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I LOVE my job ...(20 posts)

I LOVE my job ...Humma Hah
Mar 25, 2003 7:01 PM
... I've mentioned before that we build an aircraft computer/instrumentation set that could potentially be made into the world's best, and probably most expensive, cyclocomputer. It not only has an altitude transducer, but also airspeed, crosswind, angle of attack, and three axis accelerometers, rate of rotation sensors, and magnetometer, plus GPS.

And as if to prove my point, the guys upstairs realized that a bicycle is perfect for doing some of the tests of its ability to measure position repeatably. Just ride it up and down the same road. Real Wright Brothers stuff.

So now the boss has donated his old 2x6 Cannondale roadbike, an aluminum model so it doesn't interfere with the magnetometer. We put a rack on the back, and I've rigged it up to carry GuideStars. I took it home tonight for a little quality time on the repair stand -- it needed a new tube and some chain maintenance.

I ran a test on some new software this afternoon, our usual 20-minute session, and showed the results to our control systems guru (a guy who once built an autonomous, self-piloting unicycle). He said, "Oh, no, sorry, with this new algorithm you need to ride the bike at least half an hour, probably more like an hour."

I smiled. ;-)
Mar 25, 2003 7:05 PM
Is this EFIS and/or four axis sorta stuff (for the planes, I mean)? I'm a professional pilot...thus the interest.

Could be used for something like that ...Humma Hah
Mar 25, 2003 7:24 PM
The product is GuideStar, a very compact little computer intended primarily for piloting Unmanned Air Vehicles. So far, it has flown three very different autonomous aircraft, is being tested on a couple of fighters as a backup intertial navigational platform, and we have a neat little demonstrator package under development in which it feeds data to a laptop computer that has a glass cockpit display on it.

The one I gave a ride today is our economy model, priced at about $14k, small enough to hide under a playing card. It is not yet approved for use in certificated aircraft, but we're starting the process. It probably could be used as an emergency backup instrument package in civilian aircraft.

A bicycle version could probably eliminate half the sensors and all the servo-drive hardware, and would probably be rigged to work with a Power Tap or SRM torque sensor, for very serious training. The two primary places power goes on a bike are air resistance and climbing.

GuideStar (BikeStar?) would mix altimetry, GPS altitude, and incline measured by two accelerometers to very accurately determine grade, rate of climb, and total climb, far better than a simple altimeter cyclocomputer.

The airspeed and crosswind sensors would be used to work wind resistance problems. For example, by coasting down a hill, it could figure grade, speed, and airspeed to figure out how effectively you were tucking in to minimize drag.
I can understand your enthusiasm and I am ...Live Steam
Mar 25, 2003 7:44 PM
very happy for you. It is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and a sense of purpose when you understand and know that something you have contributed to works as intended and is the product of inspiration and intent - meaning that it is something that never existed before and now does as a result of the labor and thought you and others, put into it. Bravo! This is the ideal that lead me to Architecture and design. Have fun pedaling the miles away while testing your "whatchamacallit"! :O)
Sounds like the type of thingsn69
Mar 25, 2003 7:56 PM
that Lance would love. Have you spoken with your marketing folks?

Small enough to hide under a playing card?!?!?!?! Gosh, you should see the veritable monstrosity that we mount in our C-9s!

If you ever need a beta tester in the field......
I have spoken to them and ...Humma Hah
Mar 25, 2003 8:02 PM
... my boss is interested. He may let me have one of the prototypes to play with. The C'dale is his, and he left work a little early today to try out his new MTB, so he's a kindred soul. The engineer who designed it and the lead programmer are both also fire-breathing MTBers.

I wouldn't expect a big market at that price, and it would not have been worth developing the system just for that purpose. But heck, we've got it, and if we could sell a few dozen for top-end training and performance research, that's gravy.
Sponsor an Eco-Challenge Teamsn69
Mar 26, 2003 5:39 AM
and link the data stream to OLN. Spectators could watch in real time to see the various team's(s') progress. I think Quokka tried something like that before they blew up.

In any case, it sounds like cool stuff.

I'm off for a morning ride (playing hookey from work!)....
Schaweeet! =) (nm)jtferraro
Mar 25, 2003 7:15 PM
Now we know what to give Lance for his birthday. nmMel Erickson
Mar 25, 2003 7:43 PM
I think we should ask the price first nmPdxMark
Mar 25, 2003 7:51 PM
If you have to ask ...Humma Hah
Mar 25, 2003 7:54 PM
... uh, actually, the model I tested today may NOT be as expensive as the one Armstrong uses. I've heard he trains with one that costs over $20k.

This one is a bargain at only $14k. How many should I sign you up for?
Would bundle nicely with a Record-equipped Serotta Ottrott nmPdxMark
Mar 25, 2003 8:20 PM
I was thinkin' Spectrum 25th Ann. steel or Serotta CSi. nmsn69
Mar 26, 2003 5:40 AM
How soon before the price becomes reasonable?ms
Mar 26, 2003 6:32 AM
I remember bugging my parents to buy me a $125.00 calculator in 1973 to use in my high school chemistry class so that I would not have to master the slide rule. Within a few years, banks and other marketers were giving away calculators with more functions than the 1973 calculator. The same thing happened with PCs. The price of PCs, taking into account what a particular computer can do, has dropped dramatically in the past 20 years. What is your guess as to how long it will take for technology like this to filter down to consumer markets at a reasonable price? Five years? Ten?
What do you consider reasonable?Humma Hah
Mar 26, 2003 7:00 AM
There are wild-eyed dreams of developing a micro-UAV version that's maybe something on the order of the size of a box of matches, mass-produced, and selling for under $1k. The market for this device exists right now, and if we can figure out how to build one, we will.

I don't think such a unit would ever get to the under $100 that present cyclocomputers sell for, but who knows ... with sufficiently high production?

Let's see, around '75 or so I paid $50 for a Sinclair Scientific, which was a POS. A few months later I bought a used HP-35 for something like $100 (they sold new for $400), from a guy who had just bought a new HP65 for $800. The 65 was used by Apollo astronauts to calculate burn-time for lunar orbit insertion.

I bought my HP67 a few years later for $450. Inflation-adjusted, you can buy a new Pentium clocking in the microwave frequencies for less than that. I now carry an HP15C that has more functions (but no card reader) that cost about $45 new, and have a fancy-schmancy new HP programmable I never use that cost something like $130 and would have knocked us dead in the '70's.

We hold up the GS111m (the little one), comment on how big and porky it is, and say, "What are the chances that computers will get smaller, cheaper, and better?"
Good questionms
Mar 26, 2003 7:26 AM
Given that people pay several hundred dollars for high end heart rate monitors and other such things (I have a cheap one), my guess is that a "reasonable" number in current dollars would be in the $300-500 range. But, as much as I hate to admit it, many of us are susceptible to a "keeping up with the Joneses" weakness. If a lot of people I ride with had them, then I would want one (I currently want Kyserium SSC wheels like the other guys), even if it cost more than I wanted to spend. I guess this is where marketing comes in.
I'd limit its use to high-end training needs ...Humma Hah
Mar 26, 2003 8:07 AM
... although HRM's probably should be considered the same way.

Probably the most useful thing this gizmo would do for a racer is evaluate aerodynamic drag, potentially giving real-time feedback so they could adjust riding position to allow maximum power production at minimum drag. It would combine all the benefits of wind-tunnel testing, ergometer testing, and road training.

Once you know how to do that, take the silly thing off the bike and go race.
If it only has half the sensors-Spoke Wrench
Mar 26, 2003 8:58 AM
I'd refuse to pay more than $7,000 for it. I might be willing to work a trade for a nice Presta chuck to use with your air compressor.
cool, but what about the fit?DougSloan
Mar 26, 2003 6:52 AM
Kidding. Sounds like fun.

Closest I've come to job involving bike is litigation involving a bike shop. Not nearly as much fun.
Where's the sign-up sheet for the Beta Test? (nm)KeeponTrekkin
Mar 26, 2003 7:04 AM