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Sources: Raju Dandu, 785-826-2629, rdandu@k-state.edu;
and Greg Spaulding, 785-826-2622, gspaulding@sal.ksu.edu
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415, bbohn@k-state.edu

Monday, April 20, 2009

K-STATE AT SALINA STUDENTS FIND CREATIVE USE FOR GAMING SYSTEM CONTROLLERS

SALINA -- Kansas State University at Salina's Mini-Baja Team may have a "Wii" bit of success this year thanks to some members of Greg Spaulding's senior design course.

Spaulding is a professor of engineering technology at K-State at Salina. As part of the senior design course he teaches, students select, define and analyze a mechanical engineering project proposal in the fall semester, then develop and implement the project in the spring semester.

Four of Spaulding's students teamed up this school year to improve the suspension system for the four-wheel off-road vehicle that K-State at Salina's Mini-Baja Team designs and builds for competitions. The team's coach is Raju Dandu, professor of engineering technology.

Before the students could come up with a new design to improve the suspension system, they had to know how the old system actually performed. That's when they got a "Wii" bit of an idea, Spaulding said.

"They came up with idea of using the remote controllers from the Wii game system to get some key data about the old suspension system," Spaulding said. "Part of the problem was they needed to sense acceleration, but to do this they needed something wireless and something relatively inexpensive. They found that Wii controllers had all these properties."

The Wii remote has an MEMS accelerometer, an infrared camera and a Bluetooth communication system that can capture and transfer data via its wireless link, Dandu said.

"The 'Wiimotes' were installed on last year's car to measure the G-forces absorbed and transmitted by the suspension system," Dandu said. "The students and team members consulted with a professional in off-road recreation vehicles about the suspension analysis results so they could select the appropriate shocks and springs with ease of adjustment for the new vehicle's suspension system."

A fifth member of Spaulding's class who is working on another project team helped the project team with computer interface issues so the wireless data collection would work.

"It looks pretty weird to have these things strapped to the car, but it works," Spaulding said. "It was a very creative idea and I was impressed. I just got a Wii for Christmas and am enamored of its technology. When my students came up with this application, I thought it was really cool."

Students working on the project, all seniors in engineering technology, included:

Michael Drach, Hutchinson; Clayton Wonsetler, Inman; Christopher Perdue, senior in engineering technology, Topeka; and Reid Rains, Wallace.

Former K-State at Salina student Justin Kunz helped the team with computer interface issues.