Engineering students’ flying vehicle takes second in national competition

From left to right, Dr. Zhen Zhu and ECU engineering students Logan Cole, Alan Register and Tyree Parker. (Contributed photo)

From left to right, Dr. Zhen Zhu and ECU engineering students Logan Cole, Alan Register and Tyree Parker. (Contributed photo)

 

By Margaret Turner
ECU College of Engineering and Technology

Three East Carolina University undergraduate engineering students built a flying vehicle this summer that took second place in a unique national competition.

The students, led by ECU Assistant Professor of Engineering Zhen Zhu, competed against six other universities at the Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Competition at the 2014 Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Conference in Dayton, Ohio. The competition, the first of its kind, was part of the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate.

Students Logan Cole, Tyree Parker and Alan Register are members of ECU’s student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.  Zhu, faculty advisor for the organization, said the student team used very low cost materials to build the aircraft. Most competitors had larger budgets and were able to use higher end materials and sensors.

Cole and Register attended the competition with Zhu.

The students’ vehicle was required to use autonomous navigation and target geo-location in a GPS-denied environment. The vehicle had to fly autonomously and find an object and record its coordinates.  “It was a difficult task for a relatively young group of students. Many of the teams consisted of graduate level students and ours are all undergraduates,” Zhu said.

The competition was divided into three parts: demonstration, a written report and an oral presentation. The team took first place in the flying portion. “The design and concept was done by the students,” Zhu said. “I was most impressed with how well we did using the lower cost materials and open source software.”

Register, a sophomore biomedical engineering student, got involved at Zhu’s request after working on another unmanned aerial vehicle competition earlier in the year.  “In this competition, we experienced real world situations like signal interferences that can’t be simulated in a lab,” Register said. “As an engineer, we want to experience real world problems and not just produce an ideal solution.”

Cole, a senior, learned how to read and write C code, a frequently used programming language. “I want to work with microcontrollers after college so this is a great way to get some firsthand experience,” he said.

The College of Engineering and Technology has more than 20 active student organizations, which provide opportunities for competitions, learning outside of the classroom and networking. For more information, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-tecs/student_organizations.cfm .

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Engineering Student Receives Scholarship

Anderson

       Anderson

Byron Anderson, a senior engineering student, has been awarded the Ronald C. Harrell Engineering Scholarship from the North Carolina Society of Engineers. Anderson, who is completing a double concentration in mechanical and industrial engineering, is from Wilson.

Each year, the NCSE awards a $2,000 scholarship to a student enrolled in engineering or engineering technology at one of five universities in North Carolina. A student must show financial need, good citizenship and strong academic merit. The scholarship honors Harrell, who was an outstanding NCSE member, former president and district director of the society.

Anderson decided to attend ECU because it was close to home and the engineering program was “rapidly growing,” he said. “My experience at ECU has been good,” Anderson said. “It was not only accumulated in the classroom. Faculty members help students grow as a person. I am not the person that I once was and I owe a lot of that to the engineering department.”

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Society of Women Engineers to meet Sept. 28

The Society of Women Engineers will celebrate the chartering of its local chapter at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 in Mendenhall Great Room #1.

The chapter was officially recognized this summer by the national chapter. The group supports women in engineering, a field that has traditionally included only about 20 percent female students and a smaller percentage of women engineers in practice.

The chapter also serves to highlight ECU’s engineering program, which enrolled its first students in 2004. More than 450 students are enrolled in the program in fall 2012.

For more details about the organization, visit http://www.ecu.edu/news/womenengineers.cfm.

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ECU engineering program receives $600,000 NSF grant

A $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund scholarships for East Carolina University engineering students and underwrite critical student research and collaboration with national scholars.

The 5-year NSF grant is a milestone for a 7-year-old engineering program, said Dr. Hayden Griffin, department chair for engineering. It will be an asset for the program, helping address financial need and open additional academic doors for students, he said.

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