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How to build a quadcopter in 4 steps

As an engineering student at Calvin, the quadcopter interim is one you won’t want to miss. Take three weeks in January to design, test, and fly your own quadcopter with a team of engineers and the guidance of an expert.


  •   Author: Michal Rubingh
  •   Published: October 2, 2019
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Interim is your chance to take a break from your usual classes and focus in on one subject for three weeks. The quadcopter interim is the ultimate hands-on learning experience for engineers who are ready to take their creative skills to the next level. Here’s a window into the step-by-step process of building a quadcopter.

Step 1: Know your limits 

If you’re an engineer at heart, chances are you would like to jump in and get started building right away. But the only way to produce a finished physical product is if you take the time to be realistic about your constraints.

“In the beginning of the class we do a lot of research on how much thrust the propellers and motors will generate. Once we know that, we know how much our quadcopter can weigh,” explained engineering professor Mark Michmerhuizen.

Step 2: Make a prototype

Once you know your weight and size requirements, you’re free to design your quadcopter. First, you’ll experiment with designs using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Then you’ll use a 3D printer to produce a quadcopter made with lightweight carbon fiber.

Step 3: Test and adjust

Building a quadcopter will require trial and error. Before it’s ready to fly, you’ll secure your quadcopter in a small test fixture where it can’t cause any trouble. You might need to make adjustments so your quadcopter is stable and safe. Sometimes that means going back to the drawing board.

Step 4: Fly

Finally, you’ll watch the quadcopter that you designed on a screen a few weeks earlier flying high in the fieldhouse.

“The highlight of the interim is seeing how it all comes together in the end,” shared Professor Michmerhuizen. “We have three weeks to go from nothing to a finished product that can fly. I’m always nervous when we have a week to go and some teams are still struggling. But every team has always made a working quadcopter.”

  •   Author: Michal Rubingh
  •   Published: October 2, 2019

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