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Senior Capstone Design Experience: Hovering Robot

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1006.1 - 8.1006.10



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Paper Authors

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Richard Speakman

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Joel Perlin

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Daniel Pack

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Barry Mullins

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2793

Senior Capstone Design Experience: Hovering Robot

Joel P. Perlin, Daniel J. Pack, Barry E. Mullins, and Richard E. Speakman

Department of Electrical Engineering United States Air Force Academy, CO


The paper describes the collective experience of a student and three mentors in creating a hovering robot in a year-long senior design project course. We present the tasks involved in identifying requirements, generating specifications, designing the overall system, implementing the design, and testing and integrating subsystems. We consider the system engineering tasks from the perspectives of both the student and the mentors. The selection of a hovering robot is based on the numerous advantages of such robots offer over fixed wing and land drones, and the growing demand for such robots in the military and in industry. The project is designed such that the student can incorporate and apply engineering skills and knowledge acquired from his core engineering and majors courses. The goal of the paper is to share the lessons we learned from our experience and report our up-to-date findings on the educational aspect, the research aspect, and the administrative aspect of the project.

I. Introduction

In recent years, hobbyists, as well as researchers in universities and industry, have been developing flying robots of various sizes, shapes, and applications with varying degrees of success to exploit many positive benefits such robots bring to a variety of applications, including exploration of distant planets and close indoor and outdoor surveillance. The capability to hover gives these robots a unique advantage over their counterparts; they can remain directly over an area of interest for long durations of time.

Our motivation for creating a hovering robot was to develop a fun, challenging design project and to capitalize on the electrical engineering skills and knowledge of the student. From our previous experiences, we found that robotic projects bring out the best in our engineering students1,2,3. An ancillary benefit of using a robot in a senior design course is that it forces the student to address cross-disciplinary issues—students are required to work with interfaces between digital, analog, and mechanical systems. Given our student’s solid understanding of engineering fundamentals and proficiency at programming microcontrollers, matching the student to this project was natural.

The number of challenges in this project is numerous. One of the most challenging tasks is the creation of an airframe that is sturdy enough to accommodate all of the necessary sensors and equipment, yet light enough to meet the lift requirements of the project. The airframe undertaking is, however, just a precursor to the truly challenging engineering task—programming a

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Speakman, R., & Perlin, J., & Pack, D., & Mullins, B. (2003, June), Senior Capstone Design Experience: Hovering Robot Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12241

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