Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition 2012

The Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition 2012 is the largest flying machine competition in Singapore and is organised annually by the Science Centre Singapore and DSO National Laboratories as part of the DSO Amazing Series of Competitions. This year's competition has just concluded and the participating teams will like to share their experiences.

Category C: Radio Control Flight

Experience of Pilot, Lee Cheok Hon
Being the pilot for my team, I was definitely extremely nervous before the competition, because I knew that once I stepped into the flying area, the pressure would be on me to perform well, and not let my team members down as they had put in so much effort and time into the planning and construction of the machine, especially the time that was used just to repair the machine that broke countless times upon landing.
During the first few flights, I did not know what to expect of the plane, and how it would respond to my control inputs. The only flying experience I ever had was with a simulator, and that was in the first person viewpoint. Radio Control flight is basically flying in a third-person viewpoint, and therefore I had to get used to the plane flying toward me, and which control inputs I should make to control the plane and bank, yaw or pitch the way that I wanted. Furthermore, the plane had to be control within an indoor hall, which meant that I only had about two seconds of straight and level flying time before I had to turn the aircraft around. This was an extremely interesting and enriching experience for me as I have always wanted to fly radio control planes, but never had the opportunity to do so. I also found out that flying within an indoor space is definitely not as easy as it looks, especially when there are obstacles hanging from the ceilings or attached to walls, which are basically safety hazards for the plane. I believe that flying tips from our teacher-in-charge, Mr Samuel Tan, helped a lot, because I was able to control the plane better in the indoor environment. With his help, our team was able to troubleshoot the situation, and find out the reasons behind the plane’s low performance. From there, we were then able to correct our errors on the plane and test-fly it again.
The physics behind the flying of the plane was extremely interesting, because we were able to manipulate any part of the plane we wished in order to accomplish our mission, which is something that we would definitely not do if we were to just buy any off-the-shelf radio control model aircraft! Building the entire machine from scratch was indeed a fun and rewarding experience, because we only knew how the plane would react to a slight change in its design by actually test-flying it, since no simulator in the laboratory could accurately predict how the plane would fly.
Furthermore, our method of “Trial-and-Error” helped us learn a lot about the theory behind radio controlled flight. We tested numerous areas for the surface for flight control, broke countless plastic propellers, finished a whole roll of cellophane tape, used up sticks of hot glue, discharged and recharged numerous batteries, and cut up many sheets of foam just to perfect that final design for our flying machine. This long process was tedious and tiring, but it was most definitely an extremely beneficial experience.
Experience of Team Leader, Tan Jing Long
Throughout the whole course of the competition, there were many technical techniques learnt and sometimes even creatively engineered. The most prominent example in our project will be the improvisation of the cutting of foam. The initial intuitive method, is to slit foam using a pen-knife. However, this will result in an unclean cut. We later improvised and "sawed the foam". This will give us a reasonably cleaner cut as the shear force per unit cross-sectional area on the foam is greater since the velocity of the cut is greater. However, even with this method of cutting foam, we could not cut irregular shapes. Hence, we were "forced" by circumstances to eventually develop a new method, with much inspiration from our mentor, Mr Samuel Tan. The new method requires a set-up with an electromotive force applied at the ends of a Nichrome wire, resulting in the rather efficient conversion of electrical energy to thermal energy. We could then pass foam through this "cutter". The foam evaporates as it passes through the cutter (imagine the temperature of the cutter!!!) and a beautiful styrofoam structure is "carved". To ensure symmetry, we devised a simple (yet not simplistic) technique whereby we paste a cross-sectional (printed) sketch onto the styrofoam with regular markings (labelled 1, 2, 3 etc.). Hence, when a "coordinator" says "1", both "controllers" move the foam simultaneously, from the initial marking to the "1" marking and when the coordinator says "2", the controllers move to the "2" marking ans so on and so forth, resulting in an approximately symmetrical cut.

Over and above these skills learnt, the more important aspect of this competition and the part of the competition that we treasure most is the opportunity for us to work together as a team. To work in a team may be far to common in HCI to be extensively talked about but our team is no ordinary team. It is a synergistic cooperation of people with a very wide-range with abilities. While repairing a plane, Yuan Han may be holding the parts together and Cheok Hon may be cutting the scotch-tape while I may be holding the scotch-tape and then Jin Rui may be pasting, while Choon Kiat ensures that "everything goes right".This is a common-sight example and we can definitely say that we have developed better communication skills through our interaction and understood one another much better.

As the team leader, I had to arrange for meetings where everyone in the team can meet due to the varying commitments and schedules everyone has. As a result of everyone being far too busy, I had to convince them to stay back till 10pm in school for three weeks prior to the competition. Fortunately, they agreed and although we didn't win any prize during the competition, our efforts have still paid off as what we have learnt, the learning process and the shared experiences are invaluable.

Most importantly, during these "stay-backs", our teacher mentor, Mr Samuel Tan actually stayed back with us and guided us alongside patiently, teaching us the basic skills and encouraging us along the way. We are really very grateful and thankful to him for being such a great and nice mentor.

Team Members:
Tan Jing Long
Lee Cheok Hon
New Jin Rui
Lee Choon Kiat
Yuan Han

Category B: Unpowered Glider

<To be edited (by Joel's team?)>