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Design & Development of a 3D-Printed Quadcopter Using A System Engineering Approach in an Electrical Engineering Master’s Capstone Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


John M Santiago Jr Colorado Technical University

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Professor John Santiago has been a technical engineer, manager, and executive with more than 26 years of leadership positions in technical program management, acquisition development and operation research support while in the United States Air Force. He currently has over 16 years of teaching experience at the university level and taught over 40 different graduate and undergraduate courses in electrical engineering, systems engineering, physics and mathematics. He has over 30 published papers and/or technical presentations while spearheading over 40 international scientific and engineering conferences/workshops as a steering committee member while assigned in Europe. Professor Santiago has experience in many engineering disciplines and missions including: control and modeling of large flexible space structures, communications system, electro-optics, high-energy lasers, missile seekers/sensors for precision guided munitions, image processing/recognition, information technologies, space, air and missile warning, missile defense, and homeland defense.

His interests includes: interactive multimedia for e-books, interactive video learning, and 3D/2D animation. Professor Santiago recently published a book entitled, “Circuit Analysis for Dummies” in 2013 after being discovered on YouTube. Professor Santiago received several teaching awards from the United States Air Force Academy and CTU. In 2015, he was awarded CTU’s Faculty of the Year for Teaching Innovations. Professor Santiago has been a 12-time invited speaker in celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month giving multi-media presentations on leadership, diversity and opportunity at various military installations in Colorado and Wyoming.

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Kathy L. Kasley P.E. Colorado Technical University

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Kathy Kasley earned her BS in Mathematics from Ursinus College, a Master’s Degree in Mathematics at Villanova University, a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado. Dr. Kasley is a Professional Engineer, and has a Consultant-Evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of School and Universities for over 15 years. Dr. Kasley has taught mathematics and Engineering at high school, and at the university level for over 25 years. She has served as an instructor, academic adviser, ADA student counselor, and dean or chair of Engineering.

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A multirotor unmanned aerial vehicle serves as an example to describe the implementation of system engineering concepts for a capstone course in an electrical engineering master’s program. Guided by the Vee Model to describe the system engineering process, goals and deliverables to track student progress during the 11-week course are presented.

During the quarter, the student must frame a vague engineering problem and define requirements for their proposed solution to an identified need and stakeholders. The student or team of students must design and model a system, and then develop a test plan and protocol to verify their design. The student must communicate regularly with the faculty mentor and present their project through the Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR), and a final technical report. The system engineering approach requires written documents that a professional engineer will likely encounter in a large government project. Student deliverables are described to encourage system engineering thinking. A detailed rubric is given for the CDR.

For this single-student capstone project, the student investigated and compared alternatives to reduce the manpower and cost to monitor hotspots following containment of wildfires in Colorado. Consequently, the student investigated and developed from scratch a 3D-printed quadcopter. In addition, multi-rotors are gaining popularity in both industrial and residential markets. Although the price of the multi-rotors has been on a decline, the idea of producing a multirotor using a 3D printer and off-the-shelf components along with a custom flight controller algorithm is aimed at making the multi-rotor drones more affordable and more available. In this capstone project, the paper explores the design and development of an autonomous quadcopter capable of lifting 900 grams of payload to an altitude of 100 meters and carrying it to a distance of 800 meters away then carrying it back to the home base.

Example student deliverables from the 3D-printed quadcopter project are given to illustrate the system-level thinking and mindset as well as the degree of technical depth in designing and building the quadcopter.

Santiago, J. M., & Kasley, K. L. (2017, June), Design & Development of a 3D-Printed Quadcopter Using A System Engineering Approach in an Electrical Engineering Master’s Capstone Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28106

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