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ELEV-8 kit built at U of
   ELEV-8 kit built at U of MN
Bill Garrard with ELEV-8
Prof. Bill Garrard with ELEV-8  

2015-2016 MN Space Grant Community College Quadcopter Challenge

The Minnesota Space Grant Consortium, based in the Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (AEM) department at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (UMTC) (Director, Professor William Garrard, and Associate Director, Professor James Flaten) has received a two-year grant from NASA to support a community college based program to improve STEM recruitment and retention. This program is designed to (1) increase the number of community college students who graduate with STEM degrees and/or transfer to STEM programs at four year institutions, (2) increase the ability of community college faculty members to deliver aerospace-related content in areas of interest to NASA, and (3) enhance the diversity of students pursing STEM education at Minnesota community colleges. These objectives will be accomplished by the use of small model helicopters (quadcopters) in competitions between student design groups at five Minnesota community colleges. These design groups will be led by faculty advisors at the various community colleges.

Each year seven student teams of five students each will participate, each advised by a community college faculty member. Thus, over the two-year period of the program, fourteen teams (a total of seventy students) and seven or more community college faculty advisers will participate. The community colleges participating in the program are in different locations in Minnesota, in order to provide geographic diversity. Community college partners include Central Lakes College with campuses in Brainerd and Staples (North Central MN), Century College in White Bear Lake (Minneapolis/St Paul Metro Area), Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, which is a MnSGC affiliate, located in Cloquet (North East MN), Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Worthington campus (South Western MN), and Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids (North Central MN). The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities will serve as lead institution for the grant.

Quadcopters will be used for the competition/challenge because quadcopter kits are readily available. Experience has shown that compared to fixed-wing, radio-controlled airplanes, students can quickly learn to pilot quadcopters and they can be operated in small spaces (including indoors) with no infrastructure (which is not the case with fixed-wing, radio-controlled airplanes). Each student team will start by building and learning to fly a basic quadcopter from a commercially-available kit (each team will use the same brand of kit, for uniformity). Students will then significantly modify their kits in order to mount sensors, actuators, and electronics necessary for the annual challenges. This will also involve some mechanical design and fabrication, giving the students experience with computer-aided design (CAD) software, 3-D printing, and laser cutting. In addition, the students will have to learn microcontroller programming and integration of electronics, sensors, actuators, and data-logging to ensure that their modifications function properly.

U of MN / MnSGC Contacts Quadcopter Challenge
William Garrard, Director of the MN Space Grant Consortium                                
James Flaten, Assoc. Dir. of the MN Space Grant Consortium                                

Noah Germolus, U of MN student assistant                                                            
CJ Koshoil,
U of MN student assistant                                                                   

Faculty Advisers and Participating Institutions
Nate Peterson, Central Lakes College, Brainerd/Staples                                          
Tim Grebner, Century College (Team A), White Bear Lake                                     
Jeff Able, Century College (Team B), White Bear Lake                                          
Steve Highland, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (Team A), Cloquet       
Elizabeth Jones, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (Team B), Cloquet       
Mason Hanson, Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids                                       
Paul Seifert, Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington

Document archive for Quadcopter Challenge
Proposal, including subcontracts
Soldering vocabulary
Learn to Solder comic
Learn to Solder flasher circuit
LiPo battery charging
Video links for ELEV-8
ELEV-8v2 assembly guide
Required and Recommended parts list ("Year 1 - Version 2" - posted 9/25/2014)
Additional parts for Year 2 (posted 9/23/2015)
MN Space Grant "Student Information Form" (required of all student participants)
NASA Media Release Form (i.e. photo release form) (required of all student and faculty participants)

Kick-off documents for Year 2 (shown at Century College on Sept. 21, 2015)
Kick-off agenda
Kick-off slides (listing participating institutions, challenge goals, timeline, etc.)
Arduino training slides
Arduino Code repository (open with Arduino IDE)

Additional Documents for Year 2
Slides (12/8/2015 version with additional slides) about implementing a Pixhawk flight controller - use these slides instead of the ELEV-8 instructions about the Hoverfly Open flight controller which we are not using this year.
A preliminary Gantt chart (schedule, in Excel format) from a different (1-semester) quadcopter project. Hence the details won't suffice, but hopefully this will give you some ideas as you generate your own schedule for this year-long project. If you have better software for generating a Gantt chart, by all means use it. If you want to organize your schedule in a different format, that is fine (but it should have at least this level of detail). Note the column on the left hand edge where names are team members responsible for each line are to be added.
Template for the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) - first written report, due Dec. 1, 2015. Follow this format exactly when writing this report.
More-detailed instructions about piloting video (due March 15, 2016)
Template for the Critical Design Review (CDR) (due March 31, 2016)
Notes about Oral Presentation, to be delivered at challenge event on April 16, 2016
Photos of a sample exploration area
3-D map of that sample exploration area
Armory gym layout planned for Year 2
Template for the Post-Challenge Report (PCR) (due April 29, 2016)
YouTube website with video play lists of the promo videos and the unique capability videos.
Photos taken at challenge on Saturday by Jacqueline Sotradis (U of MN).
Slides assembled at U of MN (from J. Sotradis photos).
Photos taken Friday night and Saturday by Paul Seifert (MN West).
Post-challenge team photos (except for Century - sorry!) by James Flaten (U of MN).
Photos taken by Jeff Abel (Century College) - higher-resolution versions available upon request.

Additional Documents for Year 1
See Year 1 website