• Hello. I'm Michael.

    Mechanical Engineering and Physics major @ MWSU | Author of 'Programming Physical Reality: Additive Manufacturing and Computer Aided Design' (Available March 2018) | Founder @ MySTEMGuide

  • Projects

    Muon imaging system

    Muons are elementary particles passing through your body as we speak. They originate from cosmic rays (made mostly of protons) slamming into the upper atmosphere. Think of them like electrons, but much heavier. This allows them to penetrate deeply through material. What if we could use this passive radiation source from nature for low cost imaging? That was the inspiration behind our modular muon imaging system based on the single detector design out of MIT (https://arxiv.org/abs/1606.01196).

    BACTERIOPHAGE INSPIRED 3D Printer Extruder/filament maker

    Novel 3D printing filaments are awesome so I decided to build an extruder that takes in raw material and outputs filament. Super simple design: a stepper drives an auger which breaks down pellets and then a heater melts the material into filament. Something interesting happened when I inverted the line of action. The optimal design converged to something familiar, a bacteriophage. I did a deep dive on bacteriophages and were shocked to learn they're the dominant 'thing' on the planet. Still need to add a spool system and wire in the heating element. I'll post results of the filament soon!


    How will we feed the worlds growing population? How about a Mars colony? Aquaponics is a closed loop system that combines aquaculture with agriculture. The fish waste water is pumped into the grow bed, where bacteria (nitrite and nitrate) filter out the ammonia. The now fresh water is returned to the fish tank, where the cycle continues.The system produces a good amount of spinach, lettuce, cilantro, and tomatoes (along with approximately 15 tilapia).

    Quorum Sensing as a correlated equilibrium Signal

    Quorum Sensing (QS) is a decentralized decision making process that enables bacteria to coordinate gene expression as a function of local population density. Population density is conveyed via chemical signaling autoinducers and necessarily contains information about the environment. This environmental information dictates bacterial behavior such as biofilm formation, virulence, antibiotic resistance, sporulation and competence. One such bacterium that utilizes QS is Bacillus Subtilis, a rod-shaped, Gram-positive bacteria found in soil and vegetation. In times of nutritional stress, Bacillus subtilis has the ability to form a type of protective, metabolically dormant endospore. As an endospore, the bacteria enters a non-reproductive state of hibernation that can live for extended long periods of time. In this paper we explore Bacillus Subtilis behavior through the lens of Game Theory, in particular a hawk-dove/chicken game in which QS acts as a Correlated Equilibrium (CE) signaling mechanism.

    Simulating bacteria interaction with processing

    How do complex systems emerge from basic building blocks and a simple rule set? Can we describe the governing dynamics of living systems (like bacteria) in such a way that allows us to then recreate them in a simulation? I'll post code/video soon. Huge amount of credit goes to Daniel Shiffman (http://natureofcode.com/)

    Modular housing

    Nothing can be viewed in isolation, you are but an expression of the system in which you're embedded. For this reason, housing is of the utmost important. The goal here was to help rethink the underlying structural design and form of a living space. Design by Paul Elkins (http://www.elkinsdiy.com/)

    Sleep pod

    Concept for a controlled sleeping environment; zero light, filtered air, and sleep tracking. Currently building V1.

    High Density Housing

    Housing is the most fundamental of human needs and as urbanization marches on, we're going to need smart high density designs. A wrote a short piece about where I see housing headed here: https://medium.com/@basiclabs/the-secret-basic-labs-master-plan-just-between-you-and-me-45e41d648341


    Another experimental design, that lends itself to honey comb stacking.

    3D printed medical imagery

    Yuval Noah (Author of Sapiens) once said that bodies and brains will be the primary product of the next century. I tend to agree with him and started to convert medical imagery from CT scans (.dicom) into .STL files as a personal step in that direction. The website www.embodi3d.com was tremendously helpful.

    3D Printed Cast

    The intersection of additive manufacturing and (personalized) healthcare is disgustingly interesting. It's exciting to think about how this interfacing with biology will lead to less rigid form. It starts with customized casts and ends with customized ________ (organs, drugs, etc.)

    Cosmic microwave background in VR

    Virtual reality is awesome. I wanted to take some artifact that's incompatible with the medium it's primarily convey on. The CSM is a perfect example. It's meant to be experienced not as a flat image, but an all encompassing panorama. Here's a 360/VR experience experiment made with Vizor + my best Morgan Freeman impression. Click image or https://patches.vizor.io/michaelolaya/cosmic-microwave-background to try it out.

    3D Printed GLASSES

    I recently ordered size 11.5 shoes. Upon arriving, it turned out I really needed a size 11.7. This sounds funny, but it'll be common place in 'the future'. This was a quick experiment in designing my own glasses and 3D printing them on the Form Labs printer.

    Muon Detector

    Based off of a paper out of MIT (https://arxiv.org/abs/1606.01196). This single detector was used to measure the variable muon flux as a function of altitude. We took it up Wichita Mountain and took readings along the way.

    Atmospheric Satellite

    Satellites are awesome, but expensive. In addition to that, geostationary satellites are simply too far away for quick signal transmission. The goal behind this project was to develop an atmospheric satellite that could station keep. To do that, we built an altitude control system that uses a linear actuator valve system that vents lifting gas. The ideal design involves a compressor, but that's another story. If you're interested in this project, definitely check out: https://x.company/loon/

    Eureca fall 2015

    Recap of the 2015 research involving atmospheric satellites.

    3U HAB Cube Satellite

    This 3D printed 3U design was flow to approx. 100,000 ft. We modeled it off of the cube satellite form factor and flew approx. 30 experiments from local middle schoolers. See video below for flight footage. Huge props to the Eagle Flight Controller (https://www.highaltitudescience.com/products/eagle-flight-computer)

    STEM Cube Satellite Program

    We presented to three different elementary schools about engineering, science, 3D printing and aerospace. We then surprised them with a 3D printed cube satellite to fill with experiments that would be sent up on a high altitude weather balloon. Very fun and inspiring project.

    Off grid web server

    Seed is an off grid web server configured as a wireless access point. Anyone within range (approx. 350 ft.) can access Seed on either their mobile or desktop computer. Seed is mounted with a TB of local storage filled with meaningful information like wikipedia, MIT open courseware and 'Free the Children'. Next step is to form a mesh.


    Code: https://github.com/alisha/seed


    Drone Inspection

    Got really interested in flying robots and performed an inspection of a large wind turbine. In the process I became FAA certified via section 107.

    Fixed Wing Drone

    Experimented with building a delta wing. Ended in a spectacular crash with a bridge.

    360 Degree Drone

    A great example of the wonders of 3D printing. I had a drone and 3D camera, 3D printing allowed me to quickly couple the two.

    3D Printed Drone cage

    Too often we think complex software or sensors are the right answer, but perhaps a simple mechanical solution might work better. Here's an experiment exploring that idea. (V2 footage here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BRJT3z9BDwc/?taken-by=arthurolaya)

    Crowd sourced health tracking

    Pictrition, an iOS app aimed at helping people improve their eating habits through game mechanics and a tight feedback loop. After several thousand users, we ran out of money and shut it down.

    NDVI Aerial Imaging

    A tethered weather balloon was outfitted with an NDVI setup (made with a Raspberry Pi) to take aerial imaging of an organic farm in Denton, TX. The image data was processed through software (Infragram) that translated it into the Near Difference Vegetation Index.

    Campus High resolution orthomosaic

    Mapped the entire Midwestern State University campus with several hundred images + stitching to generate a high resolution (zoomable) orthomosaic.

    Methane detection drone

    Built at the Buildathon hackathon using an Arduino Yun and MQ gas sensor. Made a twitter bot @canarydrone to send out a tweet when it detected gas: https://twitter.com/canarydrone

    Lucid dream sleep mask

    The fact that every night humans close their eyes/lay still for eight hours and run complex simulations in their brains is strange. This experiment was meant to explore those states.

    More Aquaponics

    A few of the other systems I built while under my aquaponics obsession. Very first system was terrible (bottom right), but was a necessary starting point.

    Ghost in the shell philosophy

    This information previously had a Wikipedia page until it was deleted by an administrator. It was recovered via the WayBack Machine and posted here for posterity: http://www.ghostintheshellphilosophy.info Spent some time on the front page of Hacker News and still gets quite a bit of traffic!


    Initially began as a mathematical model of sonoluminescence, the phenomena of producing light with resonant sound waves. The research has now turned towards reproducing sonoluminescence with a varied parameter space.

  • There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.

    - R. Buckminster Fuller

  • Thoughts

    February 22, 2017
    Within the context of the existing economic system, wide spread human prosperity is not only unlikely, but impossible. An implicit obsession with ownership has created a strange situation in which the planets resources are being used to create objects that mostly sit idle. For example, your car...
    October 26, 2016
    At first glance the idea that reality is a computer simulation seems completely crazy. Yet, it might hint at a new model of reality. A model that thinks in terms of information, computation, process. And in a way, this is how science progresses, taking our most advanced technology and projecting...
    Language is our most primary technology, a symbolic representation, a way to model and thus manipulate reality. This makes it central to the human experience. And yet as a fish is oblivious to water, most of us are oblivious to language. This is most likely the line of thought that led to Niels...
    It has be nearly 10 years since the announcement.  An international community of the best astronomers had checked and double checked. In the year 2059, the Sun is going supernova.* In reality, we should have seen it coming, but missed the sign posts. The initial reaction was one of defiance....
    February 28, 2016
    Every cycle of the sun humans lay on the ground, close their eyes and run complex simulations in their brains. In light of this absurdity, I’ve been interested in lucid dreaming and have tried various methods to induce them. Which brings us to a dream I recently had. I was semi lucid and began...
    The most pernicious form of belief is that which is unconscious. One such unconscious belief (that most of us hold) is the belief in individual autonomy. We take it as self evident that as humans we have the ability to make rational choices. But is it so? Image a cork screw floating in the...
    January 3, 2016
    Language is a type of symbolic representation, a model. And it is of primary importance to the human experience. In many ways, reality is made of language. So primal to our everyday experience that we're oblivious to it, in the same way a fish is to water. Each culture has its own linguistic...
    In the beginning was the Word... Man was free to roam the garden, but must not taste fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. A spectrum that implies knowledge of everything. But knowledge requires technology. Technology in the truest sense of the word. Don’t think tools. Monkeys use...
    August 18, 2015
    The standard operating principle for large fusion projects is the Lawson criterion, a set of conditions necessary for nuclear fusion involving density, confinement time and plasma temperature. Implicit in this approach are a set of Newtonian assumptions about reality. Assumptions that are...
    What's a blockchain? A block-chain is a distributed way of generating consensus on the state of a database. The key word being distributed. Whereas the traditional method of maintaining state relies solely on a trusted third party, a block-chain does not. In the case of bitcoin, consensus...
    What do you see when you look at a flower? It has properties. But are they inherent to each flower? No. The flower is embedded in a larger system and the properties it displays are a function of that system. The soil, water, sunlight, nutrients, etc. all must be taken into account. The flower is...
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