Make it Work: Meet Sean King, graduate assistant

Each of the Capstone Senior Design teams is able and encouraged to seek guidance outside of the classroom. The SAE Aero Micro team receives advice and direction outside of their coursework through additional talks with professors, meetings with local engineers and mechanical engineering graduate assistant, Sean King.

Each week, the Micro team has time to sit with King and discuss their calculations and designs for their plane.

At the midpoint of the semester, communications assistant M.B. Humphrey sat with King to talk about the ups and downs of the project and the team. Here’s the takeaway:

• On Aerodynamics
“One of the things that people generally run into is that we don’t have as many aero courses here, as say, a school with a full aerospace engineering program. A lot of the things students end up doing is sort of having to learn along the way.”

King said that having a “learn as you go” environment is generally not the most comfortable thing for students, but it does help them learn outside of the “well posed problem” environment that they are used to.

“Its pretty nice to learn to have the students go above and beyond to learn the aero design stuff. We have aerodynamics classes, but aerodynamics is only one part of building an airplane,” King said.

Sean King, left, looks over plans while talking with Micro team member Michael Basham.

Sean King, left, looks over plans while talking with Micro team member Michael Basham.

• On Working Together and Learning Efficiently
The team is at the end of the conceptual design phase and has gathered the appropriate tools and materials to build their plane over the holiday break. The team is prioritizing what most important for their plane as a project and as a competition piece. Weight reduction is a large part of airplane design, King said, and most of what they’re doing is ensuring that the plane is as light as possible.

“The aerodynamics part of the team is trying to make sure the plane is as stable as possible, too,” King said. “They’re priority is stability right now. Which is probably 90 percent of the battle.”

Electrical engineering senior Ryan Cenac, who is a part of the subgroup responsible for the electrical components of the plane, sought advice on the best server motor for the group, and when the appropriate time was to purchase it.

“With something this small scale, everything is sort of known already,” King said. “With RC (radio-remote control) hobbyists and the internet, people who do this make that sort of information known on forums, sharing the sorts of motors that work best. What I was kind of challenging was finding a better way of testing things, like motors and the varied outputs.”

Captain David Giurintano talks with the team about plans for the embodiment proposal and for the upcoming spring semester.

Captain David Giurintano talks with the team about plans for the embodiment proposal and for the upcoming spring semester.

• On the Program Overall
King said that the entire program has shown much progress. He explained that the teams are all on schedule more than they have been in the past. He said that stressing the time management and conducting consistent meetings with the teams probably aids in them staying on course.

“We’re directly asking where they are in terms of their design and where they’re going. We are trying to make sure they’re on track and if they aren’t on track, why they are not.” King said. “But, obviously, they aren’t going to be completely on track,” King said with a chuckle, explaining that they’ve never done this before, so they are all essentially making educated guesses.

Toward the end of the semester, the team did an embodiment proposal where they wrote a short report on the design they decided upon, and talked about how they will move forward from the final into the spring semester. The proposal also acted as a milestone to prove how they’re design works and that they are on track. Visit here in the spring semester to see how that presentation went.

Check out the video below to see clips of past LSU Micro teams during the SAE competition.

– written by M.B. Humphrey
Communications Assistant
LSU College of Engineering

Senior Design and Student Competitions: The IEEE Regional Robotics Competition

Our team, representing LSU, placed third out of twenty universities at the 2014 IEEE Region 5 Student Robotics Competition. The competition was held on April 5, 2014 in Corpus Christi, Texas. The objective was to build a small robot that could extinguish a simulated oil rig fire on a predefined course. The robot had to determine which oil rig out of three was on fire, pick up the correct tool to extinguish the fire, navigate a maze, and use the tool to extinguish the fire. All tasks had to be completed in under four minutes, and points were awarded for number of tasks completed. The robot had to be completely autonomous, which means that it could not be controlled by anyone and had to perform all the tasks on its own.

We participated in the competition as part of our joint Senior Design project between the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering departments. Our team consisted of Nicolas Aguirre (EEC), Joshua Duncan (EE), Gregory Garner (EE), Collin Lee (ME), and Daniel Quebedeaux (EEC). We designed the robot during the Fall 2013 semester, and the manufacturing and testing took place over the Spring 2014 semester. The robot was designed and built from scratch and incorporated concepts from the electrical, computer, and mechanical disciplines.

Robotics Team Group Photo

Robotics Team Group Photo

Our team qualified for the Finals in the first of three qualifying rounds by being able to complete at least one task. After the first final round, we were tied for third with four other universities. In the tiebreaker round for third, we scored four out of the five possible points. This gave us the third place position and was the highest score achieved in competition play. We received many compliments from other universities on the design and performance of our robot. Our team was recognized at the Awards Banquet for placing third. We received certificates, student editions of the LabVIEW software, and a $200.00 cash prize.

We had to learn many technical skills in order to build a successful robot, in areas such as computer vision, microcontroller programming, mobile power, servo and motor control, and manufacturing. In addition to technical skills, we all had to learn about the design process, project management, budgeting, and working together as a team.

The most rewarding part for the team was seeing all of our hard work pay off. We also enjoyed talking with the other universities and discovering the many creative ways other teams approached the same problem. The whole experience increased our interest in the field of robotics.

  – Nicolas Aguirre, Joshua Duncan, Gregory Garner, Collin Lee, and Daniel Quebedeaux