Three NIU undergraduate students are studying towns and counties around the Great Lakes region that…
DeKalb, Ill. — With its own catchy classical theme song borrowed from a Richard Wagner opera, an air-to-water drone created by a team of NIU students won first place in the Mechanical Engineering division of Spring 2018 Senior Design Day.
A video of the Solar Powered Logger and Autonomous Surveying Hybrid—or S.P.L.A.S.H. drone—flying and landing on one of NIU’s lagoons to the backdrop of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” drew chuckles from spectators watching the group’s presentation. Held each May at the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, the contest featured about 40 team projects this year.
Senior Design Day gives engineering students the chance to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world applications. The minds behind S.P.L.A.S.H. proudly pointed out they’d created a working product.
“We can say we accomplished something,” said Smith Mitchell of Wheaton, a mechanical engineering graduate, who worked on S.P.L.A.S.H. with fellow graduates and teammates Joshua Delamater of West Chicago, Wendell Yoder of St. Charles, Asvin Kumar of India and Kevin Glenn of Hanover Park.
Created at a cost of about $2,400, compared to the $30,000 to $162,000 costs the team researched on other systems for gathering information, the S.P.L.A.S.H. hybrid was designed as an efficient way to record such environmental data as invasive species.
It’s basically a drone retrofitted to land on lakes and rivers and propel across the surface of the water. The students behind it said they wanted to have an impact on the environment and their communities.
“There’s nothing quite like this on the market. It’s something new,” Delamater said. “It performs kind of all the tasks that you could do manually gathering data without actually having to head out there yourself counting how many fish are in a bucket.”
Under traditional methods, aquatic data can be tedious and expensive to collect. As a solar-powered drone, S.P.L.A.S.H. is less expensive to operate and able to work for seven days under ideal conditions and adequate sunlight. It can capture 730 photos an hour.
Potentially, the drone could be used to collect data and monitor the ecosystems of all types of water bodies.
“In many cases, it’s a crucial project,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a project easily tossed to the side because the information is so important.”
Media Contact: Jami Kunzer
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body.