Engineering student duo wins Best New Innovation award at Iowa State’s Innovation Pitch Competition

Jakub Hladlk, junior in computer engineering, and Tim Lindquist, junior in electrical engineering, won the Best New Innovation award at the 5th annual Iowa State Innovation Pitch Competition for their Project Icarus, an innovative and intuitive unmanned aerial system flying interface.

The pair shared their 90-second pitch in front of a panel of judges, competing with over 30 other students for a chance to win up to $1,000 in prize money. The $500 Best New Innovation award was sponsored by Ames Economic Development Commission and presented by AEDC’s Drew Camp.

Hladlk and Lindquist sought to create a more user-friendly experience for flying a drone through a user’s hand movements, rather than a traditional remote control.

The team created a pair of glove equipped with a BNO055 absolute position sensor, which sends information about how the gloves move to the drone through I2C bus interface by their Atmega 32U4 microcontroller.

“I analyzed the signal, helped debug and came up with a function for stabilizing our flight controls,” Lindquist said. “I constructed our sensor gloves and secured the device for wearable purposes.”

The code used was written using AVR-C and debugged using USART.

“I worked on the implementation of I2C bus communication, USART and PPM signal generation,” Hladik said. “I also wrote the code for orchestrating all the devices to achieve an awesome flight.”

The team faced its first struggle when the sensors didn’t have enough time to process the data due to their exponential control function model, which made the calculation take too long. So, they created an easy look-up table to tabulate the values.

The team then found that the table contents were too large for the 2.5 kB RAM that they were working with, so they had to save the table in the program memory and access it only during run time.

Solving these problems, Project Icarus was underway with an interface that enables direct communication with the quadcopter; platform-independence, which allows the device to be used on any radio-controlled device, from planes to boats; and a customizable mapping function model.

After winning the Best Hardware Hack at HackISU with their research, the team entered the Innovation Pitch Competition and snagged another victory.

Judges included Nate Green, senior manager of corporate business development at Renewable Energy Group; Dave Ticker, vice president of engineering at Workiva; Drew Kamp, director of government relations and director of Story County community outreach at AEDC. The competition was sponsored by the Iowa State Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and Iowa State University Ivy College of Business.

Find out more about Project Icarus here.

For a full list of award winners, visit here.