Spotlight on geekStarters: Innovations Club at Ross Sheppard High School

Flight mission – Photo of Ross Sheppard team members taken by their FPV drone
Check out this recent interview with the robotics team from Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, and learn about their plans for the 2017-18 season and beyond.
• What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments?
We have the freedom to be creative and build hands on electronic projects.
A recent memorable moment: During our recent open house, we were showing off some of our drones. One of our team members tested the speed of one of the drones by flying it as fast as he could towards a teacher’s stomach. Important side note: The teacher was willing and prepared for the test! Unfortunately, the tester had forgotten to change one of the settings and the drone didn’t stop. Instead, it bounced off the teacher’s stomach and then the wall, returning to its flight in the hallway unscathed!! There was a crowd of parents and prospective students watching and they all thought it was part of the act!! It all turned out very funny and very dramatic!
• How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less?
We utilize 3D printing and open source materials, such as instructions, code and 3D printing files, to build and program self driving racing cars, drones, and rockets with self deploying parachutes.
• What has been one highlight of working on your project so far?
Capturing aerial footage using our drone.
 What is your team’s biggest challenge?
Troubleshooting code! Our self driving cars, and the ball following car didn’t work right away. The open source code needed to be de-bugged before it worked. Once the self driving car is operational, we will continue to modify the code and make it faster and able to avoid opponents on the race track. Having the perseverance to keep de-bugging using trial and error with code is time consuming and frustrating!
• What is your team’s favourite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond?
We have begun a fun competition within the club – Actually, two: 1. Indoor drone racing, and 2. FPV (first person view) Raspberry pi car race and obstacle course. This is just a fun competition, but we are going to keep track of points and continually update the league tables. It will also hone our skills. Eventually we plan to enter a self driving car race called Formula Pi , where we would compete by submitting our code.
What are some ways in which your team connects and collaborates with the wider community?
We are beginning to use our drone to take photos of the school and school activities. Once the snow melts, we have plans to collaborate with the school football team and shoot some video of practices, and maybe some games too. Once we get more comfortable and skilled at drone video, we will also work with the school Yearbook team, leadership and photography class, to provide video footage and photos of various school events.
We are also planning to develop a one week summer camp in August, for Grade 9 students. Our team members would facilitate the building and activities that we have come to be skilled at at our club: Raspberry Pi cars, Lego Robotics, Indoor Drone racing, Building a Rocket with self deploying parachute. The process was started and we are now waiting to hear back from some locations, and insurance details.
 What does your team hope to achieve by the end of this season?
1. Self driving car race – with at least 2 racing cars so that the code can be modified to develop the speed and obstacle avoidance. Code will then be entered into the international Formula Pi competition.
2. Complete the building of several indoor racing drones, and develop the racing drone competition within the club, to hone our flight control skills.
3. Build a water rocket that has a self deploying parachute and attach a data logger with various atmospheric sensors to collect data.
 Where would you like to see your project go in the future?
Bigger and better…..
The self driving car concept could be scaled up. We have discussed using the raspberry pi concept with a larger more powerful platform. Bigger motors, bigger chassis etc.
Drone building. Build an outdoor racing drone. Maybe complete a Drone flying course. Use the drones to capture footage of activities and events.
Using the data logging platform from our rocket and putting them on a weather balloon. Sending the weather balloon up to low orbit!! With camera?
• What is one thing your team appreciates about geekStarter?
Having the support to develop our innovative ideas and an encouraging culture of building electronic projects that connects us with other like minded groups at conferences/workshops. This culture and support focuses our projects so that we can proudly showcase them at the end of year and other community events.