Engineering Projects/HoverCraft/Howard Community College/Spring2012/p3550W

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Project documentation focuses on how the team organized itself to tackle the unknown. This is a creative process. The details learned should be captured in tutorials. Project documentation should focus on how the team organized itself to step out into the unknown. Failure is common. The single most effective way to increase engineering respect is to document failures in a creative way that stimulates, inspires and helps others continue the project. Projects are never done. There are always loose ends. There are always decisions that might have been made more clearly. There are always other alternatives that might have been considered. None of this stuff appears in a tutorial. It does appear in the team documentation.

Electronic Sections Expected

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Problem Statement

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To control a hovercraft using the Arduino and sensor input instead of RC controller.

Team Members

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We have a new and working RC hovercraft. Our goal is to integrate an Arduino and use it to control the hovercraft. To achieve this we are going to be using a sensor input in order to control the hovercraft. Specifically, we will be using Digital QRE1113 IR Sensors as the input devices. We will be using the IR sensors follow a line placed on the floor. By using contrasting colors(black stripe on white floor) we will program the hovercraft to follow the black stripe based on the varying values returned from the IR Sensors.


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Put a graphic in wikimedia, include the graphic here or link to it here. The graphic should be suitable for creating a traditional project poster.



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Tell a detailed story of the project. Describe how split up, what the obstacles were, what testing was done, what informal decisions were made, what assumptions were made, what the results were. The first week's work was the same for both of us. We were both on our own trying to get feedback from our newly acquired IR Sensors. This was achieved and using the basic code located in the tutorial linked on the product page for the Digital QRE1113 IR Sensor. This basic tutorial simply activated the sensor and allowed it to return a value visible in serial monitor in the Arduino software. We were successful at getting values from the sensor, however encountered obstacles getting consistent readings. This has to do with the distance the sensor was being held from whatever surface it was supposed to be sensing. We have decided that it will need to be mounted on the hovercraft with and adjustable arm that will allow us to set its position relative to the ground/guide stripe.

During the second week we worked on getting the sensors to control small fans as well as started to work on basic mounting solutions for the arduino, sensors, and motorshield. Therefore the work was split between hovercraft design and arduino coding. By combining the basic code again from the Bildr Tutorial for the IR Sensor, and utilizing code from this Instructables Tutorial we were able to create a hybrid code that allowed first for control of a single fan(code), then eventually for a second fan(2FanCode). We also figured out that the best mounting method for the Arduino and MotorShield would be to remove the hovercraft's battery cover and install a small cushion/piece to level the boards as well as small elastic straps to hold the entire assembly in place. For basic test purposes, the control leads were run through the induction fans intake, however for final assembly, the body of the hovercraft will be modified so that the control leads will not pass near the induction fan.

For the third week of this project we had to further refine the design of the hovercraft as well as incorporating the fan control coding and setup with the hovercraft as a whole. Initially we attempted to control the hovercraft fans directly off of the Arduino. However, two problems were encountered. First, the Arduino board itself did not have power itself to control the hovercraft's DC fans. The second problem was that the hovercraft fans would need to rotate in both direction to allow the hovercraft to turn and reverse direction. Both of these problems were solved with the addition of the MotorShield. The Motorshield contains a chip called an H-Bridge that allows for motors to spin in both directions. Using the basic Arduino Example: MotorParty we were able to achieve basic fan operation, in both directions, with the Arduino/Motorshield. However, this example only allows for a single fan to operate, and did not have enough power(with just the USB cable) to operate at full speed. By adding the power from the DC wall outlet, the operation improved, but was still not quite up to full power.

For the final week of the project the coding for the Arduino/Motorshield was expanded to allow both fans to operate at the same time(code). The hovercraft battery was also integrated into the hovercraft setup to allow for both fans to run at full power. Video of this latest modification to the hovercraft coding can be seen HERE.

Decision List

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List all formal decisions made with links to their documentation such as a decision tree or decision matrix. 1. During the first week of this project both team members had the same focus. We individually experimented with the QRE1113 Digital IR Sensor to get feedback via the Arduino/Serial Monitor.

2. With the IR Sensor now functioning the group split our focus. While Josh worked on developing a code that would allow for the hovercraft fans to operate via IR Sensor input. Concurrently, Wendell began work on mounting the Arduino/IR Sensor Hardware.

3. The next aim was to scale the coding for basic fan operation up, in order to operate the higher powered fans of the hovercraft. We decided that we would then need to redesign the hovercraft to allow for additional hardware mounting, as well as a modified code to operate the new hardware.

4. Discovered that hovercraft fans switch rotation by alternating which lead is power and which lead is ground. In order to operate these fans properly, we will need to integrate the Motorshield with the Arduino. This will also allow for operation of higher power motors.

Material List

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  • 1 Arduino Uno
  • 1 Toy Hovercraft
  • Motor Shield
  • Infrared Sensor
  • Touch Sensor
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Camera
  • Scanning Head from a Printer

Software List

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36 Hours


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All projects create new tutorials of technical details future participants are going to want to know. They are going to be separate pages that are linked to here.

Applying Shrink Wrap to Electrical Wire

Next Steps

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List specific details, advice, describe the current problems that the next team faces associated with the project here. The next step of this project will be to: 1. finish mounting Arduino/MotorShield/IR Sensor hardware, 2. modify coding to spin individual fans or spin both fans in opposing directions, 3. add coding lines to operate induction fan, 4. add coding for multiple sensors.