USC Explore Engineering

Over the summer I spent 4 weeks doing the virtual USC Explore Engineering course. I was put into a group of 5 and each week we wrote a research paper and had a project based on different disciplines of engineering.

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Even through a pandemic, USC was able to transition into an online schooling format. Even with the classes being online I had some of the most fun learning. Being in Europe I was hesitant about attending the  class because I worried about my timezone being too different and the lessons interfering with my work, thankfully I convinced myself that I would probably regret not doing the course. My worries were put away when I got into my first zoom call with my group: Spencer, Rufus, and Harrison. It was the beginning to a great 4 weeks.

Here’s the website we made as a team:


Week 1 we focused on robotics. Our professor Darin Gray assigned us with the task to create a disaster relief robot that would guide citizens out of a collapsed building. Of course we can’t make a system that actually does this but the point was to design a robot that could emulate somewhat of that task. Our group decided to use some AI with utilizing the “turn-left” method that is typically used to solve mazes. We chose this method as it is a sure fire way to reach the exit, the only issue it takes forever as demonstrated by our video that took 13 minutes. To code the robot Rufus did the bulk of the coding with supplementary help from Spencer and Harrison in RobotC.


My main focus for the week was the research paper. The topic was about various ideas on disaster relief robots. I did not realize how effective teamwork can be when writing a paper. We were able to draft a pretty decent 5 page research paper in about 3 days. Being able to accomplish this my confidence in my group grew. Our bonds also strengthen with each zoom call and virbela meeting where we would crack jokes and have fun with the TAs.


The focus of this week was civil engineering. We had 2 main tasks, craft a 2D bridge for the lowest cost while still being in the requirements and crafting a 3D bridge with the heaviest load. We all tried our hand at the 2D bridge but once one of us achieved the best bridge Spencer and I focused our attention on the 3D program. The wood we were given was balsa. Balsa is slightly stronger in tension than in compressions so I wanted my bridge to utilize this fact. As a result I decided to build a substructure truss and a pratt truss for the superstructure. 


For our research paper we looked at the anatomy of the bridge alongside discussing bridges like the Golden Gate bridge and the Tacoma bridge.


Electrical and Biomedical engineering was the name of the game for this week. Sadly we did not have as much time as usual as it was the 4th of July weekend. Nonetheless, our professor wanted us to create a digital circuit with black box inputs that would use boolean logic to produce different signals for different risk factors of covid-19. An example would be if you started to cough the light would turn yellow. I made the truth table and boolean algebra equations while Spencer drafted the circuit board where we would help troubleshoot via screen share on Zoom. Our paper was a bit dull as we just discussed the components and manufacturing of circuit boards.

Risk FactorsDry Cough (x)
Increase in Temp (y)
Oxygen Level (z)Equations
xȳẑ + x̄yẑ + x̄ȳz =1
xyẑ + x̄yz + xȳz =2
1001zyx =3


This was our final week. We wanted to go out strong, and out strong, we went. The engineering fields for this week were, industrial, aerospace, chemical, and mechanical. We were tasked with designing a rocket that would launch and deploy a carbon capture device. Spencer and Harrison decided to tackle the rocket aspect while I focused on the carbon capture system. After many iterations our rocket destroyed all the other groups going 500,000 feet into the air, breaking into outer space. In addition our carbon capture device was based off MIT research where they used chemically coated plates that would attract only CO2.


I am so happy to have done this course. Even though it was online I was able to form amazing memories with my group. We even played warzone and got 1st place on the last day. I couldn’t have asked for better TAs (especially Chirag.) Would I do it again? For sure, but sadly my first summer pre-college course was my last, and I am so glad to have had it.

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