Alec - Wrapping Up

Hi everyone, it's Alec!

It has been a long summer (and begining of fall), and I have learned so much!

My favorite part has been learning from firsthand experience how research goes. Whatever field I go into later in life, I will have already covered the learning-to-research phase of my career because of this competition. Along the way I learned that innovation rarely has a 'lightbulb' moment: I have ideas all the time when I am thinking about physics, and I make sure to write them down; however, few survive the back-of-the-napkin approximation stage. The idea I am submitting to the competition almost ended up in that category as well, but some redisigns and repurposing slowly turned it into what it is today.

I also learned that, at least in projects involving ions, it is really hard to make precise predictions and designs. I have worked to the point where I have done several mid-level calculations and computer simulations which really increased the accuracy of my predictions to the point where I can be condifedent that there is no major issue with the close approximation equasions I used early in the project. However, I have been told that fulling modeling every aspect of the plasma flow in my design on a computer would consistitute a multi-year doctorate thesis.

If I had a chance, I would have reached out to experts and mentors earlier in my process. I found that doing so helped me focus and reshape my plans and goals based on their experience.

As of right now, I can't believe the final event is so soon. I think I feel nervous, but definately excited as well. I know my competition is smart and will be tough to face, and I look forward to meeting them and working with them.

Well, wish me good luck everyone!