In August 2014, a group of sophomore engineering students from Washington State University Vancouver began discussing an idea for a project. Being a relatively new campus and even newer electrical engineering program, they were looking to begin that legacy of proud projects and accomplishments.
"Hey, let's send up a high altitude balloon. Lots of other people have done it, how hard can it be?"
Well, just like everything else in life, it's never as easy as it seems. So armed with one year of an engineering degree under their belts and the power of google, they began to search. And read. And talk. And learn. And google some more. Slowly but surely the idea morphed into a feasible project, one that COULD be accomplished by this team.
After many hours of testing circuits and modules, writing code, and assembling a payload box from a styrofoam container, the #cougballoon was ready to launch!
The main brain of the #cougballoon was a Teensy 3.1 microcontroller. The Arduino-style controller received all of the data from the other systems and sent the info to a Digi XTend 900MHz radio, which transmitted the short bursts of info down to our ground station. The Teensy collected info such as temperature, pitch and roll, heading, GPS data, etc. Our ground station received the data through a +13dBi yagi antenna, then to another Digi radio, and finally an Arduino connected to a laptop. The laptop was running a python script which was continuously running and checking for incoming serial data.
Once the python script received serial data, it sent it to our website and was displayed in real time. Our 2015 Launch page has graphs showing the exact data we received from the balloon that day.
So we wanted to transmit video and try to receive that video on the ground and transmit it real time onto the internet. We decided to go with a (VM-70X video transmitter attached to a heatsink for a processor for cooling. Because of the frequency and power that this transmitter uses, one of our team members had to get his HAM radio license in order to legally transmit the video. This also allowed us to receive the video feed on a regular TV using cable TV channel 58. Once we received it, we then streamed it to our website using a different computer.
For our GPS systems, we used an Adafruit GPS shield and because of the HAM radio license, we were able to utilize a Byonics Microtrak as a backup. For both modules, we ran simple GPS antennas velcroed on the top of the payload.
In addition to the equipment above, we also had several large (10,000mAh) batteries providing both 12V and 5V for the myriad of systems onboard.
If you have any specific questions on what we did or how we did it, please visit our Contact Us and send us a message. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our 2016 launch!!!