Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts

Thursday 15 June 2023

Loneliness at University : Covid and online classes

I read a lot of subreddits from Australian universities and try to help where I can, as I have done a lot of university and had a lot of unusual circumstances happen to me as Student and Staff of universities. It also gives me an insight into what is happening on Australian students minds. 
Many of these students are lonely especially those having mainly online courses. I saw a recent poll where 1 in 3 students said that they didn't have a single friend from University, I always take these anonymous polls with a grain of salt, but it gives an indication, there are many students with no one to reach out to. 

I had the opposite experience at university. I met my first person at university within a few minutes of arriving. I was looking around for the administration office of my residential college with a pile of luggage. This guy called to me and said "are you looking for the office? "

I said "yep". We introduced ourselves to each other and he invited me out for a beer that night and explained to me how lunch worked so that once I got my key I knew where to go. We went out and had a few beers that night,  my first night out as a uni student. 

I signed in to college, got given my key, dropped my bag in my room and went to get  something to eat. 

I got some food and was pretty excited by the quality, quantity and selection of food. I looked around for the guy I had met earlier but couldn't find him so I sat at a random table. 

I was feeling excited and very free as I was no longer in a small country town where everyone knew me and my parents. My first steps into the new world where no one knew me. I sat down to start eating, this girl sitting across from me looked at me and said 'Do your parents have a beach house at ... Very specific location'. 

Me. Uh Yes they do.... How do you know. She then introduces herself and then I recognised and remembered her. She was my second cousin. We didn't meet at that many events as her family lived a long way away.

I had now been at University for about one hour. I have already been invited for a night out drinking, made a mate, moved into my first home, had lunch and run into a family member, and it was only 1:30 in the Afternoon and technically University didn't officially start for another four days when O-Week starts on Monday.

I have spoken with some of the students that say they are very lonely and many of them state that they started university in 2020, so got a few weeks of normal campus life and then before they could meet too many people all forced into isolation and online classes. Many of these students have graduated and feel that they missed out on the university experience, which I can understand. 

I am sure that in my day, there was some lonely students that didn't meet people or find their friend group, but it would have been a much smaller percentage that it was now. Some of my first year classes only had about 100 people in them, so it would have been pretty obvious if one third of them didn't have friends. 

This social isolation caused by so many online classes, definitely seems to be having an impact on the mental health of the more introverted. We need to look for long term solutions to this problem, what this solution is - I am not sure. There will always be some lonely people in a society, but when it is approaching 33% that is when we need to do something. 

Friday 28 December 2012

Garbage bags full of hot air - Solar Balloons

Get a few cheap garbage bags, some sticky tape and some string, fill balloon with air, put in the sun and you have a Solar balloon. 

Tetroon Solar balloon
Tetroon shaped Solar Baloon
I was reading up on weather balloons and noticed an article that mentioned Solar Balloons, which I had never heard of before, and decided to see what they were. I read up on them for a few hours spending a fair bit of that time reading about a local Brisbane hot air balloon operator.

I found another site that had a DIY section and it looked pretty straight forward so decided that I would give it a try. My first attempt was with a garbage bag that we had in the cupboard to put rubbish in, this was not a success. This bag was too high quality, so the plastic was not thin, so the bag weighed too much and any lift generated was not able to lift the garbage bag. This garbage bag was now used to for its intended purpose of holding rubbish.

Upon further reading I learnt that the cheaper garbage bags are better for this sort of thing as they are thinner and thus weigh less. This makes them pretty useless as a garbage bag, but great for a Solar Balloon. So I headed to the local Coles and Woolworths and looked for the home brand Garbage bags, we bought 4 different types and they have been summarized in the table below.

LitersGramsLiter per gram
QualityBrandSizeWeight (1 bag)Size per weight

The Coles home brand Wheelie bin garbage bags were the best bags, and cost about AUD $1 for a pack of four of them from Coles.


Basically we are looking for the greatest volume to weight ratio, as that means that there is a lot of air inside the balloon to be warmed up, with the least weight for the balloon to lift.

How a solar balloon works is the black plastic absorbs the energy from sunlight which will heat the air inside which reduces the density of the air, making it lighter than the surrounding air which creates lift so the balloon will rise. This is similar in concept to a hot air balloon, just that a hot air balloon, the energy is provided by a gas burner, rather than from the sun.

These balloons work better with cold or cool air and bright direct sun, so that there is a greater difference between the heated air inside the balloon and the external 'cooler' air. I have tried them both in Summer and Winter and was able to get it working under hot and cold temperatures. The balloons fly best in the morning when there is less wind and when the air has not had much time to warm up, I have tried a few times in the afternoon and never been able to get the balloon aloft. It will take about 15 minutes for the air to warm up inside the balloon. Direct sunlight works much better than cloudy or indirect sunlight.

Cylinder Solar Balloon
with Sun flare :)
This morning, when I tested it in the park, the air temperature was about 27'C when I put the thermometer on black plastic the temperature was about 38'C which is an 11'C difference in temperature.

The black plastic was 11'C higher in temperature than the surrounding air.

There is not a very large amount of lift produced but their is sufficient for the balloon to rise fairly rapidly into the air. If you build a large enough balloon it can create enough lift to lift a human. Due to their low lift capacity and large surface area these solar balloons are very prone to being blown around by the wind, when flying one of these balloons you need to have a fairly windless day and walk with the balloon following the wind so that you can stay underneath the balloon, to achieve maximum height. If you stand still and let the balloon drift on a tether the wind will blow the balloon down to the ground as the maximum length of the tether is reached.

I always fly the balloon with an attached tether as it is illegal to fly something over 400 foot high without prior CASA approval, and where I fly these balloons is under the flight path from a small aircraft and helicopter airport. I use a kite string for the tether, which works well.You can see in the following video that the string is 'flicking' this is as it is unwinding from the kite holder


This is something that is very easy to build, something that you can build with your kids and is very cheap to test, it just needs some string, some sticky tape, and some cheap garbage bags. The garbage bags that I use cost me about 25 cents ($AUD) each, so the balloon I flew this morning cost me 75 cents. Something great to keep the kids amused one morning this holidays and teach them about some basic science and aerospace.

I have noticed that people do get rather curious about what I am doing when I have about. 600 liter 4 meter long black tube 60 foot in the air, and will often, come up to me and talk to me about it.

I have heard of people releasing these balloons and achieving heights of 20,000 feet, one day when I get time, I will look into releasing one with telemetry and an altimeter to see how high and how far it goes, but I will need to be nowhere near controlled airspace to be allowed to do this.

There are two shapes that most solar balloons tend to be either a long cylinder, or a tetroon, I recommend starting with the long cylinder shape first as they are the easiest to make and will only take about 30 minutes to put together, the tetroons takes about two hours to make is a fair bit harder to make, but is a more efficient shape (larger volume for the same amount of garbage bags). Try not to use too much sticky tape as that is just added unnecessary weight.

Give it a try with your kids these holidays, an easy fun experiment that will teach them something.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

I had an 8 hour 48 minute phone call because of this blog.

Blogs are meant to start conversation, and my first post started one, and this was one long conversation nearly 9 hours. 

Last night an old mate of mine John Pritchard (of Techroom) contacted me at about 10:45 PM on Christmas Eve to say that he had heard some common friends talking about my Boeing 737 blog post, and asked me what the URL was, we then typed a few season greetings messages in Skype to each other and then we started a voice chat at 11:00 PM. This Skype call finished at 7:48 AM Boxing day - a total duration of 8 hours 48 minutes and 17 seconds.

I have been on Skype for over 8 years and use it very heavily, and am part of their beta / testing program and have actually had a client for 5 1/2 years that I dealt with mainly through Skype, but my conversation last night was the longest Skype call or phone call that I have ever had in my life. I realize that the length of the call was more to do with the fact that we were both on Christmas break so had the time to chat all night, watch the sun come up and then chat for a few more hours.

I have not been very active blogging in the past but know that I should be doing more and many people have noticed that i have been more active on Social Media for the last two months, and I have spent the previous few months preparing and organizing for starting this blog.

I have had several great friendships that have been formed with people, who I have met by reading their blog. A very good example of that is +David Novakovic who had a blog for his company that was discussing the semantic web. I was doing a project that was very closely related to what he was doing and reached out to him, and arranged for a meeting, when we met we had very similar interests and used his company's service as one of the back end processes for our project. If David had not been blogging, we still may have met up but it may have taken longer or may have never happened.This was about 5 years ago and David and I Are still in pretty regular contact.

I have come to realize that +Duncan Riley is correct Blogging is not a spectator sport, and now understand what he means by that and I have now jumped in with two feet and within days I am already seeing the benefits.