City Steps - Winnie Chan

City Steps - Winnie Chan
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    [S.K.] -Hi. Welcome to City Steps. I'm your host S.K. Rana and joining me today is Winnie on the steps of Hamilton at Columbia University. Say, "hi." [Winnie] -Hi. [S.K.] -So Winnie, can you introduce yourself? [Winnie] -Hi I'm Winnie I'm a rising junior at Barnard and I'm working on an engineering project for the summer. [S.K.] -Awesome. What's your major? [Winnie] -I'm actually an English major now but I I have a STEM background and I am minoring in physics, so. [S.K.] -Oh okay. So you're minoring in physics. So what field is your research in? [Winnie] -It's in the robotics and rehabilitation engineering lab at Mudd. [S.K.] -So what exactly is robotics and rehabilitation? [Winnie] -So it's like creating exoskeletons that attach to the person's skeleton. It's supposedly supposed to help you regain movement after losing movement. [S.K.] -Oh, like traumatic injury. [Winnie] -Yeah yeah. [S.K.] -Okay that's really cool. So there's a lot of components that go into robotics and rehabilitation from everything to designing and building to maybe even a coding aspect. Where do you fall in that? [Winnie] -So right now I'm working on a very small part of a motor-driven skeleton that latches to the leg. And I'm working on designing a soft cuff because right now they have a hard-- it's a hard skeleton that is like made out of metal and like hard plastic that attaches to the something. That can be very like arduous and like it's hard for the patient to like maneuver like when they're putting on clothing. So right now we're focusing on like designing up soft-- a softer cuff that directly attaches onto your body so you can wear under your clothes and it's just easier to move that way. [S.K.] -Awesome so does this exoskeleton mostly provide support or can it also provide motor function? [Winnie] -Support. It's mostly for support to help you regain movement. This is like motor driven or motor mechanic mechanism. And the motors attached-- that they have cables running down. The cables attached to attach the exoskeleton and like as you move the cable tugs to help you, you know, regain movement. [S.K.] -Okay so is this like a temporary thing or would this be like would this be a supplement or a replacement for prosthetics? [Winnie] -Um. Temporary. [S.K.] -Temporary. Okay so this is...Oh so this, oh, rehabilitation. [Winnie] -Yes. [S.K.] -Like physiotherapy? [Winnie] -Yes. [S.K.] -Right. Are you designing this are you building this? [Winnie] -Yeah I'm so right now we're in the process we're in the design phase so we're coming up with different kinds of designs for the soft cuff. So we have so the soft cough just made out of like, if you know those like those compression sleeves that like athletes wear (?). So that's a soft cuff that will attach to your thigh or your calf and then we're designing-- there's a block, like a 3D printed block that attaches to to the sleeve and through that block is where the cables will run. So we're designing that block specifically. [S.K.] -Okay so how does this relate to to a physics major? Because to me this sounds very bio- [Winnie] -Engineering? [S.K.] -Rr not even engineering, bio. [Winnie] -Oh yeah. I think bio is more of the-- well there is definitely the bio component cuz you have to know how the bones move the how the bones function. But for us right now it's more I think it's it's smaller scale and we can focus more in the physics part. But right now we're just focusing on like what forces will work with the cable because when you're analyzing movement you have to look at the forces. [S.K.] -Okay. So how do you-- is this all theoretical or do you test for force. [Winnie] -We do tests. We're actually in the testing phase right now. So right now we've made a bunch of different you know designs and we've attached them to like different sample cloths and we're gonna see, like we're testing the wear and tear of the cloth. So we're gonna, we're seeing at what point how much how much can the cloth, how much force can the cloth handle you know without before it tears. And that's gonna depend based on the design. We're kind of narrowing down which design we want. We create a lot of prototypes and now we're trying to figure out what design that we're gonna go for. We're just experimenting and we're, obviously we're learning as we go. So like right now we're using 3D printers to print the different like cable holders the blocks I told you about that like attached to the cable. And yeah so we're, we're making different prototypes of that and like we're printing cuz it's like relatively faster than like making like an actual metal ones like that because 3D printers they all you have to do is like put in like some like PLA material and they like print for you within like a couple of hours. Maybe like four to ten hours up like that. [S.K.] -PLA meaning a type of plastic. [Winnie] -Like plastic. [S.K.] -Or synthetic material? [Winnie] -Yeah. [S.K.] -Yeah that's really cool. And you designed these using a graphical interface on the computer? [Winnie] -Yes it's called CAD if you ever heard of it? Computer-aided design. [S.K.] -Okay. [Winnie] -Lets you design 3D, print 3D models online that will that you can like you can like export to a 3S printer and you can like it will print it for you. [S.K.] -Why physics? [Winnie] -You mean like physics as in my majoring in...and why how it applies to... [S.K.] -Yeah why did you, why did you choose to do research or to study in physics? What's pushed you in this path? [Winnie] -Oh yeah. So like I originally went to theoretical physics but then I realized it was too detach from like the real world maybe. I don't know. Some people yell at me for saying that. I think it is. And I think engineering is, like engineering it's basically, or mechanical engineering, is basically applied physics. So I thought, and I really like building stuff and like hands-on stuff and I never really got that and like my pure physics classes. So I wanted to try that out like try Applied Physics and the best way to do that is to you know do research into mechanical engineering lab which is what I'm doing right now. [S.K.] -And then so you mentioned that you decided to originally were going to be a physics major and now you're an English major with the physics minor right. How did that happen? [Winnie] -Well I just I was taking English classes for fun you know while I was still a physics major and I was also CS major - [S.K.] -Oh whoa. You were gonna do a double major? [Winnie] -Yeah I was gonna do double major and I was just taking classes for fun to fulfill my requirements I was like I love these like and like I don't know. I think the English, english department is like excellent here both at Barnard and Columbia. I think I just like the subject better. I like, and I don't know I've always liked English I like, like reading but like. [S.K.] -So what do you see yourself doing in the future? Do see yourself going into research or what do you see you see for the future. [Winnie] -Because I'm an English major now I'm probably gonna want to go to grad school for English. Maybe going to publishing for a couple of years and then do grad school. I like doing English literature like research in English I like researching. You know reading, reading up on books and you know writing papers based on you know what I've read and like my own and like like contributing to the existing scholarly conversation on the Englis. And like you know, I don't know exactly what I want to study in English but like probably something along those lines definitely grad school. [S.K.] -So would you ever consider going into like scientific writing or maybe doing like journalism where you also work with science or do you just now wanna like go full steam ahead with only English literature. [Winnie] -Yeah, the latter definitely. [S.K.] -Full steam ahead with English literature (!). [Winnie] -Yeah. [S.K.] -So so then why did you continue doing research over the summer if this isn't what you'd want to do going forwards? [Winnie] -Well I got this position after I realized that I want to switch to English so there was more- [S.K.] -Before> [Winnie] -Yeah yeah that's why. And also like it's not like just because I'm like I'm an English major it doesn't mean it doesn't mean that like I don't enjoy doing research in the STEM areas. Like my lab is like really fun. I really enjoy it. I think 3D printing is really cool. It gives me so much, I don't know. It's just, it's a really, it's I don't know um and like yeah I still enjoy working in the lab. So like just because I'm in English I get less out of it. No it's like I feel like now that I'm able to I feel like I have to cherish, like cherish these STEM moments I know I feel like I'm not because I'm not gonna do research in STEM again I think after this summer. But it's been good it's been fun, it's been a fun time. [S.K.] -I'm glad. So so you're now a person who is gonna head towards actually English like straight forward into the humanities, almost kind of leave STEM behind. [Winnie] -Yeah. [S.K.] -Do you think it's important or do you think knowing STEM, knowing the sciences, informs you in any way as an English major, as a humanities major. Do you think there's value you to knowing this? [Winnie] -Oh my gosh yes. It definitely helps with essay writing because you know I feel like a lot of people time just write essays without work organizing information but in reality like when you write actually have to be super organized. Yeah. And like I mean I think coming with the STEM from STEM background that helps me I really have an easier time, we're like easier time organizing my ideas on paper so like my ideas come across much clearer and it's just having that like technical mindset really helps me like write better I think in that way. [S.K.] -And so a lot of people are critical, or a lot of individuals specifically in the STEM fields are critical of the humanity-- of humanities students because they aren't required to take a lot of STEM classes to STEM students who are required take a lot of humanities classes. And while I personally think it's valuable for STEM seems to take humanities classes. I also agree, I also think that it's valuable for humanities students to take a lot of STEM classes. Do you-- what are your-- what's your opinion on that? [Winnie] -It's hard for me to say I guess it would be it I think it is definitely useful for humanities majors to take STEM classes just because just you know just for their own good. Like you know in the future you still have to like calculate taxes and stuff like that it's like it's not like just because you're in humanities doesn't mean you're not you can't, you're not gonna be what you're not gonna do math ever in your life ever you know again. Like you still have need those like basic like adding subtracting you know and thinking logically. Also I think no I think yeah I think some classes are important cause it helps you think in a way that like you know help you organize your life that's not necessarily related to your work so like so I think it's like just important to have that STEM logic that STEM thinking to like in your everyday life when you're just going about your life in like planning things I mean like planning a party you know or like just like planning things. [S.K.] -I, I personally think, am not sure if you agree. But I'd personally go a step further and say it's important to have that knowledge. [Winnie] -Yeah. [S.K.] -I, I see so many, I get, I talked to so many students who say, "oh I'm never gonna like need Gen Chem in my life. Or need intro physics or need intro bio." And as a STEM student I disagree with that. Because I think that having a knowledge in the sciences is important to create-- or having having knowledge of the sciences is important to being an informed voter. [Winnie] -Mmmm. That's true I don't think about that. Yeah that's totally true. Like especially right now with a climate change and like people don't believe in science like I think like taking science classes is like critical like especially in this day it's just because like you have to know that like and also yeah - you know - in order to be like a responsible active citizen and like helping to prevent climate change I think it is important that you like take these subclasses just yeah just to be more informed about like like what like you know current events I guess. [S.K.] -Do you have you have anything else to add about your experience doing research or your transition from being a STEM major to going full steam ahead with an English degree. [Winnie] -Yeah I guess I'm sad to be leaving this. Cuz I've always been super STEM-y. Like I feel like STEM has defined me my entire life for-- so you know since I was like 5 or something. I always thought I was gonna do STEM just because my that was my family background. But I guess I'm sad to be leaving the STEM fields but like at the same time it's not like those skills are gonna go waste it. I know I'm gonna those skills but I like that I got from my STEM background are gonna come in handy one day and actually-- no, every day. Just kidding. Every day. Just already like, does me more does me a lot of good without me even knowing like unconscious like subconsciously you know without you even knowing. It just like comes naturally. [S.K.] -Yeah that's great thank you for agreeing to let me interview you. [Winnie] -Of course anytime. [S.K.] And this is our episode of City Steps thank you for listening.
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