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Thread: UAV Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

  1. #1

    Default UAV Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

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    Parallax Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Educational Program

    Will flying robots be a big part of future educational robotics programs?

    They're everywhere right now, most recently last weekend on this 60 Minutes "Drones over America" video. Putting the media-loved "drone" terminology aside for a bit, this program was a reminder for me that Parallax should consider doing what we did for robotics with the Boe-Bot for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) with the ELEV-8. After all, microcontroller education is what we do very well and although rolling robots provide a very strong starting point, there's a next step some educators are asking about: flying robots.

    We are considering the planning of a UAS educational program.

    Education requires a known, finite yet expandable system


    Consider where Parallax might fit into the UAS educational market (which I really don't think exists yet) with the ELEV-8 products. First, let's recognize that the Chinese and domestic suppliers like DIY Drones have progressed their capabilities beyond the ELEV-8 so our hardware and software features alone aren't all that impressive from an end-user standpoint. However, most people using these are only assembling them and configuring them with a PC. My guess is that fewer people outside of embedded programming circles (and less in educational environment save MIT) have a real understanding of how they are built, how the subsystems operate, and could actually program them on their own like we show people with our robot kits. And it doesn't take a complex UAS to truly learn how they work - the ELEV-8 with the Hoverfly Open board (and an external add-on accelerometer and GPS board) provides more than enough for a UAS educational program that could be used in community colleges and universities. My point is that I don't think we'd be short on features for an educational UAS platform.

    Personal responsibility and safety go together in education


    Programming provides more assurance that individuals take real personal responsibility over what they fly. This is particularly true in education - next to safety a first lesson must be that a user take responsibility over everything they put into the sky. UASs in education shouldn't be about cobbling pieces together and attaching more stuff to them, but actually learning how to code the individual sensors and integrate them into a whole system. To take responsibility means you need to build and program it yourself, even if it involves stepwise instructions and debugging examples along the way.

    A new economy requires developers, not just users

    Economists are also talking about how "drones" represent a totally new economy. To have an economy around UASs we have to know more about how to build and program them. While I understand from my volunteer work in most educational environments [at least in lower levels] that few students will take a real interest in the actual engineering (the mechanical design, software development, fabrication) as a result of what I've shared, the reality of turning their enthusiasm into a career - and growing a new UAS economy - means that students must know how to create drones from the pieces. An educational UAS program could truly foster this kind of innovation. Do you know how many engineers we've met who said their first programming experience was with a BASIC Stamp in What's a Microcontroller?

    It takes quality hardware to support an educational program

    We've got that part. What we are considering is the creation of a new educational program around our UAS, the ELEV-8. The picture above is a newly designed ELEV-8 v2 (same Hoverfly Open) but with far superior assembly process with minimal soldering, smooth 1100 kV motors with collet-free prop adapters, and a far more stable design. My thoughts are that the ELEV-8 v2 could be combined with an add-on board including GPS and accelerometer to make a very high-quality educational UAS kit. And there's replacement parts - try getting those from a Chinese supplier before they make a revision and obsolete their hardware! We keep customers in the air.

    Flying robotic educational program

    Think about what we've done for the Boe-Bot and ActivityBot, but put it in the air. Imagine a kit and booklet (yeah, a printed spiral bound one also available on-line) which students step through in 60-minute class sessions. They could learn:
    • The mechanical assembly process, proper soldering techniques, a bit about choice of materials
    • The principle and theory of operation, along with some of the calculations
    • Voltage, current, capacity to properly serve the loads of the system
    • How to configure ESCs from a microcontroller
    • Program and test the sub-systems (gyro, accelerometer, GPS, lighting control)
    • Putting these systems together and flying the UAS for the first time
    • Application of STEM and Common Core standards, so it has a "fit"
    • Learning to fly responsibly and how to use the UAS for some real-world applications
    • Open-source, top to bottom hardware and software
    Sure, these pieces are explained throughout the internet. But students and teachers don't have time to scrounge for the curriculum. They need it in a box, with proper support and training. If you've ever worked with our products in a classroom, you know how exciting this could be! There's nothing a teacher loves more than to see students truly engaged in the project.

    So I ask you - particularly those involved in education - what would you like to see in a UAS educational program if we were to produce one? Share your honest thoughts because we would like to hear them.

    Thanks,

    Ken Gracey
    Last edited by Ken Gracey; 08-17-2014 at 11:52 PM.

    Ken Gracey | Parallax Inc.| Direct
    : (916) 625-3010 | www.parallax.com

    Follow me on Twitter




  2. #2

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    The first thing that comes to my mind, involving students, is the high probability of injury with unguarded propellers. I think a prop guard needs to be developed.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Agreed, Rich. It'd be critical in fact.

    Ken Gracey | Parallax Inc.| Direct
    : (916) 625-3010 | www.parallax.com

    Follow me on Twitter




  4. #4

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Prop guards!!!!,

    I'd also like to see more emphasis on navigational tasks, sensors and wireless communications as focus areas.
    -----------------
    Thomas Talbot, MD - New Market, Maryland, USA

  5. #5

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    consider a cheaper and easier to assemble basic drone platform (maybe followed by a more advanced one). basically, you have the following:

    Injection molded body w/ integral propeller struts (two parts) (designed w/ cad and 3d printer)
    Easy assembly of propellers, electronics
    SimpleIDE C libraries
    Baseline navigable firmware (multi axis stability, possible integration w/ gps or intertial sensor input) as opposed to just RC radio input with closed stability firmware
    -----------------
    Thomas Talbot, MD - New Market, Maryland, USA

  6. #6

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    A safety net would be an ever safer way to do it. Something like a soccer goal almost entirely removes the risk factor to people. Prop guards are nice too, I think either would be approved by a university.

    I couldn't think of a better company to do this, I just hope the BOE Bots will be cool about it.

    I would also imagine that they will need a simulator to learn how to fly on.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Echo Rich's comments regarding a guard. All the disclaimers in the world won't help for public school ed.

    I think an ed program for UAVs/UASs needs to involve more videos than text, though text is obviously also important. This is a platform that relies heavily on visual control, feedback, and interpretation. Well produced videos, ideally with 3D animated graphics, would be a primary element, IMO. And no, it doesn't have to be as expensive as it sounds. There are existing toolsets that can produce 3D animations from any camera angle. This is something I'm doing more frequently in other projects, in fact, and I'd be happy to help here if you'd like. And as you know quality videos can be produced using standard desktop editing and finishing tools. This no longer requires expensive studio gear.

    The videos could -- without actually wrecking real ELEV-8s -- show the simulated effects of "what happens when..." control of the copter. For example, imagine a split screen where on one side is the remote control, and the other the resulting flight of the copter. There are many ways to show similar non-realtime simulation that cannot be adequately described in text.

    Speaking of simulation, perhaps a separate program of an ELEV-8 flight simulator. I say ELEV-8 rather than a generic quadcopter, because each vehicle has its own flight characteristics. The simulator doesn't need to be graphically rich, with fully-textured buildings and trees. All it needs is to demonstrate what happens when the control sticks are moved in certain positions, given predetermined (and random) environmental conditions. Parallax could provide a kit of analog joysticks connected to a Propeller that in turn is USB connected to a Windows PC or Mac, or else some interface that reads the output of an R/C receiver and correlates that into stick position, for the simulator running on the PC.

    Finally, in addition to the written documentation provided with the ELEV-8, I think an assembly DVD of videos would go a long way to distinguish Parallax an an educational leader in this field. Actually show Steph, Andy, and/or Jessica (all of whom are terrific explainers and have good voices) lay out and assemble an ELEV-8 start to finish. It should be done as a POV, reproducing the exact same perspective that the viewer has during hands-on construction of their ELEV-8. Chapter stops, text blocks, and other standard elements would be included.

    While produced and distributed on DVD, the same introductory and assembly videos -- the chapters now separated into stand-alone videos -- can be uploaded to YouTube, building some viral interest.

    There will be plenty of room for well-written texts, but this is an activity best described in realtime, and to an audience that expects more visual stimulation.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Gracey View Post
    So I ask you - particularly those involved in education - what would you like to see in a UAS educational program if we were to produce one? Share your honest thoughts because we would like to hear them.
    Along with safety, safety, safety (did I say "safety"?), stress the importance of observing all local and federal laws concerning UAV operation, restricted areas, cargo limits, etc.

    Maybe have the laws on-hand for class discussion.
    Well-written documentation requires no explanation.

  9. #9

    Red face Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Great idea Ken with the proper safeguards in place per the forums page crew. I had a chance to go onto the FAA website for kicks and giggles to get more information because I want to use an Elev-8 for real estate leasing and sales purposes.
    Below is that information: I don't know if this helps with part of the research part of what Parallax wants to do, but it's a good head start.

    Peace & Joy.

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  10. #10

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    I think creating some sort of competition would help. Competitions not only get the kids interested but they also fire up the crazy parents and the middle-aged coaches and the silver-haired has-beens who can get totally obsessed with their teams winning. School administrators also hate to have their schools on the losing side. It seems the brainstems light up when there's a trophy to be won.

    A competition could be to race the drones around a track, dodge through hoops, or even pick up scoring objects and land them on a target, or locate a "lost" object via airborne sensor technology which you sell as accessories.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    I think to make it fun, have it be like school for real airplanes.

    In other words, have a Ground School and a Flight School segment in the pilot side of training. Maybe have another educational segment for Flight Mechanic School -- assembly and repair.

    If you do it well enough, the industry might want to adopt your program as the 'industry standard'. And the means a lot of the good name of Parallax being mentioned everywhere.

    Of course, somewhere in all the flight school stufy, will be pro forma pre-flight check lists to assure successful flight.

    +++++++++
    Not sure about the pro and con of guarded propellers. Real airplane pilots know that propellers will hurt you and jet engines will too. In SUM, you are learning skill set that requires one to become safety conscious AT ALL TIMES and about several aspects. Let's not kill a good education in safety by trying to build idiot-proof flight.

    It is the lawyers that get pedantic and want everyone to read a label on a hammer that suggests safety googles at all times and so on.
    Hwang Xian Sheng
    Kaohsiung/Gaoxiung
    Taiwan/Formosa
    R.O.C/Province of China, P.R.C.

    "My comments are independent... and at times just plain wrong. At other times, they just might be helpful. So consider the source."

  12. #12

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    My immediate thoughts about this are concerns for Parallax's liability exposure. It only takes ONE careless idiot to change the future of a company with a liability lawsuit. I know you guys frown (rightfully so) on lawyers but this is an area where one honest mistake or act of stupidity by a third party wold have lawyers and the media circling like vultures.

    It's sad to live in a society where everything is tainted by fear of lawsuit but very sadly that's how our culture has developed....and the right an just usually don't win.
    MOV OUTA, PEACE

    ... Rick


    I've stopped using programming languages with Garbage Collection, they keep deleting my source code!!

    "Forth is FUN!"

    Introduction to TACHYON Forth


    PropFORTH Wiki

  13. #13

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Quote Originally Posted by mindrobots View Post
    My immediate thoughts about this are concerns for Parallax's liability exposure. It only takes ONE careless idiot to change the future of a company with a liability lawsuit. I know you guys frown (rightfully so) on lawyers but this is an area where one honest mistake or act of stupidity by a third party wold have lawyers and the media circling like vultures.

    Yup. Parallax customers are of all ages, backgrounds, and capacity.

    Even with the propellers almost totally enclosed, there is still the possibility of an injury.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Well, the liability paranoia is merited, but can be debilitating.

    What I am trying to get across that Parallax should endorse and participate in an education program for the drone that is intended to develop public awareness and safety consciousness among the users.

    The NRA does this for gun ownership. The FAA does this for regular airplanes, The NTSB does this for other forms of transport.

    The reality is that some career paths require more than a well-developed knowledge of engineering. Having an early start and good record with responsible participation in safe practices could be a real plus on a resume. Being safety aware demonstrates an abilty to be mature and to work well as a team member. There are lots of occupations that demonstrating this ability is of the utmost importnats (like an operating engineer, a vehicle driver, an oil roughneck).

    Drones can't just be about the thrills and spills, safety can and should be a part of the culture as well. We have NASCAR, NHRA, and all sorts of other associations where people come together to do dangerous things for pleasure and sport --- they all seem to survive by developing a culture of safety within their group.

    On the other hand, maybe I should just give up electronics and take of knife throwing and fire eating. I don't think that they have any associations to join.
    Hwang Xian Sheng
    Kaohsiung/Gaoxiung
    Taiwan/Formosa
    R.O.C/Province of China, P.R.C.

    "My comments are independent... and at times just plain wrong. At other times, they just might be helpful. So consider the source."

  15. #15

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Here's a good read on AMA's Advanced Flight System:

    http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/R...OCT-8-2012.pdf
    Infernal Machine

  16. #16

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Quote Originally Posted by Loopy Byteloose View Post
    I think to make it fun, have it be like school for real airplanes.

    In other words, have a Ground School and a Flight School segment in the pilot side of training. Maybe have another educational segment for Flight Mechanic School -- assembly and repair.

    .
    I like this idea. Primarily because I feel that, inevitably, the government is going to require a "Certificate" to fly UAV's. Of course, this will result in reams of regulations that will have to be learned along with a requirement for instruction - both ground and flight and "certification" of the vehicles.
    Parallax could get a jump on that by offering their training in that format. I don't think it will get that bad right away, but...
    We got by with "Ultralights" and "Kits" (I built and flew two of them) for quite awhile but, eventually, they morphed into much more expensive equipment that requires expensive training and certification to fly. I see "private" UAV's going the same direction eventually - the FAA isn't going to be caught in that "error" again...

  17. #17

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Quote Originally Posted by dmagnus View Post
    We got by with "Ultralights" and "Kits" (I built and flew two of them) for quite awhile but, eventually, they morphed into much more expensive equipment that requires expensive training and certification to fly.
    I feel the opposite is true. Ultralights are alive and well. With advances in technology and materials you can get better performance now than you could years ago - while still meeting part 103. Just recently the sport pilot certificate was created making the entry into flying larger (Light Sport Aircraft) craft much easier and less expensive.

    Training, while not technically required by law for part 103, should be considered a requirement. It is not more expensive these days than two decades ago when you account for inflation, I think it is cheaper now.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Well, I still think 'developing a culture of safety' should be a core mission item in such education.

    The thing is that all this is going to require writing and publications. They can be sold for revenue to offset costs, but my overall impression is that Parallax is often very shy of getting into being a publishing house..

    I realize that technology publishing is a very fast changing topic. I have a big bookshelf filled with outdated books. But I don't believe that educational electronics or drone safety change anywhere as fast as product related PDFs. And reading material sustains customers that would otherwise drift away feeling they have to Google for all and everything creative.

    Also I think Parallax owes a great deal of its past success to having the courage to have Andy LIndsay write the BasicStamp manual. So I really wonder if this will be published well or just a stab at the issue. It needs to be done with a long-term commitment.. not a try and see.
    Hwang Xian Sheng
    Kaohsiung/Gaoxiung
    Taiwan/Formosa
    R.O.C/Province of China, P.R.C.

    "My comments are independent... and at times just plain wrong. At other times, they just might be helpful. So consider the source."

  19. #19

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Hey Everyone,

    For education I think you would want to create a microquad like the popular LadyBug controlled with a Propeller chip and the Accel and Gyro Parallax already sells. (I use those same sensors for my own 6DOF IMU.) A microquad's small size makes it inexpensive, safe, resilient, and it could be flown indoors.

    Reasons:
    -UAVs can not be flown outside for commercial or educational purposes with a few exceptions. Regardless of a court case here or there, this is what the FFA thinks and they will tell you to stop.
    Case in point. I was recently speaking at the AUVSI Atlanta Unmanned Systems in Agriculture conference in Tifton Georgia and met a teacher at a large community collage in Mississippi who is in charge of that school's pilot and UAV pilot program. They have to fly their UAVs inside a hanger or at a military base.

    ...so since they can't be flown outside, they have to be flown inside where it's better to be small because it can be flown in more spaces (how many people have a hanger?)

    -Safety
    The big motors are dangerous which can be mitigated using guards, but that adds weight, cost and someone could still stick their hand in it. Using small motors eliminates that issue.

    -Cost
    You can buy four motors and the body from Hobby King for about $25. No ESC, they use MOSFETS.

    -Resilient
    My Ladybug quad has crashed into all kinds of things and still runs. I haven't had to replace anything yet, but if I did, a replacement motor and arm cost ~$5.


    I know that Parallax has put a lot of time and money into the ELEV-8 and I think that it's great for us here on the forums, but I think the educational market would be well served with a "BOE-BOT" of the air. A small, inexpensive (~$150), robot that can be flown indoors and you don't have to worry about the blades.

    Dave
    My wife is very, very understanding

    Prospero: Robot Farmer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACtihXjq2B0
    www.DorhoutRD.com

  20. #20

    Default Re: Drone Education Program from Parallax - your input please!

    Ken,
    Your drone education idea seems to have been taken over by safety/regulatory/liability side issues.
    I think a copter drone education program is an excellent idea, and it is your natural way forward.
    You already have a working education structure and captive audience for small parallax wheeled robots - just leverage off your experience in that field.
    I would like to see your drone education program extended to water drones and robotics, in particular underwater robots (they can also use hobby 3 phase motors underwater) and surface robots with environmental sensors (using environmental propulsion like waves, wind and solar).
    Keep up the good work and ideas!

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