Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Power Electronics + Segway Skateboard Motor Controller!

Here at MIT, one of our lab classes is Power Electronics (6.131). It's taught by Prof Leeb who's just a bit crazy in the best way. We learn a bunch of basic power management design, (your typical Buck, Boost, and variations) along with some motors. It's my first lab class, and I must say THIS IS MY MOST FAVORITE CLASS SO FAR. Please, please, please if you come to MIT, take 6.131! The thing that bothers me the most about the majority of my classes is that they're all pretty theoretical. I like to make things first-hand, and looking at a bunch of math which doesn't relate to any physical system bores me. 6.131 is the complete opposite. You make the systems you've learned from lecture, which involve lots of building! It's unbelievably satisfying seeing your lecture material turn into a real object you've hand-crafted. But anyhow, I'm getting off topic from what I really want to rant about.

For 6.131 we all have a final project. In fact, it's one of the reasons why I wanted to take this class. I've done more microprocessor projects before, but I've never touched high-power much. For my final project, I'm making *drum roll* SEGBOARD!

You're probably going to see several posts about Segboard soon. Segboard is basically a segway skateboard, based off of the one created by XenonJohn. However, I'm making my own motor controller which changes things up. Not only is my software going to be a bit different, I'm going to have to debug a motor controller. Regardless, physically Segboard should look similar to XenonJohn's.

As some of you might know, my main research deals with wearables (what I like to call fashion engineering), and one might wonder how a segway skateboard has anything to do with that. Well, an addendum to this project is a wearable UI. In order to turn on Segboard, the duty cycle for each motor has to change accordingly, and while this turning mechanism has been implemented with controllers, I want to make a wearable one. My two main ideas for how to do this is through a glove or some kind of jacket, but that's later on (I'll probably first implement Segboard with a hand controller that isn't a true "wearable").  Anyway, I haven't seen many "high-power wearables" (even if through a UI), so I think this could be an excellent example of fashion engineering without LEDs :P This project is legitimately what some might call "hardcore".

I've only the motor controller schematic (below) made now, but I thought I should put it up for fun. Plan for lots of drama, joy, and electronics in the future as I desperately try to finish Segboard before the semester finishes. We'll see if I make it!