November Blog Post
Meeting with Mentors
Over the past two months, we have met with four mentors for advice and feedback on our project. In the beginning, we had multiple, very different ideas for how our beacon-receiver system could be designed. Meeting with these mentors was an opportunity for the team to bounce ideas off of an expert, and to receive feedback regarding the best design for our system.
On October 20th, Megan O’Sullivan, a space vehicle operator and DigitalGlobe employee, provided feedback and suggestions for who our client/consumers should be for our invention. Initially, our target client/consumers were lost hikers. However, due to the flight time limitations of a drone to operate in the mountain ranges, we shifted our focus to people affected by natural disaster scenarios, only because there will be nearby power sources and the drone will not be subject to high winds or other environmental dangers. For our system, Megan suggested to create a two part system that finds people using the beacon and a one way communication between the beacon and receiver, to tell emergency services the location of the distress beacon. She also advised that the drone attachment must be vibration resistant. Lastly, we were told to research the type of frequency search and rescue teams/devices are legally allowed to receive information on and what frequencies emergency services currently listen to/turn on in the event of an emergency.
On October 30th, we met with Gary Geissinger, another DigitalGlobe employee and radio communication specialist, to discuss using radio frequencies to locate a person using our system. Unfortunately, radio frequencies are found to be inefficient for our design. Mr. Geissinger provided a lot of expert advice regarding multiple drones, and how they can be incorporated into our system. He recommended that only one or two drones be used, since our hypothetical person in distress is mostly likely standing still in one location. As for the radio frequencies, he told us to use an unique background noise instead of a frequency because in a disaster situation, multiple people could be sending a distress signal on the same frequency, confusing our receiver, but creating signals with differing background noises would allow each location to have a separate, unique signal.. Lastly, he advised us to use a three part system using the beacon, transmitter/receiver on the drone, & the master station for emergency services rather than the two part system we had previously designed. His final advice was to not try coding for the geopositioning of the drone because the drone already has GPS location services.
On November 1st, the Erie High School members of the team sat in on a video call with a MIT mentor, which helped them with time management and focusing on the prototype design, and the business side of our invention. In this meeting, time specific goals were created for the completion of our project.
On November 9th, the team sat in on a video conference with MIT mentor, Steve Tempel, who suggested having a systems engineer on the team who works on making sure the various components all work and communicate together effectively, to schedule about one month of extra time for unexpected delays or systems integration setbacks, and to reserve 10% of our budget for unexpected iterations. Overall the meeting with Mr. Tempel was beneficial in the sense that it gave the team insight into the proper team dynamics, and opened our eyes to putting aside time and money in order to prepare for unforeseen changes or failures in our design.
The team became disorganized at first after receiving the news about winning the grant. We each had multiple ideas for each part of the project, but lacked communication on how these ideas would work together. We spent a day regrouping after the good news to assign roles within the team. Roles are split into two version; the team leader, who is responsible for the tasks on those team, and supporters, who assist the team leaders.
Our system begins with the stranded person(s) switching their personal beacon from off to on. This transmits a relatively weak signal outwards away from them. This design is best used for large disaster scenarios in which large numbers of people need rescuing, such as in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico during hurricane Harvey, because the rescue services will know that people are stranded, but don’t know where the locations are of the people. With this technology, rescue services will already be piloting drones in attempts to locate people. These drones will be equipped with an attachment that acts as a relay platform and a signal amplifier. The drone will receive the signal from the beacon with GPS coordinates, and then the drone attachment will transmit the GPS coordinates back to the rescue services, who will then know the exact position of the stranded person.
Each team member worked to submit a purchase proposal to Lemelson-MIT for our Phantom 4 Advanced drone. The proposal was approved. The administrative team also finalized and collected all the necessary forms from each of the team members. We presented to the senior design class about our project, and its current completion.
We worked alongside the administrative group to request an order for items including an arduino, rf transmitter, a GPS shield, and for the Phantom 4 advanced drone.
This team worked on the monthly blog post, and presented our project to the other STEM teams, along with two other members from the design team. The team also communicated with an Lemelson-MIT advisor, setting up a video conference, and following up the meeting with an email asking for possible further contact.
This month, the design team was able to finish programming the code for the GPS device, explored the next step of creating a project specific computer chip, began creating a prototype, and submitted an order to administration to order the necessary parts. Some parts have already been received, including the Arduino and Adafruit parts, which are in the process of being integrated into the system.
Members of this team are working to complete and study the sustainability study guides. We are planning to take the solidworks exam prior to December 1st.
Goals for the next month
- Scan documents
- Create weekly email updates from Admin to facilitate improved communication.
- Purchase the rest of the necessary materials for the prototypes
- Submit financial reports for all previously purchased items
- Update or recreate the team website
- Begin working on the monthly blog post for December
- Begin programming and download the code onto the Arduino
- Design the beacon prototype
- Design a working prototype of the drone attachment
- Contacting local law enforcement agencies in order to understand how our beacon’s and transmitters can transmit using a legal frequency
- Pass the Certified Sustainable Design Associate (CSDA) test by December 1st