Students builing a molecule in chemistry

US Drone Team Wins Exemplary Award

Our first Drone Team initiative is new this fall to the Harvey Robotics program. The team traveled to Owings Mills, Maryland, over the Nov.19-20 weekend to compete against nine other teams from around the United States at the Bell Vertical Robotics Competition held on the campus of McDonough High School and walked away with the Exemplary Award.

Drone competition

Unlike drone racing teams, which might be more familiar, this team competes in a 40- foot x 20-foot x 20- foot scaled city working together to prevent fires from spreading in buildings.  

Team members Finn Barnes '24, Gabe Duran '24, Lukasz Daszczynski '24, Olaf Gorski '24, William Hargreaves '25, Sam Kiamie '24, Gabe Meredith '25, and Aden Yankwitt '23 built, coded, and piloted one large (40"x40"x12") BELL LAB AVR drone, and coded and piloted an additional TELLO Air drone and four additional SPHERO ground drones.

Construction of the drones required the team to 3D print parts, and solder and wire on-board electronic components. Coding necessitated learning industry-standard code for aerial kinematics. Piloting practice took place in the robotics lab and the Harvey gymnasiums - and the team experienced their share of crashes!

The team used some of the most advanced aerial robotics technology available today, including thermal sensors and FPV cameras throughout the competition last weekend.

At the competition, a seven-student Drive Team competes in four individual five-minute matches throughout the day. The teams are given three minutes to set up in the field. When the three-minute set-up timer is done counting down, their competition period begins. A random pattern of windows in buildings starts to heat up and the drones deploy to prevent the 'fires' from spreading.

Drone competition

This requires a great deal of coordinated effort and communication between team members. The AVR drone maneuvers to buildings and uses its thermal camera to relay information back to a copilot who is monitoring the drone's sensors from a laptop. The copilot can then activate and aim a laser using a computer on the drone to hit targets that reduce the heat build-up and extinguish the fire. Meanwhile, another aerial drone flies through the city scanning buildings and providing reconnaissance for the AVR. Simultaneously, the ground drones deploy and begin to knock down trees and clear debris along random paths to prevent fires from spreading along the ground. Points from each match are accumulated and added to the team presentation/interview points.

Harvey was the only team not to crash the AVR drone and was also the only team awarded bonus points for the TELLO drone completing fully autonomous (coded not piloted) recon flight routes. These achievements earned Harvey the Exemplary Award.  

Coach Chris Kelly was very enthusiastic about the experience. "The team really learned a lot through this journey. Project management skills, system integration, collaboration, and overcoming challenges come immediately to mind," he said.  "The team exceeded all of my expectations, I couldn't be more proud of them. I am already looking forward to next year," Mr. Kelly added. 

Mr. Kelly wanted to especially thank Mr. Lazzaro, Head of Upper School, for supporting the initiative, and David Hargreaves, team parent, for attending, providing snacks and drinks for the team, and for a heroic hobby store run in the middle of the day to replace a bad battery!

Drone competition
Drone competition
Drone competition
Drone competition


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