People from all kind of backgrounds are welcome to join us. We expect no prior engineering knowledge and are keen to teach all the necessary skills.
Every year we undertake a society-wide engineering project requiring the vast skillset and knowledge of all our members to complete.
Throughout each year we run workshops to teach and discuss various engineering topics, ranging from Electronics and Mechanics to Computer Science.
During one of your committee meetings, we were discussing ideas for the next year's project and someone brought up a competition called Global Space Balloon Challenge. It involved working as a team and launching a weather balloon into the higher layers of the atmosphere to perform scientific experiments and take stunning pictures. We were captivated by this challenge and unanimously agreed to pursue it.
In order to increase the chancess of the mission's sucess a lot of planning was done beforehand. First of all, we selected the right hardware for the project: Arduino Uno, cameras, bunch of various sensors and a high frequency transmitter that would allow us to transmit the telemetry data back to the ground station. Furthermore, after we could estimate the weight of the payload, we were able to decide on an appropriate parachute and a balloon that would lift the targeted payload mass.
Throughout the year, we organised bunch of workshops where we assembled the payload and attached it the parachute and the balloon. The hardware was safely secured to the payload and tested by measuring and sending the telemetry data over the radio channel. Morover, the ground station required some preparations as well. We acquired a powerful transceiver and hooked it up to a Yagi antenna, which allowed us to receive data from the payload with a theoretical range of 40km.
After deciding on the launch window, we were monitoring the weather data and using the CUSF Landing Predictor to predict where the payload would approximately land on a particular day. The success of the mission relied heavily on the final location of the payload, as we were planning to retrieve the measurement data and video footage of the flight. In the end, on the 4th of May, after confirming favourable weather conditions and getting permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority and the local military base, we were ready to launch.
Launch day preparations were going fine. School of Physics were kind enough to provide us with helium and, after making sure that the payload is sealed and secure, we started filling the balloon. About ten minutes later, the balloon was big enough to lift the payload into the stratosphere. We started counting from t-minus ten seconds and the balloon was released. Initially it all looked good, but then the radar reflector snapped in half and separated the balloon from its payload. The payload fell onto the ground, while the balloon continued its way up. The mission was a failure, yet we learned a lot from it and decided to try the launch again next year with an improved F.I.A.S.C.O. v0.2.
As a brand new society, we decided that our first project is going to be a remotely controlled vehicle that we called - the SEG car. According to the specification we made, the vehicle was suppose to be able to scan the surroundings, report obstacles to the user and be able to move freely in a given environment. We split our members into three groups: Mechanics, Electronics and Coding and assigned a person to be in charge of each group.
Before any serious work began, we wanted to include as many members as possible in the design process and organised a drawing competition, where members could come up with a version of how the vehicle should look like from an aesthetic point of view. After deliberate consideration and voting process, the winner became a retro looking design made by our member Ondrej Ptacek.
We have spent a lot of time planning and discussing various parts and components of the project. Among the things we had to take into consideration were: size and mass of the car, materials for the frame, type and required power of the motors, capacity of the battery needed, different environment sensors and a micro-controller to collect and analyse the data. Initially, we planned to use a spinning laser called LIDAR, to detect the range and shape of the surrounding objects. However, due to small available budget and lack of time, we decided to use range sensors powered by ultrasound, which turned out to be much cheaper and seemed to be performing well enough for our needs.
To confirm if we have chosen the right hardware for the project, we built a smaller version of the car, also known as, the prototype. It was powered by an Arduino micro-controller and four motors controlled with h-bridges. The power was supplied using a 9V lithium battery. As the prototype was a success and we were able to control the car, while collecting the data at the same time, a decision was made to proceed with the main project and scale the prototype up.
Finally, we began to work on the actual vehicle. After ordering all the necessary parts, we started the assembly process. First of all, the main frame was built. Then, we added and secured the motors together with the wheels. Lastly, the electronic components were installed and we were ready to go for a test trial. Unfortunately, the motors turned out to not be powerful enough to handle the weight of the car directly and a novel approach was required to save the project.
A decision was made to introduce a gearing system which would reduce the load on the motors. The idea was good and seemed to work well theoretically, yet it was harder to implement then we had anticipated. In the end, we ran out of time and funds to continue the project. However, we have learned a lot from this project: from how to manage people and work in teams to different technical and financial challenges of engineering projects. We have decided to take this valuable experience with us to the next year's project and share it with our future members.