Height control system

Hi, I’m Nerine and I’m part of the TU Delft Solar Boat Team.  I am a fourth year mathematics student. In the first semester this year I was abroad to do my minor in Switzerland, but since I’m back, I have finished my Bachelor Degree and now I can work full time on the solar boat!

At first it was a little bit scary to join a team that had already been working together for half a year, but everybody was very nice and of course it worked out fine. I really like working with this tea, everybody is so motivated and enthusiastic about what we’re doing. Since you don’t get paid or earn credits, everybody is here because they want to be here. That’s why being here is so much fun. Also a lot of former team members are still around to help where needed.

When I just arrived we were in the middle of the production phase. I got to work on the height control system, since nobody actually got to start on this yet. The height control makes sure that the boat flies stable on a desired height. You can do this by controlling the angle of the wings. Simply said they give more lift when they are on a bigger angle. So if you make the wings pivot to a greater angle the boat will go up. Using all the information from the sensors about the height, velocity and pitch of the boat, the height controller decides on what angle the wings have to be.

To write a program for the height control I lacked some foreknowledge about system control, so I watched a whole course about this from mechanical engineering on Collegerama in a few days. After that I talked a lot to old team members how they did the height control. Now I am trying to adjust their systems to our new boat, and to improve them. Now we will start the testing phase, we have to start with a simple model for the height control, to know that the basics are working, but after that we can try to implement our ideas for improving the system.

I have also start working on filtering the data, which we receive from the sensors. We have a height sensor in the front of the boat, which measures the distance to the water. But since the water is not perfectly flat, the measurements contain a lot of noise. With Kalman filters, it is possible to filter out the noise and try to obtain an estimation for true the height the boat is on. Last semester I actually had a course which covered this technique. It is cool to be able to apply the theory you learn in university on something real.

 As a mathematician I think you always have to learn some new material about applications if you want to work in an applied sector but because you learn some kind of analytic thinking and have a good mathematical background, this is very well possible. I really like working in a multidisciplinary team and  I’m very curious if my programs will perform as desired, but we will find that out soon during testing!