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Student programmer receives unique opportunity to work for MinerFly

Maia Bond, Editor In Chief

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Over this past summer, Senior Pranal Madria worked as a programmer for the organization called MinerFly at MS&T. MinerFly is a small group of people, some students and some full time workers, who build drones and other robots completely from scratch. The team is eight to fifteen people building aircrafts for researchers and their specific needs

“They have several different types of drones that they use for several different things depending on what the researcher wants. It is a small team that works incredibly hard to build these drones for other people to use for research purposes,” Madria said.

For example, Madria worked on a program for a drone that would inspect bridges for Inspire UTC. They are one of the researchers that MinerFly helps with, and are currently wanting to use drones to inspect bridges in hopes of making the process more convenient and safe.

“Humans have full control of the drone, but they want it to be where the drone is completely autonomous. However the human still has to be there to watch it and be able to control it at any point. They have already done some tests with the city and they want to have drones that can go all around the bridge and inspect it safely to check for damages, weak points, structural damage, and other things like that,” Madria said.

MinerFly was already working on the project, but a student that was doing the programming had just graduated and was leaving. He set Madria up with what he needed to know and do before he left, and Madria took over for the summer. For the two months he was there, he worked on an obstacle avoidance framework.

“I took the program and made it to where it was able to detect certain objects and find the distance to them. It will hopefully eventually be used on some of the drones to autonomously go to the bridge and do whatever they need to do on the bridge using that program,” Madria said.

Because each aircraft is built from the ground up, the team works tirelessly to design, wire, and put together the robot. They are built with a pre-loaded software, but if there is a specific need or a custom feature necessary, They have to make their own. Currently they are trying to load their own code to hopefully go onto the drones.

“They are 3D modeling it, buying the equipment for it, and then they wire it together and build it from scratch. It is really neat to see when the first test happens and how they handle things when it doesn’t work. They go back to see what is wrong and fix it. But you can’t ask someone, you have to look at yourself because you are the one building it,” Madria said.

Along with the programming, MinerFly also took him out near the Cuba Airport to do tests, where he learned more about how field tests work and the safety involved. Though he works with robots every day in Robotics, he finds it different to work with robots designed for real world problems.

As a high school student, being able to work with an elite team on projects for a clientele is a rare and exciting opportunity that he feels he was graciously given by Dr. Chen and Inspire UTC. He attributes the success of the organization that started out as a small design team and is now serving several different researchers around the clock to the hardworking people there daily.

“They build some really neat stuff over there and it was a really awesome opportunity and a great experience. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity and the real credit cards them because they’re working on some amazing stuff every day,” Madria said.

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Student programmer receives unique opportunity to work for MinerFly