Almost the Weekend

The week is finally winding down, which couldn’t have come any later. Yesterday was a very crazy day between Calculus and Matlab homework, flying our Lego LTAV (Lighter than Air Vehicle) and trying to eat meals somewhere in between. In all my classes, we have one or two more homework’s due next week, and then there are the last midterm exams and mere weeks later, finals week. Right now, I’m just looking forward to an all day hike a friend and I have planned. We don’t exactly know where we’re going, but we’re planning on walking until we get tired, walk a little further, and then head back to the school. I’m also counting down the days until thanksgiving break so I can finally see all my family and friends. It doesn’t feel like it’s been over three months!

I don’t know if I properly explained the LTAV project properly in my latest posts. We build an undercarriage using Legos and propellers attached to the Lego Mindstorm controllers and motors. That structure is then attached to a massive helium filled balloon and we have to drive it around an obstacle course. It gets very complicated controlling several props and having to gear them up to get adequate lift. The hardest part is matching your weight to the exact lift force of the balloon to achieve neutral buoyancy. Every group has a different ballast system whether it be coins, water, or tires. Controlling the vehicle is another story. My group will be using two Macbook Pro’s with free downloaded software. Other groups have written code, or downloaded similar programs. Many people are trying to use cell phones, XBOX controllers, or Wiimotes to control the vehicle through their laptop’s bluetooth connection. As of yesterday evening, our vehicle is finally working and we’ve decided that instead of flying the whole time, we plan on flying over the obstacles that we need to, but then driving it around the slalom and other obstacles to maintain more control. I also forgot to mention how many motors/props we have; there are two lift props, two front props, and in the back a helicopter style turning prop. Our whole vehicle has the props very spread out to allow for extra leverage. Before last night, the front props were very close together and so once you got in a turn, you could only get out of it by over-turning in the other direction. We fixed that and for the most part can control exactly where we want it to go. Here’s a couple of pictures of our LTAV (click for a larger view):

Front View of LTAV

Angled View of LTAV (Note the helicopter rotor in the back)

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