• 100mW 70cm BeeLine GPS

    Julia Filloon03/10/2017 at 15:22 0 comments

    Hello, there! As Keeley previously mentioned, I am going to be posting about the KickBox we received in late January. Using our KickBox money, we purchased BigRedBee's 100mW 70cm BeeLine GPS to help us with tracking our full scale rocket during its flight. The package came with a GPS receiver, ceramic patch antenna, APRS packet encoder, 100mW 70cm radio transmitter, and an external USB interface for programming and battery charging. Since it is a 100mW 70cm radio transmitter, we will have to get an amateur Ham radio license, a suitable receiver, and a APRS packet decoder (TNC). In another post, I'll discuss these three items.

    Some specs on the GPS are as follows. It transmits latitude, longitude, altitude, course and speed. The GPS has range of approximately 40 miles, operates on the 420-450Mhz amateur radio band, and has a power output of approx 16milli-watts. It is 1.25" x 3" and weighs about 2 ounces.

    Here is the GPS with its antenna screwed on and the external USB interface for programming and battery charging, along with the USB cord. (The shrink wrap holds the lithium-poly battery in place on the back.)

    Below is the setup of the USB interface to be used for connecting the GPS to a computer for configuration purposes.

    Below is the setup of the USB interface for battery charging purposes.

    Lastly, here is a close-up of the GPS and USB interface with a nickel for sizing visualization.

    My next post will be about the amateur Ham radio license, receiver, and APRS packet decoder, or TNC. Talk to you soon!


  • First Full Scale Launch

    Keeley Collins02/10/2017 at 22:33 0 comments

    We launched out full scale rocket in ROCC's field on the last weekend of January, and half of the rocket was a success (the other half plunged to it's death). Instead of explaining everything that happened, I'll just post the video below.

    If you watch long enough you can see that the nosecone and top half of the rocket were able to stay connected to the parachute, but the lower body tube came off and plummeted to it's death. It's actually all still okay externally, but one of our fins cracked. The bulkhead inside of the lower body tube split in two, and since it was attached to the upper part of the rocket through the bulkhead, our rocket came apart. Here's a picture with the two halves:

    So next time thicker bulkheads and better adhesive.

    Just for fun, here's a video with a close up of the engine going off- it knocked over the camera though.

    We used a K motor, but it was "sparky," and if you watched either video you can see why. They guys at the field were a bit upset that we didn't tell them it was a sparky motor (because we didn't know). If the field is dry, it can easily set it on fire by sparky motors (especially with larger motors). The field was wet enough that it did not catch on fire though (there were fire extinguishers close by).

    Here's a general picture of the launch:

    People working on the rocket:

    The ejection test (to see if our parachute would eject properly):

    On a different note, we were granted the kickbox again for the purpose of putting together a more complete ebay like what we would need for the IREC competition. I'll be adding Julia Filloon (she's in charge of the kickbox this time) as a contributor and she'll be posting kixbox related things here.

    Also, I'm trying to push the team to start making our own motors- hopefully I'll have more information about that in the future.

  • Our Full Scale Rocket

    Keeley Collins01/21/2017 at 20:57 0 comments

    Our full scale rocket is completed and ready for its first launch! The launch was supposed to be tomorrow, but the weather didn't agree with that, so the launch has been moved to next weekend. Hopefully the weather gods will be smiling upon us then. In the meantime here's some pictures of the completed rocket.

    The picture is a little blurry (my fault), but oh well.

    I took the picture too soon and now Liam looks like he was trying to be dramatic.

    I added a document with our build schedule that we used while we were building the rocket. It basically just says what we completed each day. I may or may not add a parts list later.

  • Progress!

    Keeley Collins01/14/2017 at 23:14 0 comments

    I don't really have anything new to report, just some pictures of our progress on our full scale rocket.

    This was just me messing around by putting the 1/2 scale rocket's nose cone (we reprinted it) on the motor mount of the rocket. It looks like it could be a rocket that way though.

    This is the motor mount next to the portion of the body tube that it will sit inside. For our launch in the competition, the motor will fill that entire thing. You can get a better sense of the scale if you go to the gallery on this page and view the full scale image.

    This is part of the e-bay. We have our altimeter in there right now. The e-bay isn't finished yet.

    We should be finishing up in a few days!

  • Winter Term Plans

    Keeley Collins01/05/2017 at 01:09 0 comments

    It's Winter Term here at Elon, which is the awkward period between Spring and Fall semesters where there isn't a whole lot going on at the university. The rocket team just met today to discuss what we would be doing over the term. We decided that we need to get our level 2 certification by January 22, and we also decided that our best (and cheapest) option was to go ahead and make our full scale rocket and use it to get the level 2 certification. We ordered the parts today and agreed to meet every day after the parts arrived to work on the rocket until it was finished.

    Other than that, we applied to the kickbox project here at the university (again) to get some more funds. We're pretty sure we're going to be accepted again because apparently only 13 people applied with projects (one of Liam's bosses decides who gets accepted, so he told us all the details), and last year they accepted 13 projects, so yeah. Plus, the guys in charge of the kickbox thing like rockets because who doesn't? Julia is in charge of the kickbox this time and if she creates a hackaday page for it I'll link to it.

  • Level 1 Licensing Launch

    Keeley Collins12/04/2016 at 23:35 0 comments

    We launched our 1/2 scale on November 26th with an H motor so we could get licensed to get larger motors. We were originally supposed to launch on the 19th, but it hasn't rained in North Carolina for a while, and there were a lot of forest fires in the mountains (it got a bit smokey around here for a while), so there was a fire advisory and the launch date got moved. I got lost driving over there because some new neighborhood decided to name one of its streets the same name as the launch field, and my GPS is stupid (I'm a little bitter about it). The launch went well though; the only problem was that our delay was set too early. The delay is how long it takes for the ejection charge to blow out the parachute for recovery; we had our delay set for 7 seconds after launch, but that apparently wasn't long enough. We launched at the ROCC launch site, so in the video below you can actually hear the announcer discussing our delay time. Our rocket went up to 1365 ft this time (about what we predicted with our drag coefficient).

    Anyway, here's the video of the launch. Michael took the video, so it's his voice you're hearing in addition to the announcers.

    And if you get far enough into the video you may hear the announcer say that we have burn holes in our parachute. We DO NOT have burn holes in our parachute. We just have a cross shaped section over the hole in the parachute from when we made the hole too big originally (I talk about it in a previous post).

    I also have some pictures from the launch. Here's the one I took of Michael and Doc Russel (the guy helping us with our licensing) before my phone died (I used up the battery on the useless GPS).

    And here's two pictures of Michael and I with the rocket (we were the only two people who could make it to the launch).

    If you want to see more pictures of the rockets that were there here's the link to ROCC's gallery for that day. There's actually a picture our our rocket there at take off too.

    Currently we're arguing over what we should do for our level 2 launch. Our choices are basically between buying a kit, making a 3/4 scale version of our rocket, and making our full scale rocket. Liam wants to make the full scale, but the problem is that for certification we'd probably be flying it on a J motor. The impulse for J motors varies a lot though, and our final scale can fly with a powerful J motor, but not with any of the less powerful ones. I don't think we've reached a decision yet. Other recent developments include us being told that we can actually ask for money from the school (up to $1000) for special circumstances once per SGA treasurer (SGA is the group of people in charge of student organizations at Elon). It's not enough, but it's something. Also, the people in charge of our budget finally realized that it would be cheaper to rent an RV to get to New Mexico than it would be to fly there and rent hotel rooms (shocker). I've been telling them that this past year, but no one listens to me.

    That's basically it for what went on with our launch and for our future plans. What follows is just some... interesting things about what happened at the ROCC launch site. It's not really necessary information to include, but I will anyway.

    To start, two rockets CATOed (catastrophe at take off). One blew up on the launch pad. The other one had 3 F motors clustered; two went off and the third one didn't. It spun around on the ground and attempted to make its way towards the crowd of spectators. There were also a few that nose dived into the ground. The guy who collected one of the CATOed rockets actually was missing most of the fingers on one hand.

    We also met a women there who wants to start a company that supplies equipment for yoga. She was wearing a necklace with the Sanskrit writing of Aum (or Om depending on how you want to spell it) and also had the symbol in Henna on her hand. She told us all about a Hindu temple she visited in the mountains for a yoga retreat. She showed me a picture- the temple looked...

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  • Plans for Licensing

    Keeley Collins10/27/2016 at 21:51 0 comments

    Right now for the team we decided that licensing was the most important thing to focus on currently so we can buy higher power motors. For our last launch we used a G motor in our 1/2 scale, which was the highest power motor we could buy without a license, but for anything past G you need a license to buy. Right now we're working on getting a level 1 license so we can buy H and I motors, but we're eventually going to have to get a level 2 license for our full scale rocket (I'm pretty sure our full scale rocket uses an L motor). Our plan for level 1 licensing is basically to order an H motor from someone connected to ROCC (the people who sponsored a night launch I went to a while ago), and have them deliver it to the field so we don't have to pay hazmat shipping (which is $$$), then put the H motor in our 1/2 scale and launch it with a licensed ROCC person there so that we can get certified. To get the license basically all we need is for our rocket to come back in one piece; for a level 2 license (which would be down the road), the rocket has to come back in one piece and follow the flight pattern that it's supposed to.

    The launch is going to happen on Nov. 19th, and with the H motor we have picked out currently our simulation projects it to go 2000 ft. However, based off our last launch we know that our simulation is off (we have a higher drag coefficient than what's in the simulation), so our rocket will probably go around 1300-1500 ft. We're not going for height in this launch (too much height would break the waver; the height we're not supposed to go above for that time in that area for flight traffic reasons, and would get the ROCC in trouble), we're mostly just trying to prove that we can successfully launch a rocket with a high power motor successfully.

    To get our 1/2 scale ready we're going to 3D print a new nosecone for it (our last one has a window in it for the camera we used to record the launch, which weakens the structure) and make some fillets for the fins (to make the rocket more aerodynamic and to strengthen the fins). In our next meeting on Tuesday we're also going to finish the launch pad that we started on last week (I wasn't there because I was supervising an engineering club project,so I don't have any more information than that).

    To comment on something I posted on last time, I said that we would visit the STEAM forge in downtown Burlington, and we did, but it wasn't really anything too special. They have a few tools that we could possibly use in the future, but most of what they can do we can already do here at the maker hub in Elon. So, yeah we may or may not be visiting them again.

    In our last meeting we had a discussion about the overall goals for the team in general and we ultimately decided that our current time line to begin working on the final scale next semester was much too ambitious, so we're going to work on perfecting our 1/2 scale, getting licensing, and getting more fundraising for this year and next year devote our time to building our full scale so we can enter the Sounding Rocket competition for the summer of 2018. We wanted to go this year because some of our members will be graduating after this year, but realistically this is only the second year of the team and we all can't devote the time that would be needed to move quickly from working on our 1/2 scale to our full scale in order to get ready for the competition this year. We're also in the process of looking for companies who would be willing to sponsor us (because funding is always an issue); I don't know how successful we'll be with that, but we're asking companies anyway.

  • First meeting of the new year and future plans...

    Keeley Collins09/24/2016 at 00:54 0 comments

    At last after going through the long process of recruiting people into the engineering club (and the rocket team) we've finally had the team's first meeting of the school year. The "organization fair" was a bit of an ordeal. Julia and I made a ton of cookies that we cut out in the shapes of gears and rockets (with 3D printed cookie cutters!), we made a poster with light up letters (that didn't work so well), put out our rockets, a video, a catapult we made at some point during last year, some virtual reality goggles (the phone version), we donned our engineering club T-shirts, sweat nearly to death, and waited for students to flock to us all fighting over the sign up sheet for the illustrious engineering club. Of course, in a school that is mainly communication and business majors, I think most people tried to flock away from our stand if that's possible. I think people take one look at the word engineering, think of the math class that mentally scarred them for life, and run away. Perhaps any sort of eye contact with the engineering people might be deadly. To be fair we did accost a few people, but that's ok.

    Anyway, here's a picture of Michael talking to Dr. Arena (our advisor) amid the madness:

    A week later we held the first engineering club meeting, we located the people interested in joining the team and we scheduled our meeting. Our first meeting wasn't too exciting, we introduced the club to the freshman, talked about what we were doing , were going to do in the future, etc. So for our future plans, we plan on trying to perfect our 1/2 scale model this semester and starting on our full scale next semester. The first order of business will be coming up with plans for an improved launch pad (stability is the key), coming up with plans for optimizing our 1/2 scale's performance, finding a good field for us to test on (the last one was... not the best), contacting some of the rocket people we met last year, and buying another motor for the 1/2 scale. So, just a few things. For our next meeting we're going to take a team field trip to the STEAM forge in Burlington, NC to check out some of their tools and materials that we could potentially use. Normally we would have to pay for a membership, but the maker hub at our school just partnered with them, so now it's free to all Elon University students. We're all pretty excited.

  • 1/2 scale rocket pics and Kickbox presentation

    Keeley Collins08/05/2016 at 16:42 0 comments

    I'll start out with posting some of our pictures and videos from the 1/2 scale rocket launch, and then I'll detail what happened at the Kickbox presentation.

    The rocket at the workshop once we finished it:

    Liam attempting to look professional with the rocket:

    The team at the field:

    Left to right is Adam with his dog Angus, Michael, me (Keeley), Julia, Liam, and Alex

    Us, setting up the rocket:

    And finally, the rocket launching:

    Here are videos of the launch including the one from our on board camera:

    As for the kickbox presentation, I basically gave a presentation on what I've been telling all of you in front of a small group of people in the school (which was mostly just the kickboxers themselves and maybe a few friends and family) along with the other people who also did kickboxes. The event was video taped and pictures were taken, but I don't think either have been released yet (and I'm not sure they will be), but I'll keep an eye out for them on the school website and try to post a link to there when I can. I'll put up a copy of the brochure I made on this page; it's outdated at this point, but that's ok. I'll also see what I can do about putting details about our arduino altimeter and parachute up on the site.

    I do actually have access to the pictures taken at the kickbox presentation, so I'll put up the ones involving my project; I don't have permission from the other kickbox people to put their faces online, so I wont:

    As you can see, I'm always doing something weird with my face and hands, and in the later picture you can see our improvement to our parachute (basically the hole + the cross of fabric).

    Another fun fact, I accidentally included a video in the presentation where I cuss (oops), but fortunately it wasn't too bad of a cuss word and everyone got to laugh. I learned fairly early on that I should keep my mouth shut during videos of rocket launches, or else I say stupid things.

    I should also mention that I finally have a picture of our arduino altimeter. It sort of works in that it can read the altitude, but the display on it doesn't work and the battery wont power it (we're not sure why, it may not be charged and we're not sure how to charge it).

    The back of the altimeter:

    The front along with it's battery, switch (not attached), and the display that it was supposed to have (the little red piece below it):

    The arduino has a 7 segment led display on it and it's supposed to have the little red bubble display. The code was written for the bubble display, so that's probably the reason our display doesn't work. So why doesn't the altimeter have the right display? Well, the bubble display took 4 months to ship. I just got it this summer. I was not happy. Maybe we can get it to work now though.

    As a fair warning, I probably won't post anything too soon after this because we'll be busy starting up for the new school year, recruiting members, ect. Once we get started though, I'll write something about our plan for the new year.

  • At long last...

    Keeley Collins08/04/2016 at 04:01 0 comments

    Hello, everyone. I know you've all probably been expecting this post, oh, about 3 months ago, but summer break and procrastination happened and so here we are. Sorry for essentially disappearing, but I've reappeared and will try not to do it again! That's kind of why I titled this post "At long last..." instead of "1/2 Scale Rocket Launch."

    Moving on.

    So, since I last wrote I have presented the kickbox project we've been working on, and we have launched our 1/2 scale rocket. Since you've been waiting to hear what happened with that, that's what I'll talk about first.

    The last Sunday that we could possibly launch before finals we all got together with our rockets and equipment and drove out to a farm that Liam called earlier (at this point I'm pretty sure that my team members don't care if I use their names; they don't read this anyway *except for Julia, hi Julia*). Apparently they told him that they just got a new cow field that we could use, so as long as our rockets didn't scare the cows, we could launch there. Liam looked up the field on Google Earth and said it looked big enough, so we went, talked to the farmer's wife, and went over to the field she directed us to. In short, the field wasn't large enough, and it turns out Liam was looking at the wrong field on Google Earth. First, it was a new field so there were large piles of broken up tree stumps and rocks everywhere that would have made our rocket irretrievable if it landed there, second, there was an electric fence surrounding the field and we didn't really have a way to get over it without getting electrocuted, and third, there were not cows, but giant bulls and calves in the field and I really didn't want to die that day.

    So we went back and talked to the farmer's wife again and she showed us a small field with a pond that we could use, but as you may have guessed, it was too small and it had a pond. Since that was the last possible day we could launch and we had driven all the way out there (and we had spectators that had also driven all the way out there), we decided to knock on the doors of farmers in the area hoping they would let us use their fields. None of the farmers were home, but the fire department agreed to let us launch our rockets out of the field next to their building. They also wanted to see a rocket launch, and we were relieved. We had also brought our 1/3 scale along with us to launch, so we launched that first (a rain cloud ominously rolled in and sprinkled some rain- the universe was really against us that day, but then it went away so everything was alright). Once that was launched we moved onto our 1/2 scale, and......... it launched! Fun fact, one of the fins actually broke off in the car on the way over and we had to super glue it on real quick before we launched (oops). We were entirely relieved that it launched and we set nothing on fire (the fire department was there, but still).

    A picture of us (actually just Liam) setting up the rocket:

    The reason why we were relieved we set nothing on fire? Well, look at our base; it's made out of PVC pipes and propped up by a board of wood. We were worried that the rocket would tip over our base and send the rocket shooting horizontally, effectively turning the rocket into a missile. Our first order of business once the school year starts up again will be building a better launch pad.

    Inside of our rocket was our parachute (it's been improved since I last wrote about it, I'll go into detail in the next post), and it deployed and worked beautifully, our store bought altimeter (because the one we made only sort of works, haha... more on that later too), and Liam's go pro camera (Liam does a lot of work around here) which successfully captured a video of the launch from inside the rocket. As for how our rocket did in flight, it was wobbly coming off the base (which may have been our base's fault) and didn't go as high as we wanted. I don't remember how high it went and apparently nobody wrote it down anywhere...

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