Media Arts High School Engineering Students Challenge Gravity and The Expectations for a High School Education

posted Nov 5, 2009, 10:07 AM by Unknown user



Video Courtesy: Jake Neighbors

Media Arts High School Engineering Students Challenge Gravity and The Expectations for a High School Education  

By Karl R. C. Wendt  

Senior engineering students at Media Arts High School, a project based Regional Occupational Program (ROP) charter school in Point Loma, have been creating increasingly technically complex and challenging projects since the program began two years ago. This year’s class is no exception. Students in the class of 2010 are building and programming robotic submersibles, a CNC routing center, and semi-automous land and air vehicles.

The air team, “R.E.S.C.U.E Heli”, completed a major milestone Friday after school.  The team was able get the electric motor on their newly build Helicopter platform to "spool up" using C computer coding with an Arduino micro-controller. This was no easy task becasue the micro-controller or “brain” and rotor motor were not created to work together. 

When asked about the difficulties related to getting the rotor motor to work, team member and lead programmer, Jake Negibors replied, “We tried to get the speed controller controller to work with the standard pulse train, but the frequency was not right. During the time I was trying to get it to work with a pulse train, Luke Hatschbach, a R.E.S.C.U.E Heli team member, was able to find a guide on how to control our "Volcano Series" Brushless motor online. After we loaded the updated code the motor spooled up as everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at the loud noise that was coming from the helicopter. The motor actually went the wrong way, which we corrected by switching two wires. It was such a relief that we got the speed controller working, as we would have no working helicopter without it.”

The level of excitement within this team is palpable. Team members spent well over ten hours this weekend troubleshooting their emerging autonomous platform and they have issued a request to work on their project at school on Monday, which happens to be a vacation day for the students.

The team hopes to be able to use an Arduino, which is an Italian made micro-controller, along with an array of various sensors and transmission equipment enable the model helicopter to avoid obstacles and complete an autonomous rescue mission.  

You can see R.E.S.C.U.E  Heli and many other advanced student projects at the semi-annual Media Arts Engineering Exhibition on December 17th at the 2250 Truxtun Road, San Diego, CA 92106. The public is cordially invited to attend.


If you have further questions about this project please see the R.E.S.C.U.E Heli project website at:


Or Contact:

Eric Harmatz the team leader at

Karl Wendt the course instuctor at