Every year the ASME hosts a student design competition.  This year, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the project is to build a small, remote-controlled inspection vehicle to detect the level of radioactivity and inspect for damage.

Fabian Saldana and Hector Luna-Ramirez are mechanical engineering students with a focus on mechatronics studying at San Jose State University.  They recently posted a project on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise $3,000 for their project. 

Their project is pretty ambitious.  They chose first class materials and components, and when they did the tally, it added up to a lot of money.  Here are the high-value components they chose and why:

Invacare Electric Motors: Their reasoning was that these motors were cheap on eBay and had enough torque to move heavy weight.  These motors come equipped with gear boxes and are designed for high torque applications such as electric wheelchairs. 


The drive motors will be powered by a Sabertooth 2×60 regenerative motor controller from Dimension Engineering.  These controllers saved the team the time of building an H-bridge motor controller.


The base joint consists of a Torxis servo that provides the rotational movement for the arm.  They chose it because it offered the highest amount of torque in their price range and included an adjustable PID controller.


The remote inspection device will be controlled via wireless communication between two Arduinos, one on the RID and the other in a control panel. They chose Arduino Mega due to the large support community and previous experience they had with Arduinos.


The wireless video system consists of three Foscam FI8910W cameras because these offered Wireless Pan and Tilt control.


This is an ambitious build, and since this is a final year project, they aren’t getting direct help from faculty or professionals. Thankfully, Fabian and Hector have done similar projects before, from upgrading clutches and flywheels to metal lathe and mill work. 

In terms of where they ran into trouble, it really started with the track system.  After machining the pulleys, the machine shop realized that their rubber track had a metric pitch while the pulley stock had a standard pitch. With time running out to complete the project, they’ve decided to go with a commercially available setup.

This looks to be a very worthwhile educational project for the team.  I’m not sure what I think of students taking to Kickstarter to raise money for it.

 

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