Reflections of ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012 -- Part II

"I don't want it. I just need it. To feel, to breathe, to know I'm alive." --Tool, Stinkfist

In this post I'm continuing to reflect on my experiences at at ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012. Hence the name. If you have not read the previous post you may wish to do so as it will provide some context.

In the last post I mentioned my surprise by the number of ideas spawned by the numerous talks I saw and the conversations I had. While I can observe that I found the conferences very inspirational that doesn't do it justice. Truth be told I came back with a bit of research fever.

To manage my thoughts at the conferences I found it helpful, even necessary, to keep my notebook on hand. The initial intent was to keep track of questions that arose, of which there were plenty. But I ended up keep track of a number of other things.

For example I ended up making a "todo" list with many of the items being of the ilk "learn more about ..." and "what is ...?" The remaining items were related to projects I need to finish. Player/ROS drivers I have started but not submitted for example. Suffice it to say it's going to take some time to make it through this list.

I also started a list of new research ideas. This list wasn't as long as the other lists and obviously these ideas weren't all great. My thought was that in writing them down I could review them later and gauge them with a clearer head. Looking back at them most are just okay. However I like the idea of this list and plan to keep a copy readily available from now on. This blog was supposed to be in part a way for me to clarify my ideas but it doesn't make a good repository of random thoughts.

At this point I feel like I'm rambling and my mind keeps wandering back to a proof that I have been working on so I'm going to sign off for now.


Reflections of ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012 -- Part I

"Teeter between tired and really really tired. I'm wiped and I'm wired but I guess it's just as well." --Ani DiFranco, Swan Dive

This quote describes, very well, an aspect of conferences I did not fully appreciate until spending the past week in St. Paul Minnesotta. Specifically I learned that they are as much about networking as anything else.

But let me back up. My advisor Dr. Jur van den Berg sent my colleagues and I to St. Paul Minnesota to see the state of the art in robotics and to meet others in our respective fields. Monday through Friday we attended the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). On Saturday and Sunday we attended ROScon, a conference on Robot Operating System (ROS).

Going in it seems obvious that one would meet a lot of people as research often involves collaboration. However, and maybe I'm alone in this revelation, but I underestimated the amount of time I would spend meeting new people and learning about their work. I guess I expected to meet a few people whose interests align with mine and this occurred. I did not expect to be awake from 7:30 AM until about 2:00 AM the next morning everyday.

Even with the lack of sleep I felt quite good. A couple cups of coffee in the morning to wake up and a few beers each night to ensure I rested well and I was raring to go. I think there was an additional dimension to this though. I did not expect the sheer number of "new" ideas spawned by seeing what others were doing (I qualify because not having done a literature review one cannot be certain whether any given idea is in fact new). With this came something of a high.

I don't believe I was the only one feeling this way though. A very common question was "so, what do yo do?" Granted this is a classic small talk question, but what better way is there to seek out new ideas? Suffice it to say that by the end of the week I felt almost choreographed in my response, save for the minor variations that arose based on the specialty of the person I was speaking with at any given moment.

From all this I met a lot of great people. Several that I have idolized, some with which I hope to collaborate, and a whole lot I'm glad to call friend. Thank you for making this past week so fun.