About Kerianne


Aerospace Engineering

Losing all of my keys in the Salt River in Phoenix

I had never been to the Salt River and in my fourth and final year at Embry-Riddle I decided it was high time to make a trip out to the traditional Arizona college student destination.

We left on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend for the two hour journey south with an ice chest full of refreshing cold beverages. We were pretty pumped. The 107 high for the day in Phoenix sounded a bit intimidating, but the promised 60 degree water made up for it.

After we parked, I cracked the windows on my car so that it could vent in the Phoenix heat, then left to rent our tubes for $15 each. Tubes, cooler, sun block, and keys in hand we hopped on the shuttle in our swimsuits and flip flops.

The tubing was great. The slow moving water was cool and refreshing. We were very relaxed as we drifted down the river watching globs of people float by on tubes tied to stereo and cooler barges. You lose track of time when you’re tubing down a river, so I don’t know how long it took us to hit the first patch of mild rapids. As the second rough patch of rapids was just before the station 2 bus pickup and drop off point, I’d say we hit that one at about 2 hours in.

I didn’t expect the rapids to be as rough as they were. I hit my tailbone once on one rock and felt a pain shoot up my back. My travel companion hit his hip on a rock. The water rushed over the tops of our tubes, drenching us as our tube ran up against swells in the water. In the chaos, several things came loose from our tubes. We were able to recover my flip flops and the cooler and one of my travel companion’s flip flops from the rushing waters before we pulled off to the side to evaluate our situation.

With the exception of the missing flip flop, it seemed like we had everything. I decided it would be a good time to reapply sun block before returning to the water. That’s when I realized the bag containing my keys and our sun block was gone. The fact that we hadn’t seen it anywhere on the water meant that my keys were now likely at the bottom of the Salt River.

Losing your keys at the bottom of a river is a very sobering experience. For me, it meant that my mind jumped into focus. I began to realize how many ways the situation could have been prevented had I the foresight to predict it, but hindsight’s 20/20, right?

My reaction at that point was to go into analysis mode. I was missing my keys, and I couldn’t drive back to Prescott without them. I wasn’t even sure I could get into my car. The first step to a solution would be to gather more data about the situation. To do that, I had to get back to my car.

In a bought of frustration with the situation, my travel companion chucked his other flip flop into the river shouting “I sacrifice my final flip flop to the river.” He regretted it when we started on the trail back up to the bus stop. Between the sharp rocks on the trail and the searing blacktop road and parking lots, his feet were a mess at the end.

“Next time I see someone who is accepting donations for people that do not have shoes, I’m going to help them out because this totally sucks. It feels like the fires of hell are radiating up at me from below!” my travel companion shouted in pain as he ran across the blacktop for as long as he could before throwing down a towel for a short cool down break.

When we reached the tube rental/return building I walked up to the window and with near laughter at my situation and spoke to the first person I could find. “I need help. We lost a pair of shoes and all of my keys in the river,” I said.

“Oh man, that sucks,” said the tube rental guy. “There’s a locksmith parked out behind that bus for situations just like this.”

And that locksmith probably made a killing because there are apparently a lot of keys lost in the river everyday and he wanted $50 to break into my car and another $250 to make me a new key.

Before paying the exorbitant prices I decided to see if I could break into my own car. Apparently you can push your cracked windows down another inch before it causes permanent damage to the window, or at least that’s what my travel companion told me. That extra inch was just enough that I could reach my arm in down to my elbow and pull up my door lock.

After breaking into my own car (and saving $50), I had access to my phone, wallet, and most importantly my AAA card. My AAA membership is quite possibly the most valuable Christmas present my parents have ever gotten me. It has now gotten me out of two tight spots in just the last six months.

AAA said they’d have someone out to help me in under 45 minutes, and it was only going to cost me $75 to make me a new key. As there was nowhere we could go inside to wait, we set up a temporary lean-to in the shadow cast by the back of my car and began to guzzle down water to wait it out in the heat. It was a survival situation.

After our friendly AAA locksmith, Tom, showed up, we found out why locksmiths cost so much. He had to carve out the key by hand with the tools he had with him. It was interesting to watch the very involved process.

Then after another 45 minutes, I heard one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. At that point, the sound of my car engine starting sounded more wonderful than laughter or good music.

In order to stay sane is this chaotically, unpredictable world, I’ve found that when I can, the best way to handle situations like this is to let it roll off my shoulders while I laugh. I’ve gotten pretty good at laughing at myself.

In the lyrics of Owl City, “every mushroom cloud has a silver lining.” Our adventure was not without its silver lining. Through a fluke, I had a spare pair of flip flops in my car. By the time the car was ready to go again our swimsuits were bone dry. When the AAA guy arrived he offered and we gladly accepted cool bottles of water. If I hadn’t been standing by the car waiting I may not have experienced a truck full of guys shouting out “you’re gorgeous” to bikini clad me. We were also very lucky I had cracked the windows on my car.

We also found that the parking lot is very well patrolled after sitting next to my car for almost two hours in the heat. We found a great classic rock radio station on the way out of Phoenix and had Chipotle for dinner as a consolation for our troubles.

So, farewell my keys! May you find your way back to me or lay in peace, no doubt covered in moss within the water grass, at the bottom of the Salt River.

Me and the AAA man, Tom in front of his van after the ordeal is solved.

Me taking shelter from the Phoenix sun behind my car.

The First Week of Classes

At this point in my academic career (first semester senior year), my classes are starting to get really exciting.  This semester I’m taking:

Space Propulsion Systems (3 credits)

Spacecraft Attitude, Dynamics, and Control (3 credits)

Control Systems Analysis and Design (3 credits)

Electrical Engineering Lab (1 credit)

Spacecraft Preliminary Design (4 credits – First class in the Senior Capstone Design sequence)

I think my favorite class this semester is going to be Space Propulsion Systems.  This is the case for two reasons.  First, the professor for the class, Dr. Fabian, is so enthusiastic about the subject matter that it’s contagious. He spent 20 years in the Air Force engineering propulsion systems and uses his experience to bring additional levels of depth to the class beyond the textbook, such as information about the international aerospace engineering culture, video examples of different propulsion systems, historical milestones in propulsion, and firsthand accounts of propulsion systems in action. His sense of humor also makes the class fun.  On his syllabus he listed the topic for the class periods that students have off for Thanksgiving Break as “Personal Energy Resupply Mission.”

Second, the subject matter for this class is off the charts cool.  It is honest to goodness rocket science.  Throughout the class we will be studying rocket equations, matching missions and propulsion systems, force balancing and staging, thrust equations, cold gas designs, energy considerations, combustion, liquid rockets, solid rockets, hybrid rockets, nuclear rockets, electric rocket propulsion, and advanced and exotic propulsion systems.

If I had to have one of my classes at 8:00 in the morning, this one, which wakes me up and keeps me attentive for the entire hour, is the one to have.

Spacecraft Attitude, Dynamics, and Control also looks interesting from my initial introduction to it. So far we’ve been doing review from our dynamics and space mechanics classes and going more in-depth into attitude parameterization.  According to the syllabus, these are the subjects we are going to be covering this semester: 3D rigid body kinematics, stability and dynamics of symmetric and tri-inertial bodies, attitude, nutation and spin control maneuvers for spin stabilized spacecraft, effects of energy dissipation, momentum biased spacecraft dynamics and stability, modeling and simulation of spin stabilized and momentum biased spacecraft, elements of 3-axis stabilized spacecraft, effects of solar radiation pressure, atmospheric drag and magnetic torque on spacecraft attitude.

Control Systems Analysis and Design looks like it will be a challenging but interesting class. In this class, we will study control design through “classical” control theory and cover topics such as these, listed in the syllabus as “system modeling, uncontrolled system behavior of first and second-order mechanical systems, basic feedback control theory and controller design via frequency domain techniques (root locus and bode plots).”  I don’t know exactly what all of these things are at this point (a good reason for taking the class), but I’ll update my readers as I learn more.

I took Linear Circuits Analysis over the summer to get credit for my Electrical Engineering (EE) requirement , and I’m taking the lab this semester.  It looks as though it will be pretty easy and fun (I like hands-on classes where I actually get to build things).

As for Preliminary Spacecraft Design, the most interesting class, I think that description needs its own blog entry.

John Mayer and Owl City in Concert

As written on August 18th:

So I’m back at school in Prescott now and the majority of my time has been spent putting together the special edition orientation issue of the paper.  This basically entails sitting in front of a computer working on my newest design, not too unlike an engineering job.  Last night I took a break from the newspaper to check out a concert in Phoenix.

I left newspaper, filled up my gas tank, picked up my boyfriend, and head south towards Phoenix.  Two hours later we were 5 miles from the concert center parking lot.  An hour after that we parked our car.

I didn’t think about the fact that the concert was in an outdoor pavilion in Phoenix, in the middle of August, until after my boyfriend bought the tickets.  It was pretty rough on my Coloradan boyfriend, but I’ve been hardened to the heat from spending the last six months of my summer in Houston, so to me, it was a fairly mild summer evening.

I would summarize the concert as skirting off to the side of my expectations.  The music was great, and the light shows were pretty cool.  What I wasn’t really prepared for were the band members themselves.

I’m not really a person who follows bands.  If I like someone’s music, I’ll look for more of their stuff, and add it to my newest music playlist, but I’m not really into looking them up and actually learning about the musicians themselves.

Owl City on Stage at the Crickett Wireless Pavilion from my seat

Owl City opened for John Mayer, and I was more excited to see them as I know many of their songs by heart. My favorite of their songs is West Coast Friendship because it reminds me of the fun parts of my engineering internship in California.  I wasn’t really prepared for the band. They looked like pretty normal…slightly nerdy…okay, pretty nerdy people.  After watching a couple of the songs, I’m convinced the lead singer was a drama nerd in high school.

It was awesome to see them live, but the atmosphere of the concert wasn’t at all what I expected.  It was the only professional concert that I’d been to (outside of a symphony orchestra concert) that featured string instruments on stage while almost the entire crowd sat.

When John Mayer took the stage, the crowd exploded, so I figure they were all there to see him.  Now, my favorite of John Mayer’s music is “Heart of Life,” and most of the other songs that I listen to are pretty chill.  When John Mayer walked onto stage in a black sleeveless shirt with a toned muscular physique covered in tattoos, and playing a guitar solo that could have been influenced by Jimmy Hendricks, I was a bit shocked.

What really made me laugh was the rest of his band, and their stark contrast to him.  His band was comprised of pretty nerdy looking guys in jeans and button down shirts.  They really wouldn’t have looked out of place in an engineering firm.  During one of the songs, the background lights and graphics looked like clips of electrical schematics.  I looked at my boyfriend and he said “I know.  I have no idea what they are singing, I’m just ‘nerding out’ on the schematics.”

We had so much fun at the concert between the listening to silly, crazy, and sometimes sentimental things that John Mayer said to introduce his songs, people watching the fanatic fans, to jamming out to the music.

Kerianne vs. Camping

Path along the edge of White Horse LakeWhite Horse Lake is a beautiful campground in the National Forest outside of Williams, Arizona.  Within a few hours from school, it provides a beautiful place to escape for a wimpy camper like me who likes the basic luxury of a hole in the ground toilet facility and a faucet for running water.  Heck, I was proud of myself for going somewhere overnight with no electricity.

I love campground food.  Smores, hotdogs cooked over open flames, and meals cooked all in one pot over a campfire.  And you can’t forget dinner by citronella candle…

Dinner by Citronella Candle

Dinner by Citronella Candlelight

Cooking over the campfire

Just off of the campground is an easy hike to Sycamore Canyon.  If you don’t want to camp over night, you can also park at the day trip lot and hike from there.  The hike was very peaceful as it wound around the lake and into the pine forest.

Sycamore Canyon

Me at Sycamore Canyon

One of the things that surprised me about the forests of Northern Arizona was the general lack of underbrush.  Back in Southeast Texas, it’s almost impossible to walk through the forest unless there is some kind of path or white tail deer run because of the very thick underbrush.  In Northern Arizona, the space between the towering pine trees is relatively vacant.

Camping in Arizona and camping in Texas is also fairly different.  The biggest surprise for me was the sharp drop in temperature at night.  In my part of Texas, the difference between the high and the low is usually less than 20 degrees, and sometimes less than 10 degrees.  I knew that the drier desert regions of Arizona could experience huge temperature drops after sundown, and that I’d seen 40 degree drops in Prescott (though not always that drastic), but we were camping up near Flagstaff, in the National Forest.  The temperature there wouldn’t drop that much, right? Wrong.

The temperature was about 70 degrees when we reached the campsite at midday. Beautifully perfect for camping, right? That night, the temperature plummeted to 25 degrees. Needless to say, my 40 degree rated sleeping bag (which was always more than enough in Texas) suddenly provided nothing less than a cocoon of ice.  I couldn’t get warm all night and could only doze on and off.

When the hint of sunlight began to illuminate the walls of the tent, I bolted out and began to build a fire in our fire pit.  As I waited for it to really get going, I went to watch the sun rise over the lake. At around 5 a.m. steam rose off the lake in plumes that created a scene that looked like something out of a dream. I took the opportunity to practice some amateur photography.

Steam rising over White Horse Lake in the early hours of the morning

It took me a few hours to warm up next to the fire.  I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon cooked in a cast iron pan over a campfire. When the temperatures reached over 40 degrees and I had warmed by the fire, I returned to the tent to take a nice long nap.

We then enjoyed hiking and a couple more meals before we packed up to return to Prescott. I learned a lot about outdoor adventuring through my camping and hiking trips this summer, and I gained a greater appreciation for the power and beauty of Mother Nature.

Kerianne and the Return to Granite Mountain

Now that summer classes are over, I’m taking a chance to catch up on blogging about all of my weekend activities during Embry-Riddle’s Summer A.

There was a full week between the end of Spring semester finals and the beginning of Summer A classes, and I used this opportunity to take a little break by getting out and seeing some of the outdoor attractions near Prescott.  The first of these events was returning Granite Mountain.

One view from the trail, through the trees, near the summit of Granite Mountain

My first attempt to hike to the top of Granite Mountain back on Valentine ’s Day was a bit of a failure, as I started hiking too late in the day.  The hike takes a beginner to moderate hiker like me about 6 hours to complete.  The hike itself is about 8.5 miles roundtrip and starts ascends about 2000ft to the 7,185ft summit.

Granite Mountain is an awesome hike for a few reasons. First, Granite Mountain is such a dominant feature seen from so many parts of campus that after you make it to the top of the Mountain you can look at it from campus in awe thinking, “hey, I was all the way at the top of that.”  I know that may sound corny, but there is a sense of pride in accomplishing a hike like that.

The second best thing is that the trail itself is gorgeous.  The trail starts at the base of the mountain in a relatively thick pine forest.  During the hike you pass several streams and a small, peaceful pond.  I’ve never seen the trail very crowded, so it’s a good place to get away from people.  As you climb higher up the mountain, the terrain becomes a little more rugged, the winds become a little stronger, and you can’t help but admire the hardy trees that have been growing out of the harsh mountainside for hundreds of years.  There are several pretty places along the path to stop, rest under a tree and enjoy a light snack.   The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular and you can see so much of Prescott that you feel like you’re on top of the world.

Granite Mountain is definitely one of the “places to hike (successfully) before you graduate.”

Kerianne versus Humphrey’s Peak, the Tallest Point in Arizona

Humphrey’s Trail #151, a 9 mile round trip hike to the tallest point in Arizona is certainly not for the faint of heart. The strenuous hike begins at an elevation of 9,300ft and quickly rises to the summit elevation of 12,633ft 4.5 miles later.

It is rated by a few websites as the #1 hike in Arizona. It can snow on Humphrey’s peak at any time of the year and frequent afternoon thunderstorms also present an obstacle for hikers. Signs near the trailhead warn hikers to be wary of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

This is where I decided to go hiking last weekend. Me, the pasty-white engineer who usually spends more time in front of a computer or textbook each day than I do sleeping. Yep.

Awesome collection of road signs we passed in Flagstaff on the way to the hike.

Awesome collection of road signs we passed in Flagstaff on the way to the hike.

The trailhead was about 2 hours away from the school at the Snow Bowl resort in Flagstaff. Being college students on our day off from classes, we decided to leave Prescott around 9:00 a.m. I guess seasoned hikers know that you’re supposed to hike to a summit before noon. I’m from a part of Texas where you have to drive 12 hours to get to a mountain, and even those mountains are not exceptionally impressive. So, needless to say, but I’ll say it anyways, I didn’t know.

Humphrey's Peak from the Trail-head

Mountains around Humphrey's Peak as seen from the Trail-head

The drive up to Flagstaff, or a many Riddle students call it, “Flag,” was gorgeous. We drove through a few national forests on the way and the road up to Snow Bowl was lined on both sides with beautiful aspen groves that seemed to sneakily steal your breath as you gazed at them, but I suppose that could have just been the altitude. 🙂

Looking up at Humphrey's Peak from the trail-head

Looking up at Humphrey's Peak from the trail-head

We got out of the car after 11 a.m. in the middle of June at an elevation of 9,300ft to greet temperatures in the mid 50s. We put on our sweaters, covered our exposed skin with sunscreen, sprayed ourselves down with liberal amounts of bug spray, grabbed our between 3 and 4 liters of water each, and began our trek up the mountain.

Me at the trailhead

Me at the trailhead

The hike began on what my friends called the “bunny slope” of the ski resort that had become a grassy meadow strewn with wildflowers in the late spring months. The bunny slope may not look that steep when you’re about to ski down it covered in snow (or maybe it does, depending on who you are), but when you’re hiking up it at an elevation 4,000 feet higher than what you’re accustomed to, it’s steep. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times.

We walked under the ski lift until the path broke off into the forest were we began a serious of switchbacks up the mountain.

The forest is truly beautiful. I’d never seen so many aspens together in my life, and come to think of it, I’m not sure I’d ever seen any aspen groves outside of pictures. Between the aspens, majestic pines, and wildflowers that stubbornly fought the patches of snow, the atmosphere was truly spectacular.

The conversation up the side of the mountain ranged from the complex topics of our aerospace coursework to “that’s what she said” jokes. We had a great time laughing and “nerding out,” in the company of fellow aerospace enthusiasts.

All of the people we passed going one way or another were very happy to be spending the day on the side of the mountain just like us. It was another excellent opportunity to get away from the stresses of our everyday lives through an escape to a world of beauty with a good group of friends.

Hiking through snow in June on the side of Mt. Humphrey

Hiking through snow in June on the side of Mt. Humphrey

One of my friends brought his seven-month-old German Sheppard on the trip. We weren’t sure what she would think of the snow on the path, because when introduced to creeks in the past, she whimpered from the side while we swam around. She had absolutely no qualms with the snow though. In fact, she loved it. She jumped through it and attacked it and bit chunks that she threw up in the air. She was having as much fun in the snow as a ten-year-old boy on a snow day. It was really funny to watch.

We didn’t make it all the way to the top. We stopped about a mile from the summit at an elevation of 11,400 feet where the trees begin to fade and give way to a rocky summit. As the trees became less dense, the 50 mph winds began to whip at our faces and discourage us from further exploration.

The sign at the tree-line

The sign at the tree-line

My attempt to get a 10s time delay picture of the group at 11,400 where it was really cold (to a Texan) with 50mph winds.

My attempt to get a 10s time delay picture of the group at 11,400 where it was really cold (to a Texan) with 50mph winds.

Proof that I made it to 11,400ft

Proof that I made it to 11,400ft

For the guys on my hike, making it to a tree-line wasn’t nearly as much of a novelty as it was to the girl from Southeast Texas. I considered going to a place where the air became too thin for trees to grow to be a huge accomplishment.

Elated with what I still consider a victory, my trek down the mountain was less like hiking and more like frolicking, and I began to pride myself on being the comic relief of the trip.

A picture of the approaching rain clouds as we hiked down the last bit under the ski-lifts.

A picture of the approaching rain clouds as we hiked down the last bit under the ski-lifts.

I learned a lot about mountain hiking on this trip and my appreciation for the rugged beauty of the west only intensified in strength. I’ll return one day to make it to the summit, but until then: Humphry’s Peak 1, Kerianne zilch.

Kerianne versus Bell Trail #13

Hiking is a very therapeutic activity.It allows you to walk away from your stressful student life of homework, projects, midterms, professors, and those annoying kids who always break the curve on the test.

I don’t think it’s possible to be stressed on a hiking trip, because you leave the stress behind at the trailhead to relax with a few good friends. It doesn’t matter what you believe, hiking is a good rest for your mind, a good exercise for your body, and a good refueling for your soul.

When you leave your everyday life behind for a few hours it makes you feel all around healed.You can admire the beauty of the natural formations around you and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that you get from a really long hike.

Bell Trail 13 is an 11 mile round trip hike that runs parallel to Beaver Creek, close to the Verde Valley off of I-17.About 4-4.5 miles down the trail, the creek gives way to a breathtakingly beautiful natural swimming hole.

Here is the website for the trail: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/bell-tr.shtml

I heard about this hike from one of my friends on campus and it presented an exciting challenge to me.Armed with a 4 liters of water in my camelback, some snacks, and a ton of sunscreen, a couple of my friends and I began the hike.Between the three people on our hike we carried about 12 liters of water in at the beginning of our hike.

On this particular Saturday we were experiencing a bit of a heat wave, and though we hadn’t really seen temperatures above the low 80s in Prescott, we faced temperatures in the upper 90s on the hike.Being college students that don’t like to get up super early, and having gotten lost on the way to the hike, we began our trek close to midday.

Most of the hike runs up on a hill off to the side of Beaver Creek, so there isn’t much shade and the sand path and rocks around it heat up and begin radiating heat back at you.The hike out to the natural swimming hole was pretty intense.We climbed down to the creek a few times to cool off for a while before continuing on our hike.Throughout the hike we had to continuously drink water trying to keep up with the water that we were losing to the dry hot air through our skin.

By the time we got to the swimming hole we were absolutely exhausted and between the three of us we only had a liter and a half of water left. But seeing the beauty and experiencing the cool crisp water of the pond made the hike totally worth it.We stripped down to our swim suits and jumped in.

This is me swimming in the cool, clear water of the natural swimming hole on Bell Trail #13.

This is me treading water in the cool, clear pool of the natural swimming hole on Bell Trail #13.

There were several places in the swimming hole where cliffs over deep water provided safe places to cliff dive. I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to heights, so I jumped off of the smaller four-foot cliffs while my brave hiking companions leaped fearlessly from the twenty-foot cliff into the cold water below.

20 foot cliff that my friends dove from.

20 foot cliff that my friends dove from.

The water in the swimming hole was pretty clear, and much colder than the outside air.Jumping into the water felt like a total shock to the system.The guys I was with kept laughing at me when I continually surfaced very dramatically in reaction to the cold after jumping off my four foot cliff.

The landscape around the swimming hole.

The landscape around the swimming hole.

Looking down from the 20ft cliff at the swimming hole.

Looking down from the 20ft cliff at the swimming hole.

Once you climbed out of the water, it didn’t take very long for the water on your skin to evaporate and the breeze to become warm again.We hung out at the swimming hole till close to 6 p.m. when the sun was no longer high in the sky and the air began to cool a little.

I brought a $7 Disney Princess backpack from Walmart on the hike with extra supplies and my friend and fellow Aerospace Engineering Senior, Justin Gross, volunteered to carry it for a good portion of the hike after I started struggling with the heat.

I brought a $7 Disney Princess backpack from Walmart on the hike filled with extra supplies and my friend and fellow Aerospace Engineering Senior, Justin Gross, volunteered to carry it for a good portion of the hike after I started struggling with the heat.

Although two of us brought towels on the hike, we didn’t actually need them.We soaked our clothes in the cool creek water before hiking out and by the time we made it to the car again we were all completely dry again.

When I spend so much of my life being mentally exhausted from my studies, being physically exhausted after a beautiful hike was a satisfying change.The feeling of accomplishment that I walked away with was amazingly uplifting, as was the general sense of awe that I felt at the swimming hole.I’d definitely do this hike again, but I’d start way earlier in the morning on a day that wasn’t quite so hot.

Kerianne versus Summer Classes

I elected to take summer classes at Embry-Riddle for the first time this summer. I don’t have any exams this week, so I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on my blogging. My main motivation for taking summer classes was that I’ve reached a point in my classes where I couldn’t take any more courses at a university near my home, and taking classes this summer would mean a less stressful senior year.

I’m taking 6 credit hours this summer with Linear Circuits Analysis and Advanced Engineering Math. This will leave me with 14 and 9 credits for my last two semesters.

So are summer classes easier or harder than classes during the regular semester? Well, the answer is both.

On the one hand, summer classes run at a much more elevated pace than classes during a regular semester. What you would normally learn over 16 weeks is covered in only 6 weeks. So the way you study is different. You have to do your homework every day or you’ll get lost and pretty soon you won’t have any idea what’s going on in your lectures. The positive side of the faster pace is that you are usually fresher on topics for your exam, so it’s a bit of a trade off.

On the other hand, you only have classes 4 days a week and without overloading yourself with classes or extracurricular activities, you have 3 days off a week.

There are some students who do still have extracurricular activities like the Jet Dragster Project, NASA Space Grant Research, or in my case Newspaper. There is a lot of paperwork and organization that needs to be done over the summer to make sure the newspaper runs smoothly the next year, starting with our Orientation issue that has to be organized and printed a week before orientation.

So my weekly schedule is basically as follows:

MTWTh – 2-6 hours of homework, 0-3 hours on Newspaper, and 3.2 hours in class (which usually averages out to 8 hours/day),

FSa – Camping, or hiking, or hanging out with friends,

Su – 5-8 hours of homework/studying, then recovering from FSa

During a regular semester, between a full course load, and extracurricular activities, your average engineer gets very few days off. Once the engineering student reaches their junior and senior years, it is not unreasonable to expect that they will not get one day off for a month or more at the end of the semester, and by the time you’re on Christmas or summer break, you really need it.

From what I’ve experienced and what I’ve heard from other engineering students, it takes about a week for us young college students to recover from our semester, so if you can avoid work for the first weeks of your school breaks, you’re much better off. We were given a week between the end of Spring ’10 finals and the start of Summer A ’10 classes.

Actually having weekends during the summer is an amazing gift for an engineering student. I have taken the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities as often as I can, and it is these activities that will be the focus of my summer blogs.

Here is a glimpse of what my summer schedule and weekends off have looked like so far (detailed blogs to follow for select events):

Last Final of Spring Semester: May 6

Hiking to the top of Granite Mountain: May 7

Seeing friends graduate: May 8

Summer Classes Start: May 13

Camping at White Horse Lake: May 14 – 15

Hiking to Sycamore Canyon: May 15

Going home for my father’s 50th Birthday Celebration: May 20-23

Hiking in Sedona: May 30

Open House for printing company that prints our University paper in Tempe, AZ: June 4

Hiking Bell Trail #13 at Beaver Creek: June 5

Hiking Humphrey’s Peak: June 11

The rest of my summer in Prescott will probably look something like this:

June 18 or 19: ? Hiking to the base of the Grand Canyon, maybe?

June 19 or 20: Recovering from my “grand finale of the summer” hike

June 25-28: Studying for and taking Summer A Final Exams.

June 29: Flying home to Spring, Texas.

To the Edge of SPACE!!!!

These are the pictures from a student project in our Experimental Space Systems class (a second semester junior level class for students in the aerospace engineering astro track).  Our class was divided into groups and each group was assigned to make a student payload.  One of the requirements of our team’s payload was to take pictures during flight.  All of these payloads were attached to a weather balloon by a tether and launched from the lower fields on campus last Thursday at 9 in the morning.

The Balloon ascended through layers of the atmosphere until it reached just over 93,000 ft, which (if I’m not being a total blonde) is about 17.6 miles high, before it burst and began to fall again (with a parachute of course).

Our payloads landed in rough wilderness about 30 miles away from campus on the side of a mountain and it took a team of brave students about 7 hours of hiking to retrieve it.

Here are what I consider to be the best pictures from our balloon Launch.  They start with pictures from before the balloon reached the cloud level then go between we were between cloud levels, and the final pictures are taken basically on the edge of space (well kinda, but not really).

Notice the time stamp in the corner.  By that you can judge how fast the balloon is rising.  We think the camera stopped working between 50,000 and 60,000 feet (probably because the camera was too cold despite our heater), but the pictures at that point are still amazing.


Beware the Ides of April: Choosing Colleges

Awe yes, the ides of April hath arrived, and passed. In the Adult world this day is associated taxes. In the college world, April 15th is the middle of a transitional period in which your focus and workload kicks into high gear as your end of semester projects and studying for final exams loom before you. Such is the reason I didn’t have this blog finished by April 15th. As a senior in high school, April 15th represents a period in time when you have only a half month left before you make your final decision on which college to attend and have all of your paperwork submitted.

This decision is far from easy, because in addition to choosing an academic program, you are choosing where you are going to live for the next several years. I looked at going to schools in a variety of ways to narrow it down to my top three. Some of the reasons were even a little silly. For example, I noticed that many of the girls featured in the engineering programs I received were the type of female engineers that don’t do their hair, wear no makeup, and generally don’t care about their physical appearance. Looking at these brochures I thought to myself, “I’m not going to be able to relate to any of these girls.” I weeded out schools I felt would be too uptight and places where I felt I couldn’t be myself.

At this point in my senior year of high school, I had narrowed it down to three colleges: Texas A&M at College Station, Purdue University, and Embry-Riddle.

I did all of the research on these universities and rated them based on their academic programs. Embry-Riddle, of course came in first in that aspect, but there really is so much more involved in choosing the final university. I’m pretty sure a pro-con list was involved.

Most of the people that I went to high school with were going to the big state schools like Texas A&M and it certainly had its advantages. Culturally, the people that went to Texas A&M would have similar viewpoint and backgrounds, and the unique Texas Pride that only Texans understand. I could go to the big football games and eat Texas Barbeque and go to one of the best schools in the country for my major. The school was also only about one and a half hours from my home, so it presented the possibility of going home to see my parents more than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Summer Breaks. Purdue would also have been an excellent choice. It has an outstanding Engineering Program as well as a huge Society of Women Engineers.

For me, what it came down to was where I felt the most comfortable after campus visits. I even visited both Embry-Riddle campuses before I made my final decision. When it came to walking around the huge campuses, I felt kind of lost in the hustle of people. There are some people who like to be in huge classrooms with hundreds of students where they can fade into the background and not participate in the lecture. I, however, want to be able to ask questions of my professor and attend classes where my professor knows who I am. In that respect, Embry-Riddle’s small size and high faculty to student ratio really appealed to me.

In the end, I felt the most at home at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus. I don’t really know how to describe it. Driving into Prescott and seeing the trees and the granite dells and the mountains surrounding the campus instantly began to draw me in.

I’m one of those obnoxious people who likes to be super early to events and my campus tour was no exception. Before the tour began I remember walking around the campus with my dad and feeling like, “This is it. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

In my family, we call this a gut feeling, and when it came to choosing where I went to school, I went with my gut.

Embry-Riddle had such a personal feeling for me. At the end of my campus tour I had a meeting with my Admissions counselor and we talked about the road trip I’d taken out to see the school, some of the activities I was involved in and what I was looking for in my University. About a month later, Embry-Riddle came to Houston for a recruiting/information event. When I walked into the conference room where the meeting was held, my admissions counselor greeted me saying “hi Kerianne,” and then proceeded to ask me how the rest of my trip had gone. Not only did she remember my name, she remembered who I was and details about me. It was the kind of personal feeling I was looking for. If my decision hadn’t been made on the visit, it certainly was at that point.

There are actually psychological studies out there that show that going with your gut feeling can make you happier. It’s kind of like buying a car. Before you go to buy the car you do all of your research and narrow it down to your pick. You do test drives to get the feel and imagine yourself driving the car for years into the future. When it comes down to making the final decision, many people are going to pick the red one, rather than the beige one because despite all the research and practical reasons for getting the car you choose, in the end it comes down to an emotional decision. Often times, making that emotional decision will actually make you happier.

So my best advice when it comes to picking your school is to visit the schools you’re choosing between. Try them out. See if the shoe fits. And in the end, once you’ve made your logical assessment of the choices, and narrowed it down to a few top contenders, pick the one that feels best to you. Coming to Embry-Riddle was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.