Intelligent Systems Engineering
Intelligent Systems Engineering
School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering
Groups & clubs
Aidan's major is Intelligent Systems Engineering, a new IU Bloomington program focused on small-scale and mobile technologies.
Retrospection is a funny thing
When we think back on all of the events that shaped us into the people we are today, there are some experiences that we recognize as pivotal moments in our development. However, as hard as we might try, there are inevitably influential moments we’ve forgotten or misremember. In this regard, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of the 2020 project during one of the most significant life experiences that is college.
Looking back at the amazing time capsule created by the brilliant multimedia team has allowed me to relive so many of the moments that have defined my college experience, and now, at the end of this great journey (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that freshman Aidan wrote the first blog as a fantasy adventure chronicle), I’m reminded of so many aspects of college life that I can now recognize as chief contributors to my overall experience at IU.
Some Call it Wisdom
We may be in the 200th year of IU, but with this bit of insight I’ve gathered, I hope to offer my thoughts to the class of 2021 and the many more that will follow them. Who knows? If this insight works for you, we may even be able to call it “wisdom”!
And freshman Aidan ended up feeling pretty content and comfortable after that semester. The college course load had become second-nature, I had developed a system for navigating campus, and I became friends with the cohort of students with whom I shared every academic moment as we undertook the rigorous engineering program. It seemed like we had our four years planned out, and we were on the railroad track for the long haul.
But as comfortable and settled as you may feel in that moment, I cannot express with more emphasis the importance of pursuing that niche interest that may not be directly concerned with your degree, but still hangs out in the back of your mind.
You may be at IU to pursue a major in a particular field, but the true beauty of a university like this is the opportunity to explore a breadth of interests and make for yourself a truly unique and personally satisfying experience. I’ve used this to my advantage on several occasions, and I’ve found those opportunities to be some of the most fulfilling.
ABF: always be fencing
In my very first semester, I diversified my STEM-intensive schedule with a weekly private guitar session (for credit!) at the Jacobs School of Music with Carlo Fierens. Having whet my appetite for variety, I would later study abroad on two occasions, studying architecture and politics in London and metropolitan spaces in Paris. Now, entering my final year, I’m supplementing my senior engineering courses with semi-weekly instruction in longsword fencing, a decision supported exclusively by the fact that I’m a massive fan of Game of Thrones. Take these opportunities to enrich your experiences and keep yourself excited to learn. I promise, you’ll never find a better time to explore these curiosities than in these four years, and they very well could reveal to you what you’re truly passionate about.
Another essential takeaway from your college experience will be the relationships you will have made, from close friends to infrequent acquaintances. Now, everyone has different approaches to making friends, so it isn’t my place to give tips on that front, but to the point of maintaining and strengthening relationships with your peers, the quality I’ve found the most lacking and consequently the one I’ve hoped to exhibit the most is being excited for the successes of others.
Find the people who you would like to see catch the next big fish, and who would hope to see the same for you. All too often I’ve been disheartened by competitiveness fragmenting relationships as part of this misconception that the success of one threatens the chance of success in the other. Instead, the most valuable position you can take is recognizing that kindness reciprocates, and the friends you keep are your most valuable resource.In everything you do at IU, I encourage you to keep a set of goals in mind. That isn’t meant to sound like a cliche–instead, I recommend it as a tool. Keep your eyes on what it is you’re working towards, whether it’s long-term or short-term. These goals can change, of course, and it’s perfectly acceptable to have several. I have a goal to get a job building intelligent prosthetics just as I have a goal to read a book tonight. If your goals make a 180-degree turn in the middle of sophomore year, that’s completely fine. Your goal could be to actively explore different fields until you find your passion. The important part is to know in which direction to drive yourself. By maintaining that focus, you’ll find yourself becoming more confident, achieving more, and taking full advantage of all of the resources IU has to offer.
Find what makes you happy- and let go of what doesn't
There will be lots of opportunities presented to you in your four years at IU. They could be anything from getting involved in a student organization or club to signing on to a research team or a stage production–even something as simple as a class project or assignment. Every student has their own path, and with each comes its own unique set of opportunities, but the one common thread that I’d pass on to students is to accomplish each while keeping in mind the chance to turn them into new opportunities.
This is accomplished by chasing every task with dedication, a work ethic, and intention. The reward may not be obvious to you at the time, and there may be a time when you feel as though your work is for naught, but I can guarantee that consistent, reliable, and quality work will garner attention and respect. From research internships and project presentations to speaking engagements and leadership opportunities, I can attest to the fact that maintaining your commitment to honest work and responsibility are the greatest tools for positioning yourself to achieve the opportunities you want.
Tying all of these together, my greatest hope for all of the students after me is that you can use this time at IU to find who you are, to realize your identity.
These, among other things I’ve learned over my four years, have led me to strengthen my motivation for the things that make me a better, happier person, and to recognize and avoid the things that don’t. Finding out who we are takes time and practice, and it doesn’t end when you graduate, but with such a breadth of opportunities at your fingertips, it’s in these four years that you can make the most progress. Take a chance on the things you’ve always wanted to try. Recognize the value in your relationships and be genuinely happy for others in their successes. Make yourself dedicated, intentional, reliable, and indispensable. Your time at IU will be a journey of figuring out who you want to be by the end, and I hope you’ll be able to use these insights to get there, just as I did.
Thanks so much for your interest in our 2020 adventure! It’s been a privilege to share our stories, and I look forward to the ones to come from the classes that follow!
In past blog posts, I’ve tried to take a light and comical approach towards retelling life events, important experiences, and the like. However, this summer calls for a break in tradition and I can’t think of any way to properly explain it other than with sincerity. Or at least more than usual.
To me, the opportunity to study abroad is as important as any other aspect of higher education. Perspective, awareness, and exposure to the world beyond the US are invaluable traits to acquire, especially for an undergraduate, and even now I can tell my work and daily life are changing because of them.
Thanks to the Department of Overseas Studies and IES Abroad, my summer was spent in London, England, now without a doubt my favorite city in the world. For the summer semester, I lived like a Londoner, taking classes one block from the British Museum (home to the Rosetta Stone), riding the tube (subway) every day from King’s Cross Station (fellow Harry Potter fans will be familiar), exploring the city with a running club, and watching the World Cup with the most enthusiastic football fans I have seen in my life (also, that’s “soccer”, for the Americans in the room).
Even among big cities, London is something else. When you wake up in the morning and step outside, life starts right away. You get the chance jump right in as a part of this big, intricate machine of a city and still feel like you’re right in place. It’s larger than life, but with more character than a Dickens novel (look, I had to get one joke in). Living, studying, and exploring were more inspiring than I’d felt in a long time.
Walking through the streets is when you really get a sense of the scale of the city. London is densely packed with all sorts of people, buildings, and events that a person could feel like a citizen of the world without leaving the city bounds. So many famous sites are so well preserved, it’s like walking through a history book. Have a picnic outside of a palace? No problem. Spend the evening watching a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre? Why not? Go on a morning run past 10 Downing Street? Don’t mind if I do.
When I found out I’d get to live and study in London, I knew it would be something special, but the variable I couldn’t have expected was the people with whom I’d be sharing this amazing experience. Now, this is my first time studying abroad, and I don’t have any other experience against which to weigh my own, but I would be hard-pressed to believe everyone gets as lucky as I did with the friends I made on this trip. I never would have thought that such close friendships could be made so quickly, and as sad as goodbyes were, I know I haven’t seen them for the last time.
I’m not even off the plane yet, and everything already feels so distant. My life in the US and my life in the UK are so drastically different, I feel like I’ve just snapped out of a dream and I’m about to land back in real life. I’m already anticipating how I’m going to attempt to explain everything to friends and family back at home. As my friend Simon explained, “no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to fully explain what your life’s been like here.” I certainly plan to try my best, but it won’t be easy putting it into words. Not even in a blog post.
Aside from the new experiences and knowledge (and souvenirs) I’ll be bringing back with me, I’ll return to Bloomington with a renewed sense of adventurousness, independence (ironically), and energy, which I hope to carry over into this upcoming semester. Returning is the start of a new stage in this four-year saga, and as I settle into new routines, I’m sure they’ll be shaped, at least in part, by my lifestyle across the pond.
The trip has been fantastic, and I’m looking forward to returning, possibly for work, possibly to study, or even just to visit again. But it has been a whole summer, and I’m also looking forward to settling back into my familiar Bloomington life. When I jump back into the world of IU, I know that I’ll have friends and family ready to join me, and plenty of new faces to meet as the next year begins.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
Greetings, readers, and welcome to the first installment of my recorded time at Indiana University. This epic saga will be chronicled in the form of blog posts, and I hope you will thoroughly enjoy following the adventures of myself, Aidan Whelan, your dedicated author.
But first, a bit of background.
The subjects of our favorite stories often need proper introductions, and this is no exception. I am currently a first-year student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, but before that, I was a high school student at Bloomington High School North. My family has lived in the city of Bloomington for three years, beginning just before my junior year of high school. This move was one of many that I've made, having lived in Waco, Texas; South Bend and Evansville, Indiana; and Medfield, Massachusetts, where it all began.
Arriving in Bloomington was one of the easiest transitions I have ever had to make, entirely due to the welcoming students, teachers, neighbors, and any other people I was fortunate enough to come across. Additionally, living so close to the university itself was an excellent way to take part in the many opportunities IU had to offer, from world-class concerts to premier sporting events.
When the time came for me to decide where to pursue an education beyond high school, Indiana University had already become very familiar to me. I had developed close friendships with current students, faculty, and staff -- including my own future professors -- and the university was about as close as possible to living in my own backyard without actually living in my own backyard. I applied as soon as I could, was accepted, and began to prepare for the beginning of my exciting adventure as a Hoosier.
During the application process, I was faced with the question of choosing an area of study to pursue as a major. As it so happened, this decision would be a cornerstone of my decision to attend.
One of the people I was fortunate enough to befriend in my time in Bloomington was Professor Martin Swany, a professor in the School of Informatics and Computing here at IU. In a discussion one day, Dr. Swany began telling me about a new major of study he was introducing to IU: Intelligent Systems Engineering. Now, this was pretty groundbreaking on a few levels. After hearing more about the field, I realized just how cutting-edge the field was and how it had the potential to affect the way people across the world live in a really massive way. That alone excited me, and I was amazed that students like us would have the opportunity to be a part of this hugely important field.
My interest in building and creating began at an early age, so I was drawn to this new major like a knight to the round table. Being one of the leading informatics and computing schools in the nation, as well as being the first to offer an ISE program, I saw a clear choice and declared my major as Intelligent Systems Engineering. Later that year, I was accepted into the inaugural program and I became a member of Indiana University's first class of engineers.
At the beginning of the college adventure, I decided to take advantage of yet another amazing opportunity the university had to offer and signed up for the Intensive Freshman Seminar. This was a full semester class offered in a two-week period before the full student body arrived on campus, and it allowed incoming freshmen to learn more about the campus, become familiar with some of their classmates, and begin their own adventures with a smaller group of people. This was easily the best way I could imagine being introduced to college life, and thanks to Professor Andrew Libby and his "Food for Thought" food policy class, I landed at IU Bloomington with a running start and still keep in close touch with my classmates that became my college family for those first two weeks.
Then the full crusade began.
My first semester of college was, as I often tell people, "as full as it could possibly be, but fortunately full with things that I'm always excited about." I began my studies in engineering with "E101-Innovation and Design," along with supplementary courses in calculus and physics. After my application, I was also fortunate to have my application to the Hutton Honors College accepted. I chose to fulfill my honors college credit for the semester with the very same physics course, which I would entirely recommend to any prospective engineering student.
E101, taught by Professor Katie Siek, wasted no time in diving right into hands-on learning, and in a matter of days I was deeply involved in the class. Filled in by instruction and useful exercises, the class consisted of an introductory project and a semester-long design project. The class tackled these projects in teams, and in the end, several fantastic products were born. For both projects, I was a member of a team of four, and I am very proud of the achievements we were able to make.
The first project, completed by our team, The Four Horsemen, created an interactive mystery/puzzle book of the same name, complete with electronics and smart sensors to enhance the puzzles and force the reader to think beyond the limits of a normal book. Made from laser-cut and etched pieces of wood, the book only reveals clues when the reader solves its riddles -- for instance, taking the book into a completely dark room. The final product was invited to be shown at the Frontier Conference at Carnegie Mellon University, where it was presented to President Barack Obama and his White House staff.
Following the Introductory Project, the ISE program moved to the final project of the semester: the Design Project. This project would test our mettle and skill, as we were tasked with creating a device of epic proportion that could be presented at the School of Informatics and Computing Fall Research Symposium, an exhibition and competition consisting of more than 80 teams and 230 participants. If we wanted to compete with the rest of the school, we had to bring our best. My team, Leopard Keyboard, decided to create the EcoClaw, a modified garbage collection claw that could detect when an object was picked up, then display the total count of collected items using an OLED screen embedded in the handle. The team had a fantastic time working together on this project, and like the Four Horsemen project, the EcoClaw was also well-received. When the project was presented at the Fall Research Symposium, it was awarded as the Best Undergraduate Project in the School of Informatics and Computing. Even after one semester, the engineering program was making a mark for itself in the school.
(For more information on the processes and final projects, feel free to visit aidanwhelanengineering.wordpress.com)
With this new program, I wanted to be as involved as possible, and thanks to the people and opportunities at IU, specifically in the School of Informatics and Computing, I was able to do just that. With five other ISE students, we created IU's very first Engineering Club, INgineering, and I was fortunate to be elected as the inaugural president, which meant a great deal to me coming from my peers. As a team, the six of us hope to form the club into a provider of new experiences for people who want to explore more opportunities in engineering, as well as give enrichment through guest speakers and other outlets. Additionally, members of INgineering have been invited to travel around the state to recruit potential new students to the ISE program. We hope to have the club in full effect this spring.
Outside of my time as a college student, I am also currently employed at the IU Center for Research in Extreme Scale Technologies, where I am currently working with a team on Brain Computer Interfaces, as well as an instructor at the Jacobs School of Music Guitar Academy, a program that I graduated from in Classical Guitar.
Thus concludes the inaugural installation of this chronicle, as I must return to begin a new semester and write of the new adventures that arise along the way.