Bring Back the BLIMPS


Dates: July 18-29, 2016

Cost: $700

How do blimps fly?  What is the difference between a blimp and a zeppelin and a dirigible and an airship?  What is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or Drone) and how can they and are they used outside of the military to benefit people and the environment?  How do I build robots or other autonomous vehicles?
If you have asked any of these questions before, or ones like it, you will probably like this module.  We are a group of people who are actively working with robots and UAVs to better enable scientists to collect data around the state.  Forest fires, otters, seaweed, and whales are just some of the applications on which we’ve used UAVs.  We would like to teach you all about the world of UAVs and their applications, and what better way to do that than to build, program, and fly your own.
Blimps are the safest and easiest-to-fly aircraft in existence.  They make an excellent platform for introducing the world of UAVs and the kind of technology that is incorporated into a typical UAV.  For that reason, each participant of this module will be building their own blimp, from the ground up!  From the construction of the gondola frame to the Mylar envelope and the programming of the flight controls, you will do it all!  At the end of the module we hope to have each participant fly their homemade blimp through an obstacle course for a timed competition.
Come prepared to work!  As fun as this module will be, building the blimp is a lot of work, and the programming is intensive.  In order to successfully finish the blimp by the end of the module, you will have to buckle down and work hard.   This is not a module for students who only want to waste time over the summer.  For those who finish, though, the experience will be very rewarding!

Join us in the “Bring Back the Blimps” module to start a journey into the world of unmanned aircraft!




Steven Kibler 

Steven is a computer engineer currently running a small business building the electrical systems (avionics and science payloads) for unmanned aircraft.   He has a Master’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and has competed and won several robotics competitions while at UAF.  He has nearly 20 years of experience building, maintaining, and flying radio controlled aircraft.  For the last 4 of those 20 years, he has built and flown several unmanned autonomous aircraft.  He taught an ASRA module in 2013 covering ground based robots and a blimp based module in 2015.

Michael Backus 

I am science teacher at Teeland Middle School is Wasilla, Alaska. I have enjoyed teaching robotics at several schools in the Mat-Su Valley as well as at various summer camps for almost a decade. I have worked hard to make advanced robotics accessible to middle and high school students and look forward to working with your student.


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