Reflection On Research Journey

My supervisor told me, "Don't skip any step!"

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When I started my Laidlaw research project, I was very excited and I wanted everything to work as I planned. My plan was straight: To implement the project! My project being in electronics, I thought that the only thing I needed was to buy electronics materials and have my project done.

  • The first weeks' experience:

In the first week of the research, I took my book, where I wrote about the working of 2G networks, the frequency they transmit and how mobile phone works in general (this is part of the project). After reading about that, the next thing to do was to pass all information in the simulator and see if the result I got was the one I expected. And it worked for the very first day. So, I was very happy to let my supervisor know that the first week went as planned. The following week, I started to work on 3G networks and everything changed at the beginning during the simulation. I told myself that maybe the simulator (I was using the Multisim) I am using is not updated or else is not suitable for that kind of project. So, I went to my supervisor and told him the case and he advised me to read about the tuning circuits and consider beginning in order to see if I clearly understood what I was doing. So I read all documents as he asked me to do and grab the information which helped me to understand a little about the mistake I was doing ( I was rushing). But I wasn't convinced either. So, what I did next was to solder the circuit I made with the thoughts that "maybe the simulation doesn't work but the implementation can." With that in mind, I soldered the circuit hoping for good results, but well nothing happened: the circuit didn't react as expected.  I went back to my supervisor and tell him what I did and he asked me to go and make sure that the simulation is working, he told me not to skip any step. The steps are: Theory-Simulation-Implementation

The first step of the theory means that you should first understand well the project you are going to do and be able to explain it to a person just in case. It means that you are able to tell people what your project is about and how it'll be working.

The second step of simulation means that you should test your design in the simulator (electronics simulator this time) and be able to determine and predict the results of your project. This step is very necessary for engineering projects since it helps in avoiding the wastage of resources and time as well.

The third step is implementation. This meant hardware implementation on my project which included designing the circuit on the breadboard and solder it on the PCB. For me the first step was fine but at first, I didn't give much attention to the second step. The consequence was that I kept going back to start again.

  • The approach taken:

I had to start in order to figure out where I made a mistake. This time I was focusing on the step of the simulation. I realized that I wasn't doing online searching very well because this time I noticed that when my supervisor told me to read about tuning circuits, its because he wanted me to relate it to my project and to apply to it as well. I then come to conclude (which I didn't do before) that the tuning circuit couldn't work because my project dealt with gigahertz signals. I also realized that it was better if I use another simulator other than Multisim in order to clearly see the results. I then used LTSpice which helped me to analyze the circuits I was building, to interpret the results and to do the implementation as I planned.

  • Lesson learned:

**I came to realize that research is a journey and if you want good results, you shouldn't skip any step. It's a journey where you keep learning and bringing new ideas to your project. Throughout the journey, I learnt new theories and I learnt why some of them couldn't work. 

**I also learnt that you shouldn't rely on one online resource and believe that you can make a conclusion. 

Even though doing a research project is part of the Laidlaw program, the skills I got from that keep helping me in class. I have learned to pay attention to every detail while doing a research for any class activity and as a result I started to submit class assignments which were well done. The research journey has also enhanced in me the spirit of reading. Before joining the program, I was that student who reads what she is given in class and that was all. But after joining the program, I started to read and I was happy to submit the assignments only after I have read 3 to 5 resources online and went to the library. I am always thankful for the program.

Inkindi Mutoni Sabine

STEM Subject Lead, University of Rwanda

I am a final year student at the University of Rwanda, studying Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering. I am also the STEM Subject Lead. My project is about bringing a system that could help in minimizing the number of high-school and primary students who bring cell phones at school since it's one of the major sources of distraction. I am very interested in IoT (Internet of Things) related fields. I enjoy challenging myself because it always helps me to step out of my comfort zone.