Here is a list of projects completed over the past few years by members of the UCSB IEEE Student Chapter:

Viacar 2010

Update: UCSB IEEE achieved 4th place in the 2010 ViaCar competition!

Team Members

  • Ryan Bahneman email:
  • Peter Krogen
  • The Car
  • 1/8 scale Traxxas RC car
  • Sensing The Line
  • 12 combination IR LED and phototransistor blocks to optically sense the line.
  • The Microcontroller
  • We are using a Luminary Micro evaluation kit.
  • The Code
  • The Microcontroller part of the project is being done as the project of the ECE 194o class, titled “Embedded Systems Programming”. We Are programming in a brand new language called Em. It’s a higher level programming language for microcontrollers centered around encapsulation.
  • What is ViaCar?
  • “ViaCar is an undergraduate design competition sponsored by ViaSat and hosted by UC San Diego. Teams of undergraduate students design, build, and race an autonomous car which must follow a track marked by 1-inch white tape on dark-colored carpet. Under the tape, there is a wire carrying a 100mA rms 75kHz sinusoidal signal.” The competition will be held Sunday, May 16 2010.
  • The Prototype
  • There was some interest in the project, so a prototype was constructed using an old RC car and an AVR microcontroller. The line is sensed optically using photo transistors and white LEDs, and the motors are driven by a quad half H bridge IC.
  • Natcar

    Natcar '12

    Here are a couple of images of the Natcar '12:

    Natcar '14

    Here are a couple of images of the Natcar '14:

    Tesla Coils

    Project Description

    This Tesla Coil was a solid state tesla coil built to act as a speaker. The idea for a Tesla Coil was born on some calculations quickly written down in Mar Vac. A group of UCSB IEEE students got together and within 24 hours built a tesla coil that electrified (and sent more than a few devices haywire).

    But while the original Tesla coil is no longer with us, and many parts and documentation have been lost to us, there is still more fun to be had from tesla coils. There is a solid state Tesla Coil created by our very own lab manager Peter Krogen. It is mainly used to show off to possible recruits with an ipod attached. But every once in a while someone does a project that involves some sound output, or remote power transfer, or we just feel like taking it out. That is when things get fun.

    Some pics of the tesla coil in production:

    First Experiment

    The first experiment is after fixing up an amp from the ECE free stuff table and then hooking it up to a member’s, Maurice Le Doux’s, guitar. So far I have two videos up, though they don’t look very good and are slightly buggy from the Tesla coil. Hopefully more are on the way.

    Zeroth Experiment

    Chronologically this experiment happened before the first experiment but unfortunately it was the second to be added. In this experiment Peter found a laser in the chemistry trash pile. The laser was damaged internally (the filament had sagged) and we didn’t have the exciter (power supply). Luckily, the laser tube still had argon gas in it so we put it next to the Tesla coil and it lit up like a fluorescent light.

    Security System

    Project Description

    This project is actually a project I am doing for a class called ECE194o/CS190c, taught mainly by Amichi Amar and Bob Frankel. They are teaching the class how to program microcontrollers in a language that they wrote called Em. The interesting thing about the language is that it will implement a scripting language’s ability to get you far away from the code and an object oriented languages ability to create reusable code, for something with so little memory as a microcontroller. There is however a downside to the fact that we are writing in a language that as far as I know, only 22 people seem to know. Documentation is practically nonexistent, and we can’t roam the web for forums with people who’ve already had a problem we’ve had. As it is, this’ll be an adventure that’ll probably be documented here.

    This project is going to be a security system that makes knowledge of someone in your room without your knowledge more accessible by implementing text messaging or email into the system.

    The idea for my project seems to be that I look for input from PIR sensors, which will be bought soon or found in the IEEE lab. I will have an ethernet port on at least one of the microcontrollers. Lastly, I found an old keypad that a friend took off of an old phone off of the ece departments free stuff table. What this will all eventually lead to is probably a microcontroller (the Atmega168) to poll the PIR sensors and if there is any information to send it will use an ethernet port to route it to an email address that will send a text to a phone that someone is there. the keypad will allow for disabling in case internet is down.

    Autonomous Estuary Research Vessel

    The UC Santa Barbara campus possesses a feature relatively unique to the west coast of North America: a lagoon. The ecological properties of estuaries like the UCSB lagoon are rarely studied formally and are not very well known to the scientific community. One of the main reasons for this lack of study is a lack of efficient means of collecting a large amount of meaningful data from such small, shallow bodies of water. An efficient, autonomous, cost-effective means for obtaining a large amount of meaningful data from estuary environments is presented.

    The AERV System will be a robotic, autonomous, self-propelled catamaran type boat equipped with a suite of ecological data sensors and a signal processing and self-guiding navigation computer. The boat itself will be able to function alone for weeks, collecting data from every point in the estuary with only occasional human intervention. The AERV will communicate via radio with an internet-connected base tower on land, which will store all of the collected sensor data and function as a command-and-control data server. All of the sensor data will be available to authorized users through the internet from anywhere around the world, and the boat can be manually controlled to perform any task through the same system.

    Research and design for the project is divided into several distinct segments: Computer systems, Sensors, Structure, Communications systems, Power systems, Propulsion systems, and Interface.

    Unfortunately, the project had to be disbanded due to lack of time that could be spent on the project itself. If, though, you would still like to contact the club about this project email it at

    More information on the project:


    The communication system will handle two integral functions of the boat: location measurement and data communication. The ecology data the boat will collect is fundamentally spatial, so the accuracy of the location measurement tied to each data point is essential to the usefulness of the data. To maintain a high level of precision, the boat will use two GPS units to infer its location. The GPS units are identical 12 channel micro-miniature GPS receivers spaced approximately one meter apart, which will be oversampled by the computer system while measurements are being taken to resolve the boat’s location with a projected error of less than one meter. Sensor data and command-and-control instructions will be sent over a radio frequency data link with the interface tower using a Zigbee radio transceiver. At the tower, a computer will store sensor data and make it available over the internet.

  • Data transfer range: up to 6 miles with high-gain antennas
  • Data transfer rate: 156 kbps
  • Location precision: <1 meter
  • Computer

    The boat’s onboard computer system will be responsible for:

    Navigating the Lagoon

  • GPS positioning
  • Obstacle Avoidance
  • Taking measurements

  • Reading the sensors
  • Keeping the boat in one place during a measurement
  • radio communications with the land-based server tower

  • Sending collected data
  • Receiving Commands
  • The computer system that will be implemented has not yet been decided on. We are considering a high performance Atmel AVR microcontroller and a low power computer. There are many advantages to each. The microcontroller has extremely low power consumption, design simplicity, and reliability, whereas the computer offers more flexibility, the ability to be reprogrammed remotely.


    The interface is the hardware and software which will receive and handle the data transmitted by the boat and issue commands to the boat. The boat will transmit sensor and state data through a ZigBee radio link to a land-based tower, which will consist of a Zigbee radio connected to a computer connected to the internet, contained in a weather resistant housing.

    The interface will be a frontend for managing the boat remotely, using a custom data protocol. Authorized IEEE members or researchers can upload waypoints or manually control the boat’s propulsion system, and schedule data collection as desired. The interface will also act as a data server: all of the collected sensor data will be stored on the interface computer and will be available on a website open to authorized members.


    The boat’s power system will consist of batteries, solar panels, along with charging and switching circuitry. We have not yet estimated the power requirements for the boat as a whole because the propulsion and computer systems have not been decided on.

    The solar panels will be constructed with a solar cell array placed on a backing covered with a polycarbonate shield. Energy will be stored in nickel-metal hydride cells arranged in multiple 12-volt packs, which will be connected in parallel with other packs.

    Due to the nature of UCSB’s partly-cloudy weather patterns, the boat will run directly off of the batteries. The charging controller will charge the batteries with the available solar power to allow the power controller to supply a constant voltage to the other subsystems using extremely efficient switch-mode voltage regulation circuitry, regardless of the weather conditions.

    Photovoltaic array:

  • 2 Watt cells, 0.55 volts each
  • 28 cells in series, two sets in parallel
  • 112 Watts peak output for one array
  • Either one or two 112W arrays, depending on our requirements
  • Batteries:

  • 1.2 volt 14 Ah cells
  • 12 in series for one 12 volt 14 Ah pack
  • As many packs as allowed by the boat’s buoyancy
  • Sensors

    The boat will need numerous sensors. We will need extremely accurate sensors for the lagoon measurements to maintain integrity of the measurements. The rest the sensors are for surviving in the lagoon. Mainly, we are interested in safely navigating the lagoon, and not running out of power.

    Below water sensors:

  • Dissolved oxygen
  • pH probe
  • Continuity probe
  • Water temperature
  • Fluorometer
  • Ultrasonic Depth sensor
  • Above water sensors:

  • Anemometer (wind speed and direction)
  • Thermometer
  • Hygrometer
  • Barometer
  • Pyranometer (solar irradiance)
  • Pyrgeometer (infrared spectrum measurement)
  • Compass
  • Internal Sensors

  • Battery Charge
  • Current Draw
  • Component Temperature
  • Solar Output
  • Structure

    The boat is being designed around a dual-pontoon catamaran model which will be constructed from three main assemblies: the exoskeleton, the pontoons, and the sensor drop reel assembly. The exoskeleton will contain the electronic components, and will be made entirely of aluminum. The exact design of the exoskeleton is not finished, but will consist of an aluminum box with aluminum tubing supports coated with weather resistant paint to resist corrosion.

    The pontoons will consist of one-meter-long clusters of four, 4-inch diameter ABS or PVC plastic pipe, capped at the ends. Each pontoon will be covered with a reflective coating or paint and strapped to the exoskeleton. The main energy storage batteries will be stacked into some of the pontoon pipes and will be waterproofed at wire openings.

    A reel assembly will use an electric motor to raise and lower the sensor drop probe into the water. The reel will sit in the exact center of the boat to keep the center of mass near the geometric center of the boat to avoid tipping problems.

  • Maximum non-structural payload: 40kg (Estimated)
  • Approximate overall dimensions: 1 meter long, 80cm wide, 50cm tall
  • Countdown Clock

    The project is complete and is displayed proudly amidst the thoroughfare of the lab. Below are some pictures of the contraption: