Dr. John Helferty is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Temple University, as well as an alumni of the school. As part of his Intro to Engineering class, students were to design quadracopters, which are drone helicopters made up of K’nex pieces.
“The idea of this class is to get hands-on, state-of-the-art technology in front of the students first semester, as soon as they come in the door,” stated Dr. Helferty.
This was the first college integration and competition involving K’nex, which donated the parts. Students had two weeks to get the projects together, which was 20% of their final grade, and were graded on the design and test flights. There also was a lucrative $400 prize to be split amongst the team who completed the obstacle course quickest.
Helferty also showed appreciation for help received from colleagues on the project. Jean Jacques Raymond of Montgomery County Community College, as well as a few of his students, were integral in providing information and help for the project.
With so much hard work and time invested, the process behind creating the quadracopter wasn’t easy.
“It’s got 4 wings with motors at each end. We’d take the K’nex pieces and make the frame of it, we’d make that quad shape. Then we’d take the electronics, the propellers with their wires and wire them to the ends,” said Mitchell Brasher, a Mechanical Engineering student.
The winning team, made up of Alec Beiswinger, Matthew Berry, Jake Erdlen and Brian DiBartolo, were able to complete the course in a remarkable 12 seconds. Despite the competitive aspect, everyone present shared a sense of comradery and had a blast with the flight. Though this was the first year building and flying the quadracopters, it seems that this initial flight was a great success.