Cool Engineering

Info on some cool engineering projects

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Open Day

As the creators of one of the more exciting exhibits from the engineering department, Wade and I were on hand at the La Trobe open day. We had an exceptionally flashy poster, which was designed by Wade. Along with this we had the UAV and a rolling display of video and still pictures displayed up on a LCD screen.
The whole experience was fun, but fairly exhausting (probably not for Wade - as he sat and coded the whole time). It was interesting to talk to various prospective students (and parents) who were in the same position as me 5 or 6 years ago.
One little goof up from the CS department was announcing our project as the Unnamed Aerial Vehicle - rather than Unmanned - grr.
Interestingly enough some people saw our Age and Herald Sun articles but I was just bad at picking them. Whenever I asked people had they seen them I got a really quizzical look, but others made a B-line for our display stating they had seen us in the paper

Friday, August 25, 2006

Herald Sun

And for our next bit of fame we also made the Herald Sun newspaper - the paper with Victorias largest distribution.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Famous again

It seems everyone is excited about our project. We have made page 2 of the La Trobe Bulletin.
Just watch the cover of Time Magazine :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Business card!

Since I havn't made any major changes to my business card over the last 2 years or so - I decided it was time for something fresh and new. What better to use as a background but some pictures from my UAV - that's sure to be a talking point. It does look better printed (and of course includes the relevant phone numbers.

PCB Redundancy

Ok, just last Friday our PCB was sent off to fabrication. This was the result of many hours of work - particularly to get the multitudes of miniaturised components to all fit in together (see the layout pic).
In a meeting with our supervisor we were given the advice - I'd have two, or maybe even three boards made up. The explanation was board 1 will be the original board. Board 2 will be the replacement when we destroy the original (remember this is an aircraft flying 100" up). Board 3 wouldn't get made up and we could use it as a reference to see where all the tracks go. Since we had only ordered one board initially - another is now on order with one week latency :)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Digital v's Analog

Personally I have always been more of a digital fan - especially when it comes to university subjects. The maths is certainly much easier and I seem to have a bit of a knack of Boolean algebra. In engineering projects I like to do as much in digital as possible - this seems generally the easiest to design and maintain over time.
Having said this I recently purchased a digital tuner card for the PC. The card I purchased, based on Matt's recommendation was the
Leadtek WinFast DTV2000. Since this card can record both analog and digital signals I thought that this would serve as an excellent comparison. Realistically TV has never looked so good in our house - the only problem appears to be an occasional pixilation (possibly caused by mediocre reception) and some jumping on HD Digital stations (which I haven’t worked out the cause of yet). Hopefully these things will sort themselves out shortly.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

MY old friend - the 555 Timer

After discovering a fatal flaw in my manual override design I turned back to one of my favourite IC's for the solution. The problem was the in the event of the receiver loosing contact with the transmitter the override circuitry would stay in it's previous state (autopilot or manual mode). If it was stuck in manual mode the plane would fly off into the distance and we would have know way of recover (short of running after it).

So back to the 555 - this is an extremely versatile and accurate timing IC. It basically requires only a couple of caps and a resistor to set the timing requirements - and hey presto - we have a timeout function which will activate emergency procedures if the timeout period has been exhausted. A transistor is used to discharge the cap, as retriggering can only occur when the 555 has finished it's timing cycle - so this is artificial retriggering.
And finally my quote to Wade - "now our project must be complete - it has a 555". For some reason almost any electronic design we work on - a 555 makes it in somehow.