Goals of the project
Develop immersive and affordable simulators for various entertainment and training applications.
Nature of the Collaboration
We worked together during our Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Project to manufacture a prototype of a virtual reality flight simulator. We had guidance for our Advisor, Dr. Felix Soto-Toro, an Electrical Engineer at NASA, and the employees of Servos & Simulations who acted as our Technical Advisors.
We implemented heaving machining and manufacturing capabilities through working in the UCF Manufacturing Lab with the support of the manager Tim Lindner. We worked with various machining equipment and tools and got great hands on experience. Our project was also heavily reliant on the software as well so we utilized programming skills through Arduino initially and grew to work with drive amplifiers with our AC servomotors.
We used an Arduino to run our initial motion base and worked with several machining equipment to manufacture our frame and cockpit. We used a CNC mill, drill press, band saw, horizontal saw, and even learned MIG welding.
We worked through a two semester senior design course where we spent the first semester designing and planning how to build. The second semester consisted of actually building by utilizing all of the university’s resources to successful manufacture a working virtual reality flight simulator prototype.
After demoing our prototype at our senior design showcase, we were invitied to demo for our Dean’s Advisory board dinner where we gained great feedback from industry professionals on the value of our idea and how it could be a commercial product. We have since been accepted into the National Science Foundations’ I-Corps program to test the commercial feasibility and have used the funds to build a second prototype that is more reliable and efficient. We have since exhibited at two trade shows and are working on products for our first two customers.
Developing the knowledge to program our motion system was definitely the biggest challenge as mechanical engineers. We used our mentors and advisors and spent countless hours troubleshooting to overcome this. We are now faced with growing a business with zero experience so it has been difficult to develop that mindset as engineers; however, we have great mentors and great resources to utilize as students, so we are working on overcoming this.
We have tested the commercial feasibility through the NSF I-Corps program and were awarded a $3,000 grant. We have also won the UCF Business Model Competition and are in the semi-finals for the UCF Joust New Venture Challenge. We have exhibited at two trade shows, I/ITSEC, the world’s largest modeling and simulation trade show and Otronicon, Orlando’s largest interactive media show and we are working with our first two customers.
Innovations, impact and successes
We are finalizing our provisional patent on the systems integration of off the shelf supplies in a unique fashion and have validated an efficient business model through the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program with over 400 customer interviews. We have registered our company as an LLC and are working with our first customers, Orange County Public Schools and Sim Center Tampa Bay.