“Quadricopters” Take Over UW’s Allen Center Atrium for Electrical Engineering Class Demo

3/7/11Follow @curtwoodward

Students from the University of Washington’s electrical engineering program are showing off what looks like a very fun class project.

The embedded microcomputer systems class led by professor Shwetak Patel built wireless controller systems for the Parrot AR Drone—a cool little “quadricopter” vehicle that really puts the radio-controlled stuff I remember to shame (and I’m not that old).

The goal at Monday’s demonstration was to make them fly manually and autonomously. One group even tried to wire theirs up to a cut from Jock Jams at the end of the demo, but it wasn’t quite working.

Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun troubleshooting on the fly, running around to swap out batteries, and disassembling their joysticks to show off the guts to clipboard-toting observers.

Check out this short iPhone video I shot of their demo, which attracted a nice crowd in the Allen Center’s atrium around lunchtime. The camera-work gets a little shaky when they buzz my head, and I’ll admit I may have missed the best part—shortly after I stopped filming this clip, there were about three spectacular crashes.

They’re scheduled to test the drones out again on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

(Edited on the bus ride home with ReelDirector.)

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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