September 28, 2022

Welcoming the ’22-’23 academic year!

Welcome back everyone! While you were away, or hadn’t yet been here, we had quite a busy summer. Between fixing equipment, setting up new stuff, helping out with the School of Educations’ Camp Launch, or aiding in the construction of new UAV payloads for environmental sensing; the Makerspaces have been quite active. That said, we are over-the-moon excited to see all of the new faces rolling into Williamsburg ready for a great year!

The Makerspaces will officially open Wednesday, August 31st, alongside the start of classes. However, as we’re almost entirely run by (the best, most awesome-est) students; it will take a few days to get our scheduling setup and posted online.

If you’re new to using the Makerspaces, here’s the basic synopsis: Log into our ticketing system (see the ‘Make an Appt.’ tab above) and request training or usage and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Don’t worry about whether you know how to use something, we’re here to help.

Welcome back, now let’s get to work.

Setting up the environmental testing UAV on the docks at the Chickahominy Boathouse, Summer ’22
A near crash while flying in autonomous mapping mode with the environmental sampling UAV.
9th Grade students in Camp Launch participated in a classic engineering challenge. Using LASER cutting systems to produce the parts themselves; they designed and constructed bridges that held over 100lbs using just 3mm acrylic (plastic)!

CGA, VIMS & Makerspaces at WRL

This past weekend was a great one if you like GIS, drones & books. The Center for Geospatial Analysis, the Virginia Institute for Marine Sciences, and the Makerspaces at William & Mary were at drone day at the Williamsburg Regional Library in Toana. It was a great day to engage with interested peoples of all ages, demonstrate larger scale UAVs such as those used in mapping coastline changes at VIMS, and get younger kids’ hands-on with small drones flying them through an obstacle course. If this sounds like fun, stay tuned for upcoming events with the CGA, VIMS, and the Makerspaces.

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

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.