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ECEN 4610 Projects
Academic Year 2012-2013

Team AccuBeacon

Team members:

        Shreyank Amartya
        John Bullock
        Spencer Curra
        Alex Fous
        Andrew Gans

Project Description

Avalanche safety is becoming of increasing importance as the outdoor community explores the winter terrain more frequently. Currently there exist a variety of technological and educational techniques designed both to prevent and to manage human related avalanche burials. However, many of these technologies are hard to use, inaccurate, or have vast room for improvement. Despite the fact that backcountry winter activities are associated with some inherent risk, we believe that risk can be mitigated with the development of more sophisticated safety devices.

The most commonly used technology for avalanche safety is the avalanche beacon. It is not a preventative device but instead is designed to be used as backup protection in case the much more important educational and awareness techniques fail. The best way to prevent avalanche accidents is to avoid dangerous avalanche terrain, though sometimes winter sports make this unavoidable. Mitigating the risk is the most important goal. The beacon is essentially an RF transmitter/receiver device that aids in the search for buried victims. The beacon is widely adopted and standardized by the backcountry skiing/adventure community and can be an effective lifesaving device. Unfortunately these devices are far from perfect and often times do not provide sufficient means to locate buried victims fast enough. Burials are inherently time critical as most victims are unconscious or asphyxiated within a 10-15 minute window. Any reduction in the locating time of a beacon device could literally be the difference between life and death for an individual. The best way to reduce deaths and injuries is by teaching awareness and technology fundamentals to those who frequent the environment. In addition to educational awareness there still exists areas for improvement within the beacon device itself.

Despite the obvious need for superior mechanisms, the beacon device has remain largely unchanged since its invention in the late 1960s. Our goal for the semester is to improve upon the current beacon technology. We aim to create a device that meets the standard protocol and minimizes the time it takes to locate a buried individual. To do this we plan to improve upon three aspects of the current designs: the range of the device, adding sophistication so that the beacon can pinpoint the buried victim, and increasing the usability of the device. To accomplish these tasks we plan to employ a method of triangulation as well as a mechanism that increases the power output of the transmitter once buried. Both of these mechanisms could lead to a significantly reduced search time and eventually the possible saving of lives in a real world application.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (400 kB pdf)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (12.8 MB PowerPoint)

Team Cache Money

Team members:

        Matt Dickerson
        Brennen Direnzo
        Cole Duclos
        Nathaniel Frank
        Andrew Fruge
        Tim Furlong
        Lars Hager

Project Description

Problem Identification:
Photovoltaic solar panels have become increasingly used throughout the country; in some places up to 10% of the area's power (and even up to 40% in remote places such as Maui) comes from solar. The problem with solar panels is that cloud cover can dramatically decrease the amount of power produced by these PV arrays within a matter of seconds. With the increasing numbers of PV arrays being used, power companies need to be able to accurately forecast the cloud coverage and predict the amount of energy that will be produced from these solar panels. Solar forecasting will help companies prepare and store enough energy for these periods of cloud cover.

Project Concept:
Our goal is to create a long lasting and fairly inexpensive sensor that will take images of the clouds, measure wind speeds/directions, and send this data to a server (via internet) every couple of minutes. This server will be programmed to create a time lapse in order to predict what areas will be covered by clouds up to 2 or 3 hours in advance as well as calculate surface solar flux and the amount of energy that will be harnessed over the course of these future few hours along with the associated predicted error. This way, power companies will know if they will need to be prepared to rely on power from other sources in the upcoming hours.

This idea can be accomplished by using low cost and reliable sensors and cameras spread around a large area. Ideally, something small that can be attached to the PV arrays is already assimilated into the grid. A possible choice may be a basic smart phone (with any necessary attachments/sensors to be built) because they incorporate sensors and have an attached camera. This would allow us to use cellular networks (3g or 4g) to transmit the data to be processed. The data needs to be transmitted with no more than a 20 second delay to a server.

This server will analyze the received data and predict future areas of cloud cover and the energy production of the PV array(s). The phones would also need to be modified to include a small PV array to power themselves and possibly a way of diffracting direct sunlight from the camera lens to prolong its lifespan. Our goal would be to have a minimum of 1 - 3 of these sensors deployed and functioning at the end of the process to prove the feasibility of this concept.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (700 kB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (3 MB PowerPoint)

Team Cerberus

Team members:

        Faisal Albirdisi
        Tegan Argo
        Sarita Gautam
        Evan Lamson
        Wyatt Mohrman
        Aleksey Treskov

Project Description

By submerging a computer into a non-conductive fluid, we could redirect and reclaim thermal energy while the computer is on. The reclamation process involves absorbing thermal energy - using the thermoelectric effect from the components of a computer through mineral oil (non-conductive) and using that heat to create a temperature difference between the two sides of a Seebeck Electric Generator (thermocouple). That in turn will allow us to pull some charge and reclaim some of the energy we lose. The benefit of submerging a computer into a non-conductive fluid is an increase in thermal dissipation that results in an increase in the speed of operation and voltage ratings of the components while lowering the overall resistance of the machine. We want the computer to operate at a higher voltage and a higher clock speed and reclaim the extra energy to make the system faster while lowering our overall energy usage.

The scope of this project will be to transfer the energy dissipated by the internal resistance of computer components into a state where the energy can be recollected in the form of electricity. A power boosting circuit will be built in order to step up the voltage collected from an array of thermo generators that are installed. This will allow us to use the energy reclaimed in various applications. The initial concept is to submerge the computer in a nonconductive fluid. The internal resistance of the computer will then heat the nonconductive fluid to a higher temperature. Nonconductive fluid provides a medium that allows transfer and redirection of the thermal energy dissipated from the computer, thus cooling down the computer. The hot side of the thermo generators will raise its temperature by being in direct contact with the fluid while the cold side will maintain its temperature by being in contact with cold water. It's important to note that the fluids in both mediums will be circulated using hydro pumps.

So far the project doesn't sound too electrical but a crucial part of the project will be building an efficient control system. This system will be made of several temperature, pressure, and flow rate sensors that will communicate with the computer and the power circuit using a microcontroller. The system will allow us to have control over the clock/processing speeds of our computer as well as the flow rates of our fluids, all while decoding data coming from our sensors in order to assure the computer is functioning properly. For example, if the temperature of the cpu is rising outside of our desired operating temp, our control system will increase the flow rate to dissipate heat faster. If increasing flow rates isn't enough, and the temperature continues to rise, the control system will automatically slow down the clock speed to generate less heat. In addition to all of that, several monitors will be installed that will provide real time feedback for how the system is functioning, and we will create a user interface, allowing the user to choose between different modes of operation and observe via the monitors how the control system reacts to the given inputs in order to ensure overall efficiency.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (3.3 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (8.7 MB PowerPoint)


Team members:

        Justin Barth
        Jennifer Cofer
        Nathaniel Glab
        Nathaniel Turley
        Jared Yenzer

Project Description

Technology has granted society today the ability to connect with other people in ways never previously conceived to be possible. Email, internet forums, and social networking sites now connect individuals around the globe that would never be able to communicate otherwise, and face to face interactions across thousands of miles are now accessible on a device that would fit in a pocket. However, as technology ties together people around the world, it has the opposite effect on those who are geographically close. Texting has come to replace a face-to-face conversation, and social networking has replaced real knowledge of one's friends. We spend most of our time staring at tiny personal screens and have more opportunities than ever to put up barriers to the people around us. In short, technology isolates us. Our approach strives to utilize technology as a method to unify people once again.

In order to encourage more person-to-person interactions while using technology, we want to create an environment in which multiple people work or play together using larger, more open technology. We want to expand the horizons of vision away from the tiny personal screen and engage several different people at once on an interactive level. Thus, for our Capstone design project we are planning to build an optic based true multi-touch table. The vast majority of touch screens on the market today use capacitive touch technology which limits the number of recognizable touches at any given time to less than 10. The goal of our multi-touch table is to expand the number of simultaneous touches far beyond that in the hopes of creating a product that will inspire many people to work together with ease on one device.

There are a few different ways we have found to accomplish true multi-touch, but the one technique that stands out to us is Frustrated Total Internal Reflection (FTIR). To accomplish FTIR we need to flood a thick piece of acrylic with IR light. When an object comes in contact with the surface of the acrylic the infrared light is "frustrated" and sent down beneath the acrylic where IR detection cameras record it as a bright blob. The blobs are sent to software which maps where these blobs are in respect to a display. A projector is placed near the IR detection cameras which shoots the screen image through the acrylic onto a thin diffusion layer. The diffusion layer is simply there to stop the image and prevent the user from being able to see inside the closed off table.

The idea of a multi-touch table, while relatively new, is not cutting edge. Support forums for projects similar to ours can be found online and Microsoft currently sells a more advanced touch table for around $10,000 (ours should be less than $2000). Software for IR blob detection has also been developed and is available as open source. The high cost components will be a high definition projector and possibly a PC with a high end graphics card. These costs may be minimized by using one of our own computers and possibly borrowing a projector from the school. Problems that we foresee center around interfacing our own custom apps and hardware with the open source blob detection software available.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (760 kB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (8.7 MB PowerPoint)

Team Half and Half

Team members:

        Jasmin Kim
        Claire Lawson
        Jason Myer
        Gabriel Seitz
        Kevin Sternberg
        Julie Yamashita

Project Description

Imagine the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. When the peloton is clumped together, it is difficult for both the cyclist and spectator to determine each rider's placement.

The primary goal of our project is to create a tracking system for cyclists in a race to determine position and ranking, and then display that information to both the cyclists and spectators. We will need to accurately and reliably keep track of each racer's position using modules attached to each bike that will communicate with each other. Each module will need to interface with every other module in real-time and the overall system will need to calculate the ranking of each racer. Some ways this may be done are using RF sensors, Bluetooth technology or others. This information will be displayed on a small screen above the handlebars of each bike and wirelessly to the spectators.

Some secondary goals that would improve on our primary goals are adding more information to be displayed, dumping information into checkpoint locations, and visually displaying information on the wheels of each bike. First, if possible, we would like to display more information such as the speed and time of each cyclist as well as how far away the other cyclists are. We will need to determine how feasible these are when we know more about the specifications of our project. For example, speed would be relatively simple, whereas calculating the distance of other racers could be fairly complex. Also, we would like to add checkpoint locations the system will dump information onto. It will then use the received information to update a display module for spectators. This requirement may be based on memory/range constraints. Another interesting way to visually display the information to spectators would be to have LEDs on the spokes of each bike light up as they are spinning to show the ranking/speed of each cyclist as they pass by.

If time and resources allow, we would like to use the motion of the bike to help power the overall system. In addition to the position of the cyclist, the spinning LEDs on the wheels can alternate to display the speed of the bike. This project may also be adapted to other events such as bumper cars.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (880 kB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (3.6 MB PowerPoint)

Team Iron Chefs

Team members:

        Ahmad Alawadhi
        Kyle Chessman
        Sean Flodberg
        Kegan Grimes
        Eric Willuweit

Project Description

Problem Identification:
The problem our group intends to solve involves the concept of an induction stove top that limits the user to three or four cooking regions. We aim to expand it to an open plate where any location the instrument is placed will be heated, thereby increasing safety and allowing for more cookware to be placed on the range.

Concept Generation:
The stove top innovation will require a number of additions and adjustments to current systems. The main concept for this project is to locate where the pot/pan is placed on the stove and isolate power output to the zone it is on. We have found two methods to achieve this, including pressure pads and flux sensing. Research testing each method will help us conclude which would be most efficient for locating cookware.

To allow for versatile placement on the range we plan on using small induction coils in place of the present large coils. Combining the sensing of heating zones along with smaller coils, the range will output to a user interface allowing for control of the induction stove top. Input from the user would include temperature control along with physical on/off switch for the unit.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (1.9 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (4.8 MB PowerPoint)

Team Onyx

Team members:

        Miles Blair
        Cody Dinges
        Gregory Entzel
        Derek Glass

Project Description

Many instrumentalists swear by using analog amplification and effects in opposition to digital alternatives to preserve high quality instrument tone that can get lost in digital sampling. Unfortunately this demographic is limited to expensive analog effects pedals for each desired effect, and the user interface associated with analog equipment is outdated and clunky. Instrumentalists typically have a large number of foot pedals, each with unique physical setting interfaces; such as potentiometer knobs, switches, sliders, and pushbuttons. This large effects setup causes serious wire management issues, prevents on-the-fly tone changes, and doesn't allow preset programming, all features that digital amplification and effects allow.

Concept Generation:
Our aim is to create an analog effects suite in a combination tube amplifier that integrates all significant analog effects for a musician. The amplifier will oppose standards in amplifier user interface by utilizing wireless Bluetooth communication, a transmission protocol that will allow the creation of a smartphone or tablet application. The app will enable the musician to change typical settings they would see on an amplifier or effects pedals, such as spectral equalization, tone, volume, and gain. The application will feature menus for all the effects, allowing the user to set values for all options associated with that effect, such as high gain for distortion or depth with reverb. Moreover, the application will be programmable, allowing the musician to save presets on all effects and EQs to snap to various sounds with the press of a button. By avoiding knobs and buttons, this amplifier configuration will allow for a more seamless playing experience for the musician. Players can quickly cycle through well-designed analog effects without the clutter of a large pedal board. In fact, to replace the traditional foot pedals needed for specific effects triggering while playing, we will implement a small pedal board with low-profile and programmable buttons. Using the app, musicians can specify certain effects or presets to buttons on the board. By integrating a microprocessor with analog filter designs, we hope to remove the clutter and frustration associated with analog amplification to help maintain the true quality of analog waveforms in music.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (3.6 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (7.0 MB PowerPoint)

Team PolarCube

Team members:

        Yan Chen
        Tim Cowley
        Jinpeng Gao
        Yang Liu
        Christopher Mar
        Anthony P.

Project Description

For our Capstone design project, we will be working with the Space Grant Consortium on the PolarCube satellite project. This is a 3U CubeSat satellite that uses an existing bus design and a passive microwave radiometer to take temperature measurements for use in weather prediction and climate modeling. The raw data that is collected can also be used for detecting features such as sea ice fraction and snow coverage. In addition to designing a system that can collect this data, another main goal of the project is to implement the satellite in a way that can be used as a model for the development of a new generation of weather satellites. Current orbiting microwave sensors are large and expensive, and the PolarCube will be a prototype in the way it improves upon these characteristics. The PolarCube is small, inexpensive, and consumes a very low amount of power while still maintaining a high spatial resolutions and accurate measurements.

The satellite will provide atmosphere temperature profile measurements related to sea ice, or ice-free ocean detection and mapping. To measure the temperature at different altitudes, the satellite will detect the radiation due to the oscillation of the oxygen molecules in the atmosphere. To detect the temperature at different altitudes, the satellite observes the energy at 118.7503 GHz (the center frequency of oscillation) as well as channels slightly above and below that frequency which correspond to different elevations. The satellite will scan in two main modes: cross-track scanning (the default mode), and along-track scanning. For cross-track scanning the spacecraft rotation vector is parallel to its velocity. For along-track scanning, the rotation vector is horizontal and orthogonal to its velocity. The along-track scanning mode allows for more detailed elevation measurements when the environment is relatively homogeneous. After data is obtained from the satellite, data analysis by statistical inversion will be done to determine the atmosphere vertical temperature structure coincident with sea ice fraction. The merit in this project is that this is the first observation of the 118.7503 GHz O2 resonance from space. On a global basis, the project will advance microwave spectroscopy and extend what has been observed on atmospheric resolution to global scales. It aims to improve spatial resolution of microwave temperature in space borne sounding sensor by a factor over 3.

The major electronic components on the satellite that we will be designing and implementing are the microwave receiver, antenna for ground communication, and a microcontroller for framing and sending of data. The goal is to shrink a previous satellite bus to make a cheaper, lighter, and smaller satellite for measuring temperature at various atmospheric levels. These various levels will be detected using 8 channels centered around 118.7503 GHz, the resonant frequency of O2. The team working on the project is comprised of a number of different disciplines, including aerospace, mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering, as well as computer science. The particular tasks which our capstone team aims to complete relate specifically to instrumentation on the satellite, namely the radiometry. Technical challenges that we expect to face include: implementing various filters to constrain received signals to the appropriate spectra of interest, writing low-level software to interface with the architecture of satellite communication systems to downlink data, and tasks related to the calibration of the radiometry in the satellite based on scanning mode and orientation. We will also deal with physical size constraints and challenges introduced by the act of orbiting such as radiation and extreme temperatures.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (3.6 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (7.0 MB PowerPoint)


Team members:

        Chris Corey
        Josh Crowley
        John Fischer
        Tim Myers
        Neil Severson
        Kristine Thompson

Project Description

Renewable and efficient energy is a premier frontier for innovation in industry today. In particular, smart grid and smart power technologies provide digital, robust, and intelligent control of traditional power systems. Our project is inspired by an Engineers Without Borders project in Rwanda -- a school facility that will eventually utilize a solar panel array and need to utilize several different sources for its power needs. The need for scalable systems that can handle multiple sources is also increasing among wealthy nations as energy sources diversify from traditional power plants. In other parts of the world where grid power may not be cheap or reliable, these capabilities are just as useful.

Project Description
Our team proposes to implement a scalable model prototype for managing multiple power sources and power usage in a building. This design will include the ability to monitor load usage, and to use this information to intelligently decide how to control the various power sources, and how to manage energy storage in battery banks. In developing this project we plan to focus on efficiency and optimization through power and load profiling. Some primary functions and devices in the power management systems are:

This system will be implemented using simulated power sources, smart switching modules, dynamic power converters, as well as smart breaker boxes for load monitoring. Additionally we will use software to provide an intelligent interface for analysis and control of the system and its monitoring capabilities.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (870 kB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (2.8 MB PowerPoint)


Team members:

        William Brown
        Phillip Chen
        Eric Huckenpahler
        Laura Hughes
        Brian Ibeling
        Chris Johnson

Project Description

Team STABLE seeks to develop a ball-on-plate balancing system. The position and movement of the ball will be handled by a controllable plate, capable of countering accelerations and disturbances experienced upon the ball. Our team seeks to develop a system that is interactive for users, providing control of the ball through a mobile device touchscreen. With this, a user has the ability to position the ball anywhere on the plate, control the path the ball takes, and control the velocity at which it travels. This level of freedom to the user gives the our development team a wide range of potential roles the ball-on-plate balancing system can venture into. In game development, two plate systems could be set up side by side with a maze on each plate. Two teams would compete against one another to complete the maze using a touchscreen to control the motion of the ball. In another scenario, paint could be applied to the ball and a user could become an artist through interfacing and creating with our machine and their phone. The user interface is the end goal. The more ways people can interact and engage with our system, the more excited they will be about the product, and the more ways we can connect people and technology.

Method of Control
The plate will rest on a single ball bearing fixed at the center of the board. This allows for a virtually frictionless surface, providing an ideal situation for instantaneous plate motion. Two high-torque motors will control the plate. If we consider the ball bearing as the origin, the two motors will be placed at the greatest x and y axis values that exist on the board. At the motor locations, the board can be pushed or pulled with a gearing system to handle all ranges of motion in this two-dimensional system.

Keeping track of the ball's location in real time will be crucial to controlling its movement. A camera positioned above the board could allow a series of vectors to be calculated and sent to the motors to move the ball from point A or point B. Contrasting color (a black ball against a while board) can also help to more easily analyze the position and movement of the ball.

Possible Issues
Use of a camera to monitor the position and motion of the ball has the limitation of not being able to analyze the images fast enough to control the system. There are other methods to provide input to our control system, in which our requirements will determine which method will best meet our needs. Use of gears with the motors to control the plate may also prove problematic. A level of precision is needed to handle a wide range of ball velocities and accelerations, and this may be lost with the use of gears.

High-Level Requirements to Consider
The following is a list of requirements which will need to be defined and will help to guide our crucial system decisions in the next several weeks:

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (2.5 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (3.2 MB PowerPoint)

Team Tesla Box

Team members:

        Stephen Bennett
        Devin Callahan
        Benjamin Kaslon
        Sushia Rahimizadeh
        Connor Shapiro

Project Description

Design Objectives and Project Scope
Under the mentorship of Dr. Zoya Popovic, we propose a project in the field of energy recycling and wireless power transfer technologies. It is our intention to design a system that is capable of efficiently harvesting microwave energy and managing the resulting power for storage or as a source. The proposed system consists of a rectangular cavity that is lined with conductive mesh and excited by two antennas placed on opposing sides of the cavity walls. One or more antennas arbitrarily located within the cavity will be responsible for receiving and rectifying the power. A circuit will be designed to optimally and dynamically load the antenna/rectifier, to store the energy, and/or to provide a source of power to a device.

Efficient point-to-point transmission of power has been an object of investigation for decades. The foundational works of Heinrich Hertz and Nikola Tesla contributed significantly to the progression of power transmission science. To eventually lead to the pursuits of power beaming and energy harvesting technologies, Hertz demonstrated directional, relatively high frequency free-space power transmission and Tesla demonstrated high power, omnidirectional power transmission. Wireless powering has since been an object of much interest, with work accomplished in areas including near-field inductive-coupling power transmission; far-field high power density, highly directive transfer of power, e.g., Earth-Satellite or Earth-Moon links; near-field directive power transmission, e.g., inter-satellite power transmission; and area-active RF Identification tags (RFID), with applications in wirelessly powering structural health monitoring systems and medical sensor platforms.

Our desired project is motivated by modern applications in the wireless charging of electronic devices, such as biomedical implants, laptops, cell phones, batteries, toys, etc., that are physically able to be placed inside practically sized cavities. This work will also provide a proof-of-concept design for far-field power transmission with applications in medical science and building monitoring sensor platforms.

Previous research provides a foundation for our proposed project, with work done in microwave power harvesting that has focused on efficient, broad-band rectification of microwave-frequency signals of low power densities and statistically varying polarizations. Findings from these works will be referenced and applied so as to achieve efficient power transfer within a closed near-field environment with relatively high power densities, spectral densities, and DC output loads.

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (4.2 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (10.0 MB PowerPoint)


Team members:

        Lucas Buccafusca
        Sean Desmarteau
        Tanner Hannam
        Jeff Lassen

Project Description

Preliminary Design Review presentation:  (3.8 MB PowerPoint)

Critical Design Review presentation:  (2.2 MB PowerPoint)