Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's Your Vector, Victor? Part Deux

The wonders of modern GPS systems are a huge part of this project. We're using Google and Microsoft Mappoint for our tracking software. (No, we didn't spend huge $$$ to get Mappoint. I got it free with my work volunteering for the National Girls' Collaborative Project, a pretty worthy cause that you should check out.) Google rocks, but we needed some sort of software that we could access without a connection to the Internet for map updates (like Google Maps needs).

Daniel took it out and drove around in his car the other day to see how the software works, and he was able to draw out a track (not shown here). Tonight, while we were waiting for Alli and Dale to come back from the store, Daniel came out front with the laptop and I rode off on my bike. (Kids, don't try this at home! Especially not after dark, in dark clothes, without a headlight. I should have been wearing sunglasses, too.)

Unfortunately, the antenna on the receiver wasn't powerful enough. We switched out the antenna (more power!) and then Alli and I went for a walk around the neighborhood.

Success! Here's a copy of the track we walked after it was imported to Google Earth. (It was actually dark out when we went walking.) We didn't actually walk *through* those houses, but it's pretty good for a homemade tracker system.

Perish the Thought!

And now, for something totally different... the chemical engineer is posting (instead of the three network engineers).

A lot has happened since the last post. Now we're working some on the mechanical engineering parts of the project: putting together the payload and connecting it to the balloon. A week ago Sunday, we made a trip to Lowe's to buy some of the nuts and bolts (literally) of the project. (When we figure out exactly what pieces end up as a part of the final project, we'll list them here.) We met at Dale's to work on building the payload.

We got a medical-grade styrofoam cooler, which came in a box like this one that Erin is modeling for us.

Dale and Alli drilled some holes into the cooler to push through two threaded metal rods, which were cut from a single 3-foot span. Unfortunately, the threads got crushed from being held in a vise to be cut, so we ended up breaking the rods and stopped for the day.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Transmit and Receive now working

We met at Dale's house last week to assemble and program our RF transmitter (the Micro-Trak 300). We programed the transmitter with our callsign and told it how often to transmit the GPS coordinates coming from the GPS Receiver. Programming the transmitter was done through a windows application from byonics.

We had to do a little bit of soldering...lucky for us Erin was there to give us a hand :) I suppose at this point she is destined to be an engineer.

Here you can see how the power source, antenna, GPS receiver, and the RF transmitter all connect. We are able to receive the signal with our scanner, feed the audio output from the scanner into our laptop and have the laptop plot the location of the device on a map!