Look at us, learning new things in the Arduino class.

Hello world, Alex here!

Last week(s)’ post is here.

This week’s been slightly less exciting than the rest. Nothing too ground-breaking, nor anything that shakes things up. Or is it?

As part of our mandatory courses, we started the Design Thinking course last week. We were briefly introduced to the printed paper actuator – essentially heat treated PLA on paper – and generated ideas for our final submission: a book of sorts with some sort of design incorporating said technology. At the end of this week, we’re due to submit some approximately final prototype, which frankly is a hell of a short development cycle. But hey, we’re SUTDents – this isn’t new to us, so we’re fine.

To equip us with more tools to achieve our final product, we were taught a basic lesson on the Arduino platform. I might have mentioned this before, but the team behind this printed paper actuator technology is an international team from Carnegie Mellon University, and of that team, their tech guy happens to be a Korean dude named Youngwook. Off the bat, with his strong American accent, we could tell he was really kinda chill, and he seemed to be pretty hyped up to be teaching us. A small problem though – we’ve all been exposed to (and most of us have used) the Arduino platform back in 3.007, so the lesson was carried out with great expediency. There’d be little reason to harp on the basics anyway.

Look at us, learning new things in the Arduino class.

To make our final products a reality, we’d have to 3D print them, which we’ve done before. Already we had been given a crash course on Rhino, which we’d use to CAD whatever we needed to print, and all we had to do was employ some intermediary slicing programme to turn that into a gcode file. Granted, it was a different brand of printer we were using – not the Mankatis or Edisons we have back in school – so we’d have to download (painful, given Chinese internet) some proprietary software. Everything seemed like it’d be smooth sailing.

But anyone who has done 3D printing before knows you can’t use the phrases ‘smooth sailing’ and ‘3D printing’ in the same sentence. You see, the paper actuators operated on the contraction of PLA after heat treating – the polymer chains in the PLA would return to a high-entropy state, which was tangled and hence shorter – which caused the printed structures to tear themselves off of the paper. It took a lot of prints and prayers for me to print enough prototypes to start testing.

One of the many prints I had to make. This is, if I remember correctly, some beta test of a prototype.

But wait, there’s more.

For reasons unknown, the machines I used kept clogging, leading to many rounds of retracting the PLA spool, digging at the nozzle and generally being frustrated. I could probably get some honorary 3D printing rep role for this.

Remember Hushu? Our final visit to Hushu was on Friday – with the roles reversed. We’d be the ones learning from the students and teachers there, and thereafter we’d teach the students to fold some…paper stuff.

Anyways, for these students, being the older group, they also receive a modicum of vocational training in things like cashiering, baking and basic cooking. The 15 of us scattered ourselves amongst the various classes, and I ended up with the baking crew – no actual baking was to be had, however, with us making… I have no idea what it’s called. Some sort of dessert comprising alternate layers of whipped cream and cookie crumbs. We also got to try our hand at making pudding, although we never quite got to see the products of our hard work.

Very eligible househusbands up for grabs. PM for their numbers (please don’t).
Behold JJ’s unparalleled Congyoubing making skills.

Lunch came along, and we all ordered food into the school. Teacher Wu had generously let us dine (and laze) in one of the resting areas on the first floor.

After lunch, we had planned to teach them how to fold paper cranes – and other stuff. We’d start from a simple box, and next the crane, and perhaps thereafter, a Crush Gear (only 90s kids will remember this). The plan was waterproof – but it wasn’t idiotproof. Being the nitwits we were, not many of us knew how to fold them, much less teach. We came to a compromise – the few who knew how to teach would teach, and the rest of us would facilitate and engage the Hushu students. I think it worked out pretty well, given that I had to speak and explain paper folding in Chinese.

Kenk’s Million Dollar Smile.

I’ve also been trying to work out a bit more. I’m a cheerleader back in SUTD, and I developed a bit of a patellar tendinopathy from our pre-competition training, so my time away from cheer was meant to be for convalescence. Nevertheless, I couldn’t abandon my physical fitness, and I had also made a bet with my sister that I’d not come back fat, so I’ve tried to be a bit more zealous, a little more disciplined about heading to the gym.

So it was a Tuesday evening, and I happily headed to the Temple of Iron (the gym) to pray to the fitness gods. It was a pretty good workout, and so engrossed I was with my prayers that I failed to notice that the weather took a turn for the worse. With my workout ended, I hauled my tired frame out of the gym only to be met by torrential summer rains. With only a towel, my bottle and my phone in hand, I chose to weather the storm – I’ve gone through worse in National Service, so how could mere rain stop me?

Granted, the rain didn’t stop me, but hell, it was miserable. I draped my towel over my phone, hoping that the towel would bear the brunt of the rainfall, and that my phone’s supposed splashproof nature would survive the rest. With my belongings clutched against my chest, I began my 15 minute bath courtesy of Mother Nature. It didn’t take long for my shoes to soak through, and my socks quickly became drenched. My shirt was no longer dripping with my sweat, but the tears of Heaven (You can almost hear the Elton John in the distance). I know I’m being a drama llama here, but hey, indulge me. It’s my blog and you don’t have to read this.

And that’s when I knew I was in deep crap.

But wait, as a certain American TV promoter once said, there’s more.

Stepping back into my airconditioned room after the rain? Priceless. (For everything else there’s Mastercard.) I remember the look the security guard gave me as I entered the hostel – a mix of pity, shock and schadenfreude. Nice work, Alex.

At the very least, there was good supper.

Mala dry noodles to warm a chilled heart. Just kidding.

The capstone to my week was a short trip to Shanghai – not my first trip, of course, and certainly not my last. Gui An, Marcus, Chris, Timo and Dan had gone the week before to tailor suits for themselves, and needed to collect them. Being fairly odd-sized myself (I pretty much have the body shape of a dwarf – short and stout), a tailored suit was an offer I couldn’t refuse. As always, the ride there was pleasant (bless the Gaotie), and it wasn’t long before we were in the financial capital of the People’s Republic of China.

Real pretty eh.
Makin’ my way downtown, walking fast, faces past and I’m Shanghai bound.
Gui An beseeches the GPS gods for guidance to lunch.

Invoking the power of the GPS gods (thanks Amaps), we found our way to a familiar xiaolongbao place. As usually, the place was crowded (because it was lunch time) and waiting for our food was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We’d see the xiaolongbao head our way, only for the waiter to turn to another table at the last moment.

Tangbao (what we call xiaolongbao) is plenty affordable here, and also plenty delicious. Dan ate 15.

Anyway, we later headed over to the South Bund Fabric Market thereafter to acquire out suits, and for me, to have my measurements taken and my materials chosen. As expected, everyone (with a suit) looked razor sharp, and I’m really kinda excited about my own suit.

And we also saw some dogs, so cue the photos. See you next week.

A big Shanghai doggo – I was later told by two residents that it’s a community dog.
Another doggo in Shanghai.

Next week’s post can be found right here!

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