Amanda Gray '12 | April 23, 2019
For seniors Bart Janczuk and Daniel Guerra and junior Tim Blazek, their drone coding class has turned into a high-tech game of “Simon Says.”
At least, that’s what they’re hoping they’ll be able to get their drone to do when they test-fly it in late April. Blazek smiles at the thought.
“It’s one of the more interesting classes offered here,” he says.
CSE 40773, Software Development for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, is taught by Professor Jane Cleland-Huang, who taught the class for the third time this semester. She brought the class with her from DePaul University in Chicago, where she originally developed it for graduate students. The first half of the semester is spent learning the programming language for working with drones, while the second half is spent on a group project involving the contraptions, with only one requirement: the drones have to fly.
The openness of the assignment means Cleland-Huang sees some interesting projects. This year, students are looking at everything from formation flying and AI learning to drone relays, voice recognition and drone security.
Last year, two students developed technology that allows dispatchers to launch a drone carrying a defibrillator. It was so successful that the pair now has an IDEA Center-backed startup, DeLive, to respond to interest in the project from fire and police departments both near and far.
On a rainy, windy day in April, the current semester’s class met one last time in the lab before flying their drones. The day was meant for group work, with Cleland-Huang floating between tables to answer questions, dealing with software problems, hardware problems, and the problems that arise when you attempt to combine software and hardware. The 18 students divided themselves into five teams, all flying either Intel Aeros or Iris drones for the project.
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