking off the frame of the cutter and inspecting the motherboard and the controls. We were able to find a data sheet for the device, so we’ll be exploring options on how to access the power of the laser on this machine.

Automating the Server Database

As this semester comes to a close, so does my project! This past week, my partner and I have finally been able to successfully update our server database automatically from Blackboard. With a couple of weeks of research, we found that it would be easiest to automate the process using this software called Autoit. The interface is pretty simple and the language for the software involves sending commands that invoke mouse movement, mouse clicks, and keystrokes. We were able to create an Autoit program that would log into our Blackboard accounts, navigate to the Blackboard grade center, and then download the csv file as the database that we set up on the server computer. We set it up where the program would run every 24 hours after the server computer reboots at 2 AM every day. After a couple of tests, the process seems to be working. Overall, the project is basically done. Next steps for the next semester are setting up card swipes for verification of Engineering Badge usage. My partner and I have already ordered a card swipe that we are trying to figure out how we can use it to read a student’s ID card.

Learning a New ‘Language’

This past week, I have been working with Gautam, another student working for Jason, on creating a script to automate an exportation process of a grade book on Blackboard. We have devised a plan on how we are going to go at it, but now we must either create our own script or manipulate some similar one using Python. Gautam is an adept programming using Python while I have only been exposed to C++.

I decided to use this opportunity to start learning Python so I can contribute with the script. Also, I feel that Python is a great language to learn because its syntax isn’t too much different from the other programming languages. Gautam has been guiding me through a couple of basic task while I am also doing some online tutorials as well. I am excited to be learning something you that I can hopefully use for future projects.

Next Steps

This week I have met both with Allison and Jason regarding my project. Right now, I am working on creating a server that will act as a database for the Raspberry Pi keypads. This server will serve as an intermediate step to a final product. Ideally, Jaosn would like to automatically access a badge database already on Blackboard which enable the Raspberry Pis to access data remotely. This will either involve a third party service such as Mozilla Backpack to store these badges or somehow enable the program on the Raspberry Pi to access the data on Blackboard directly. For now, we will just make our own server that will have to be updated manually. More updates to come.

Connecting to USDConnect

This is my first official post for the semester, and I’m excited to be back. for my project this semester, I am working with the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering’s Lab Supervisor Jason Partin to help improve the online badging system for all the new equipment the Department has received within the last year. The current badging system as of now enables Engineering students to take an online training course and test on Blackboard with completion of one of these courses granting that student a badge for the respective equipment. Jason’s scope is to create an optimized system that will allow non-engineering students to enroll in the Blackboard Organization and earn badges themselves. The project has many different aspects, but I have been asked to handle a specific part of the project that requires knowledge of the school network. Jason has had a group of student workers developing a prototype that will allow students to key in to verify that they are badged for certain lab equipment. The prototype uses a Raspberry Pi micro-processor that has been programmed to turn on a blue LED light on the keypad when a valid student ID has been typed in. A red LED will appear otherwise. One  problem the team ran into was connecting the device to the school network. To help troubleshoot this problem, the student that wrote the program and I sent a ticket to ITS to see if they could be of any assistance. While we waited, we decided to try to debug the problem ourselves. We eventually reconfigured some of the directory settings on the Raspberry Pi and then successfully connected to the Wi-Fi. Now the next step of this project will be creating a server that will act as a database for the Raspberry Pi’s to access the valid student ID information. More progress will come soon.