Wednesday, June 24, 2009

YouTube video of helicopter control project of a student

For anyone who doesn't understand what "control" is, the following is a small example of the work of a "control engineer". In this case, the engineer is one of my students. He's an undergraduate in a class I taught last quarter; this YouTube video is a demonstration of his final project for the class:
As shown, his controller manages to keep the helicopter stabilized in a position that gets set by the joystick. The computer "flies" the helicopter with a heading set by a human via joystick. When they push on the helicopter, they're simulating a disturbance like a heavy wind gust. The helicopter's controller quickly brings it back to its old state. What you don't see is that the controller has been designed to do this as smoothly as possible (e.g., to prevent "jerkiness" within the helicopter).

This is a concrete example of classical control design. What I do in particular in my own research is quite a bit different. However, the video is a nice demonstration about what "control engineers" (like me) do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Something for fans of Douglas Adams

I am not a member of the Douglas Adams cult, nor do I foam at the mouth thinking about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; however, I do know several such junkies. I had an experience yesterday that I thought would interest them.

The following picture is taken from the floor of the bathroom down the hall from my office.
If you can't see it, then click on the large version of the image. To give an idea of scale, I think the little tag is one of those stickers indicating either the size of a jacket or the identity of a particular clothing inspector.