FPGAs Keep Track of your Ping Pong Game

It’s graduation time, and you know what that means! Another great round of senior design projects doing things that are usually pretty unique. [Bruce Land] sent in a great one from Cornell where the students have been working on a project that uses FPGAs and a few video cameras to keep score of a ping-pong game.

The system works by processing a live NTSC feed of a ping pong game. The ball is painted a particular color to aid in detection, and the FPGAs that process the video can keep track of where the net is, how many times the ball bounces, and if the ball has been hit by a player. With all of this information, the system can keep track of the score of the game, which is displayed on a monitor near the table. Now, the players are free to concentrate on their game and don’t have to worry about keeping score!

This is a pretty impressive demonstration of FPGAs and video processing that has applications beyond just ping pong. What would you use it for? It’s always interesting to see what students are working on; core concepts from these experiments tend to make their way into their professional lives later on. Maybe they’ll even take this project to the next level and build an actual real, working ping pong robot to work with their scoring system!

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Senior Design Project Serves Infinite Drinks

If you’re creative, you can make your passion projects count for college credit. Somehow [InfinityTable] managed to use this infinity bartender build called BarT as a senior design project.

There’s a lot going on here, starting with the cabinet which is 30″x30″ and has some custom mirrored glass necessary because of a square cut-out in the middle of the front pane. The two mirrors face each other, with a strip of LEDs in between which accounts for the “infinity” part of the build. This is popular but usually it’s usually just the mirror and lights. In this case that special cut-out is a cubby for a glass. Place it in there and the rest of the build will mix you up a tasty beverage.

There is a second chamber in the enclosure behind the rear mirror. This houses the components that mix up the drinks. Raw materials are dispensed from 1.25L plastic bottles. The extra special part of the build is that since it is a senior project, all the driving circuitry uses roll-your-own boards.

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Autonomous Vehicle-Following Vehicle

Humanity has taken one step closer to Skynet becoming fully aware. [Ahmed], [Muhammad], [Salman], and [Suleman] have created a vehicle that can “chase” another vehicle as part of their senior design project. Now it’s just a matter of time before the machines take over.

The project itself is based on a gasoline-powered quad bike that the students first converted to electric for the sake of their project. It uses a single webcam to get information about its surroundings. This is a plus because it frees the robot from needing a stereoscopic camera or any other complicated equipment like a radar or laser rangefinder. With this information, it can follow a lead vehicle without getting any other telemetry.

This project is interesting because it could potentially allow for large convoys with only one human operator at the front. Once self-driving cars become more mainstream, this could potentially save a lot of costs as well if only the vehicle in the front needs the self-driving equipment, while the vehicles behind would be able to operate with much less hardware. Either way, we love seeing senior design projects that have great real-world applications!

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Drums Anywhere!

The students over at Cornell’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been hard at it again with their senior projects. This time, it’s the very tiny and portable drumset dubbed Drums Anywhere by its creators [Shiva Rajagopal] and [Richard Quan]. Since there are other highly portable instruments like roll-up pianos, they suppose there should be a portable drum kit that actually sounds like drums, and this ECE duo have hit the metaphorical and physical drum on the head… except that this project doesn’t actually use physical drums to make sound.

The project consists of two 3D-printed box-like sensors with velcro straps that can be attached to any drumstick-shaped object that might be lying around. Inside the box is a flex sensor and a tiny microphone which report the “beats” to a microcontroller when they strike another object.

On the software side, there are two sampled sounds stored in the microcontroller but they plan to add more sounds in the future. The microcontroller outputs sound to a pair of speakers, and the sensors are sensitive to force, so the volume can range from almost inaudible all the way up to [John Bonham]-style booms. This could also be theoretically expanded to include more than two “beat boxes” for extra sounds, or be wireless. The options are virtually limitless, although the team notes that they are limited by the number of interrupts and ADC converters on their particular microcontroller, an ATmega1284.

This is another interesting take on a having drumset without the drums, and definitely expands the range of what a virtual drum set can do. It’s also great to see interesting projects coming from senior design classes! Be sure to check out the video after the break.

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Stewart Platform Ball Bearing Balancer

PID balancing a ball on a plate

For their Mechanical Engineering senior design project at San Jose State University, [Tyler Kroymann] and [Robert Dee] designed and built a racing motion simulator. Which is slightly out of the budget of most hackers, so before they went full-scale, a more affordable Arduino powered Stewart platform proof of concept was built. Stewart platforms typically use six electric or hydraulic linear actuators to provide motion in six degrees of freedom (6 DOF), surge (X), sway (Y), heave (Z), pitch, roll, and yaw. With a simple software translation matrix, to account for the angular displacement of the servo arm, you can transform the needed linear motions into PWM signals for standard hobby servos.

The 6 DOF platform, with the addition of a resistive touch screen, also doubled as a side project for their mechatronic control systems class. However, in this configuration the platform was constrained to just pitch and roll. The Arduino reads the resistive touch screen and registers the ball bearing’s location. Then a PID compares this to the target location generating an error vector. The error vector is used to find an inverse kinematic solution which causes the actuators to move the ball towards the target location. This whole process is repeated 50 times a second. The target location can be a pre-programmed or controlled using the analog stick on a Wii nunchuck.

Watch the ball bearing seek the target location after the break.

Thanks to [Toby] for sending in this tip.

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Autonomous tank terrorizing campus

tank

As a senior design project for ECE4007,  [Nate], [An], [Chris], and [Wink] built an autonomous toy tank. It is using a Panasonic IR motion sensor to find targets, then once it’s facing the target it switches to visual motion tracking through it’s web cam. If it can get close enough, it will stop and begin rotating the turret for more accuracy. Finally it fires a pellet. It’s brains are an ICOP technology eBox-2300 running windows CE. All of the programming is available on the site, as well as a breakdown of the various sensors and hardware. As you can see in the video after the break, it does a decent job. Given some more time, we’re sure they could speed up the target acquisition process. Maybe we should add a category for Georgia Tech final projects.

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