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Concordia quadcopter TAs
   Concordia TAs with Blue Heron drone (right) and Flame Wheel F450 drone kit (used last year) (left)

2020-2021 MN Space Grant Consortium (MnSGC) Quadcopter Exploration-Flying Challenge

The Minnesota Space Grant Consortium (MnSGC), led from the Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (AEM) Department at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (UMTC) (Director, Professor Demoz Gebre, and Associate Director, Professor James Flaten) is funding the 2020-2021 MnSGC Quadcopter Exploration-Flying Challenge. This program is designed to enhance student and faculty capability at colleges and universities in Minnesota in STEM areas of interest to NASA - in this particular case, for un-crewed RC multi-rotor drones (AKA quadcopters). Oversight of this challenge is being organized by Professor Thelma Berquo and Ben Bogart (on right in photo above), an undergraduate teaching assistant at Concordia College, Moorhead.

Quadcopters are being used for this challenge because pre-built quadcopter and quadcopter kits are readily available. Compared to fixed-wing, radio-controlled airplanes, students can quickly learn to pilot quadcopters and they can be operated in small spaces (including indoors) with limited infrastructure (which is not the case with fixed-wing, radio-controlled airplanes). Each student team will start by learning to fly a commercially-available "toy" quadcopter. (No kit-built quadcopters in 2020-2021.) Students will then design, test, and eventually mount sensors, actuator(s), and the electronics necessary for the "exploration-flying challenge." Students will have to learn to program a microcontroller and integrate their electronics, sensors, and actuator(s). The sample-return mechanism may involve some mechanical design and fabrication, giving the students experience with computer-aided design (CAD) software for design, documentation, and (potentially) fabrication with 3-D printing and laser cutting.

Snyopsis of overall 2020-2021 challenge.

U of MN / MnSGC Contacts Quadcopter Challenge Organizers
Demoz Gebre-Egziabher, Director of the MN Space Grant Consortium                 
James Flaten, Assocociate Director of the MN Space Grant Consortium                

Thelma Berquo, Physics Department, Concordia College, Moorhead                     
Concordia College student assistant

Participating Institutions, Faculty Advisers, Student Contacts
Century (Community) College, Mahtomedi     Megan Jaunich                   Patrick Miller
Concordia College, Moorhead                          James Lee                          Drew Jordahl
Hamline University, St. Paul                             Kevin Stanley                    Osman Sesay
Hill-Murray (High) School, Maplewood          Kaye Smith                        Erik Payne
MN State University Moorhead                       Steve Lindaas (and Linda Winkler)     Lucas Clark Burnette
Winona State University                                   Adam Beardsley                Maureen Pelissero
Normandale Community College                     Sue Kasahara                     Adrian Bui
St. Johns / St. Bens University                         Jim Crumley                       Mitch Hansen
U of MN, Crookston                                        Christine Bakke                  Michael Erickson
U of MN, Morris                                              Sylke Boyd                         Zamara Tomko
U of MN, Twin Cities                                      James Flaten                        Emily Siem

Document archive for the 2020-2021 Quadcopter Challenge
Soldering vocabulary
Learn to Solder slides (from the Colorado Space Grant)
Learn to Solder comic
Link to a 22 minute "Soldering Basics" video
Link to a 27 minute "Soldering Tips (beyond the basics)" video
Photo instructions for Learn-To-Solder "Flasher" kit
NASA Adult Media Release Form (i.e. photo release form) (required of all student and faculty participants)
NASA Parent/Minor Media Release Form (i.e. photo release form) (if you happen to have any team members who are minors)

Documents from "(adviser) kick-off" (Oct. 14, 2020)

Kick-off slides
Zoom videocon recording of adviser kick-off.
Provided parts list for 2020-2021.
TA video with advice about how to fly the Blue Heron Drone

Documents from "technical training" (Oct. 28, 2020)
Technical Training Slides
Link to Teensy sample code used in the training slides.
Zoom videocon recording of technical training call.

Additional Documents

Overall distribution of points for 2020-2021 Quadcopter Challenge (slightly updated, Dec. 14, 2020)
Template for Preliminary Design Review (PDR)
Rubric for judging the PDR (written report)
Notes about doing team Oral Presentations
Notes about making the Final (Post-Challenge) Video
NEW (posted on 2/25/2021): Rubric for judging Oral Presentations

NEW (posted on 2/25/2021): Schedule for Oral Presentations

Zoom recordings of team update meetings (only some will be recorded):
Recording of team update call on 3/22/2021
TA Ben's slides from call on 3/22/2021
Recording of team update call on 2/22/2021
TA Ben's slides from call on 2/22/2021
Recording of team update call on 2/8/2021
TA Ben's slides from call on 2/8/2021
Recording of team update call on 1/25/2021
TA Ben's slides from call on 1/25/2021
Recording of team update call on 1/11/2021
TA Ben's slides from call on 1/11/2021
Recording of team update call on 12/16/2020
TA Ben's slides from call on 12/16/2020
Recording of team update call on 12/2/2020 with Century, St. Johns / St. Bens, U of MN - Twin Cities, MN State Moorhead, Hill-Murray

TA Ben's slides from call on 12/2/2020
Recording of team update call on 11/11/2020 with Century, Hamline, St. Johns / St. Bens, U of MN - Twin Cities, MN State Moorhead, Hill-Murray
TA Ben's slides from call on 11/11/2020

Additional Documents from past quadcopter challenges (whose rules and reports-expectations were somewhat different)

MnSGC Quadcopter Challenge - 2019-2020 website
MnSGC Quadcopter Challenge - 2015-2016 website
MnSGC Quadcopter Competition - 2014-2015 website