June 27, 2022

Dancing with Drones

Ever wonder what it’s like to dance with a drone? Here are two EPAD (engineering, physics & applied design) students doing the compass calibration dance in order to, well, calibrate the magnetometer onboard a large sUAS. Lastly, a quick video of the first (successful 🙂 ) test flight of a large octocopter sUAS.

Water you up to?

This past UAV flightclub day (every Friday morning, 8-11 @ Albert-Daly Field), some senior EPAD students working on their research project were gathering data for their autonomous water sampling payload. Shown in the video below, they are testing the flight characteristics of hanging a scaled down Niskin bottle with and without water. Once completed, and scaled up to our much larger UAV, this tool will be able help provide 1.1L water samples, autonomously, from the Chesapeake Bay watershed to scientists at VIMS and elsewhere.

If you’re interested in learning more about UAVs and getting some flight time in, feel free to stop by the field on Friday mornings! #FlightClub

Tribe Builds 1

Here’s some recent video of laser cutting stainless steel tabs for a robotics project with Dr. Nelson in Physics. #TribeBuilds

UAV Sessions

If you happened to walk by the Makerspace Center in Small Hall yesterday or today you may have heard all sorts of crazy beeps, blips & bleeps. It wasn’t because we were watching Spaceballs, a classic, it was because we were setting up our fleet of UAVs and learning to program autonomous flight for UAV Flight Club day.

Beeps, Blips & Bleeps of the UAV Fleet

If you’d like to learn to fly, program autonomous flight, or build custom UAVs come join us as we explore everything around modern unmanned aerial systems. Maybe even consider getting your FAA part 107 commercial license?

Open to everyone; we meet every Friday morning at the Martin Family Stadium for flights if the weather permits (no precipitation, temp > freezing), or in the Small Hall Makerspaces Center if we have inclement weather.

UAV FlightClub 1st Day Setup

Making Circuits

Apart from the soldering and electronics stations in the Small Hall Makerspace Center, did you know we also have the capability to mill custom printed circuit boards (PCB). Below is a time lapse made of a student producing their custom simplified synthesizer board.

Relocated Sewing Station for Summer ’21

We’ve relocated the sewing equipment that was stashed in the Swem Makerspace to the Small Hall Makerspace Engineering Center for the summer. Come on over and lets make something! 😀

An end-of-semester Uke!

One of our great makerspace student engineers just finished building this uke from plywood and 3D printed bits using the Laguna CNC router and Airwolf 3D Evo printers; check it out!

Robotic Boats?!

Here in the Makerspaces, another project that’s in process is the creation of a robotic boat, or more specifically, the creation of swarming autonomous boats (unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) if we’re being real shoes-and-tie fancy like). As both a platform for learning as well as for research; autonomous unmanned surface vehicles are a very relevant technical environment within which our students are working. Swarming USVs will have deep applications in the future ranging from shipping and transportation to deep water exploration and more.

Starting small, our students are focusing on wholly 3D printed USV swarm member prototypes as shown below as we were preparing for a test launch from our Lake Matoaka docks back in January.

Over the past many months the students involved, in particular the Robotics Club, has explored hull design options and coding architectures on our way towards building an effective swarming USV member.

As can be seen these are clearly non-traditional boat hull designs. One of the big reasons that are so strange is that these USVs are based around a unique form of engine, Voith-Schneider propulsion (VSP) systems. VSP systems are quite unique in that they can almost instantaneously point a thrust vector in any cardinal direction. They look and operate similar to a helicopter blade that has been turned vertically and dunked into the water.

Using a simple RC system to test the VSP control
A view at the VSP control fins (surrounded by a protective cage)

If this project sounds of interest to you, let the Makerspaces or the student Robotics Club know and come join the fun. We’ve got all the basic building blocks working and are heading to the Lake for testing.

What’s better than robotics at Lake Matoaka on a nice sunny day?!

An early systems test checking that sensors and actuators are working on the prototype USV-1 design.

Open Source Syringe Bot

The Makerspaces at William & Mary have many projects underway, one of the more interesting is the creation of an open source syringe bot design that is ultra-low cost and high resolution. The concept is that there are so many instances when we need a simple robot to move around a syringe and squirt some goop for us; either to 3D print from viscous fluids and epoxies or to perform automatic titration and chemistry a robot can be useful. If we can make one that is ultra-low cost, as in a couple hundred bucks at most, and yet can maintain micrometer level positioning accuracies and micro (or even nano) liter level dispensation volumes, that robot could be truly useful!

Introducing syringeBot v0.1.

This is the basic head for the open source, 3D printable, syringe bot that we’ve completed, tested, and deployed. Here you can see it in action as used by Doctoral Candidate Stapel as it is being used to 3D print diatom-filled biogel structures:

Stapel & Advisor Dr. Hannes Schniepp continue to move forward with their cutting edge research into the 3D printing of biological structures, having now built this new expanded bioreactor to generate custom materials.

We will keep pushing forward with working on and improving ultra-low cost, high resolution, syringe bot design.


This version (0.1v) was designed and produced from scratch by Aidan Connor (Computer Science, ’21) and the Director of the Makerspaces. If you would like to become part of the open source design effort please contact the director at jfrey@wm.edu.