My interest in aerial robotics began with an undergraduate summer project I did for my advisor. Over the years, students at the CEEO have done many amazing LEGO NXT based projects including, but not limited to: milling machines, automated puppets, pancake makers, hamburger cookers, and sundae makers (I don’t know what’s with all the food projects). My advisor challenged me to make a flying LEGO NXT robot. I settled on the quadrotor platform and over the course of a summer I constructed this craft:
What you see is a NXT, an Arduino based inertial measurement unit, and brushless motors with electronic speed controllers, all mounted on an aluminum TETRIX frame. The NXT reads orientation information from the Arduino, calculates the motor speeds required to maintain stable flight, and sends these motor commands back to the Arduino, which spins the motors via the speed controllers.
So does it fly? Yep. Is it graceful? Nope. Check out the video of its first (and only) flight.
I had big plans for this robot but by the time I got it flying, the summer was over. This experience prompted the thought that became my thesis: “What if students could start with a functioning flying robot? What cool things could they create in the same amount of time it had taken me to build my quadrotor?”