Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Updated: UC San Diego Near-Space Balloon Breaks Campus Record

The Near-Space Balloon Team at the Jacobs School of Engineering broke its own altitude record today, with a flight that went up to more than 100,000 ft. The team launched the balloon from the desert, near El Centro.
Check out coverage of the launch in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Also, here's a blow-by-blow account of the flight and the team's adventure on a bombing range to get back their payload, posted by team member Tim Wheeler, on the Jacobs School's Facebook page:

    • Tim Wheeler Everything is set and ready for the flight. We are preparing to launch our balloon to 125,000 ft with a payload of two video cameras, a canon s95, a particle sampler, and two tracking devices. Time to set our alarms to 3 am and get some rest for tomorrow!
      19 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler Time to rise and shine for launch day! Wind forecasts still look great.
      11 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler ‎4 am, half an hour ahead of schedule. Everything is packed, we are full of caffeine, and we are rolling out to the desert.
      10 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler Balloon has been launched! Currently sailing to the upper Stratosphere.
      5 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler ‎70,500 ft of altitude and counting
      5 hours ago · · 1 person
    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Thanks for keeping us updated Tim! We're putting your updates on Twitter too.
      4 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler We broke 100,000 ft. Highest we have ever been!
      4 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler The balloon has landed. 32.97652 -115.78264 Unfortunately, it is in a difficult place. We will see what we can do. It is over 100 degrees out here, so we will be bringing lots of water.
      3 hours ago ·
    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Good luck! Thanks for keeping us posted today!
      about an hour ago ·

  • Tim Wheeler Well, we just got back after a long day. The balloon landed in a bombing range just east of the Brawley farm lands. The larger balloon size and much smaller payload caused significant uncertainty in our predictions, not to mention the lack of wind data for altitudes above 90,000 ft. We were nevertheless determined to retrieve our payload, and after making our way past the "Danger: Bombing Range" signs, and cautiously approaching a large, ominous structure, introduced ourselves to the station leader
    15 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler They were in the middle of a bombing exercise; what looked to be monitoring two fighter jets dropping ordnance. The chief was very friendly, and after we gave him the balloon touchdown coordinates he was able to give us approval to enter the base since our area of interest lay far out of harms way.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler What followed was a grueling 2 mile hike in 109 F heat to retrieve the payloads. Interesting terrain, including packed sand which gave away as you walked, causing you to sink four or five inches in at times, made it all the more exciting. We were able to get to the exact coordinates using the gps lock we had, and all payloads looked great safe for a few scrapes and bruises from impact.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler A quick look at the data shows great footage from the Go Pro video camera.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler Unfortunately, the tracker which provides altitude information, an APRS device, was not updating to the internet as it should have been, despite working very well from our vantage point monitoring it via hand-held radios. Thus, we do not know the actual peak altitude. Our highest altitude reading was at just over 100,000 ft, on what we believe was the descent. Taking a look at the descent rate and extrapolating to burst using the flight footage should give us a better estimate. Since our previous altitude record was around 86,000 ft, this definitely was our highest flight to date.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler The distance between launch and landing is 33.8 miles. The balloon did not fly a perfectly straight course, however.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler All of the imagery is with the rest of the team

Automated Trumpet Tuner

In case you missed the UC San Diego automated trumpet-tuning story on Facebook last week, the comment string is below, or check it out on the Jacobs School of Engineering Facebook Fan Page (July 14 entries). Related video is on YouTube.

UC San Diego bioengineering undergraduate Jason Caffrey created an amazing LABVIEW-interfaced device to semi-automatically tune a trumpet. Jason entered it for the annual contest by National Instruments, the vendor of LABVIEW. More detail is below. The punch line is that he needs your vote, now, if you think his design is worthy. (Bioengineering professor Gert Cauwenberghs served as the faculty advisor on the project.)

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering We can stay within this comment string. So...does your tool REALLY tune a trumpet?
      July 14 at 3:02pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey Yes, a fixture that mounts a computer controlled motor to the tuning slide allows for real-time tuning!
      July 14 at 3:03pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Anyone wanting to get up to speed? check out the blog post: http://cse-ece-ucsd.blogsp​​er-is-mostly-automatic.htm​l
      July 14 at 3:03pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Do you play the trumpet? If so, has it helped your playing?
      July 14 at 3:04pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey I do play the trumpet, and took lessons throughout grade school. If I had this device back when I started playing, I would have loved using its ability to correct for out of tune notes and for learning ear training.
      July 14 at 3:05pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Do you hope to get the technology to the point that kids learning the trumpet will benefit?
      July 14 at 3:06pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey The aim has always been geared towards new trumpet players (mostly kids). While this is a prototype designed around the competition details, further work could yield a sleeker and more user friendly tool.
      July 14 at 3:09pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering So what is next in terms of the competition. there is the popular vote that closes tomorrow (hint, people!)...but then there is also the technical competition...tell us about that
      July 14 at 3:10pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey Yes, our team was selected as a finalist (top 4 worldwide) by technical standards by two NI engineers.In the first week of August, I will fly out to Austin, TX to attend NI Week 2011 and present a poster about the project. During one of the sessions, they will announce the technical competition winner, who wins a $2000 prize.
      July 14 at 3:12pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering congrats. please keep us posted on that. In the meantime...if you're talking to someone who knows nothing about the trumpet tuning project, but they want to know what it's all about, what do you say?
      July 14 at 3:14pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey Our team has created a computer-controlled device that automatically trumpet tunes a trumpet while you play it!
      July 14 at 3:16pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering So while you are playing it, the sounds you make start sounding better as the device tunes your playing?
      July 14 at 3:18pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey They sure do. As you play a certain note, the device analyzes your pitch and quickly adjusts it to the correct pitch. This way, particular notes that are naturally out of tune on the trumpet are accounted for as well.
      July 14 at 3:20pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Great. thanks for all the info, and good luck in the first week of August in Austin. We'll be sure to check back and see how it goes. Anything else you'd like to add before you sign off?
      July 14 at 3:22pm · 

    • Jason Caffrey Just make sure to vote! Thanks so much for this opportunity.
      July 14 at 3:24pm · 

    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering good luck in Austin!
      July 14 at 3:27pm ·