GyroAssist - Truck flip prevention
At HTX in Hjørring I took the Technology class on A level. The class is about solving real world problems by developing new products. We go through all of the stages of product development; right from brainstorming and problem research to prototype development and process flowcharts. We spend the whole last year of the class on our exam project, which we presented at the end of the year.
Together with Rasmus and Daniel we developed a tool to help prevent truck flipping accidents. We had discovered that every year an average of 14 trucks flip over in Denmark alone. A huge percentage of the trucks were pig transporters. We got in contact with one of the major pig transporters in Denmark, who had been involved in a couple of accidents through the past year. They helped us confirm the problem and started our journey of GyroAssist.
During early spring of 2017 we had a pretty well developed product. Our teacher asked us, if we wanted to participate in the regional championship of entrepreneurship (Company Programme). At the regional championship we got selected to continue at the national championship at Dansk Industri in Copenhagen. We didn’t win, but it was a huge experience nonetheless. We also got a diploma for making it the national finals.
- The problem and our solution
- Prototype development
- National finalists in the championship of entrepreneurship
- Personal takeaway
The problem and our solution
Brainstorming let us to the idea of using an accurate angle measuring sensor in the back of the truck trailer. This would constantly be measuring the angle of the trailer relative to the gravitational force. The sensor would then send data to the display in the cabin, which would inform the truck driver of the trailers current angle. If the trailer was about to reach a critical angle, the display would buzz to inform the driver.
Truck cabins are made to be as comfortable as possible; that is a problem. This means they are very decoupled from the rest of the truck. At the same time, the trailer is also decoupled from the truck frame. This essentially creates two decoupling from the driver seat to the trailer. Thereby making it difficult for the truck driver to estimate the angle of the trailer.
As part of our business plan we also developed a few product ideas / expansions, which could be created in the future. This included data logging to find troublesome roads, which could then be used to calculate a maximum speed for an upcoming road. It also included expansion to the consumer market by connecting via bluetooth an app on the users phone.
When creating the prototype and product production cycle we focused on the simplest form of our product.
One of our first tasks was to find all of the different parts needed for the project. We would be using an Arduino to control the sensor and send over the data via an HC-12 wireless transmitter. This was chosen since it was simple to use and because, we already had some experience from our other class about electronics.
For the prototype display we went with an Raspberry Pi and a car reverse-cam display. These could easily be connected together. The Raspberry Pi could also be connected with the HC-12 receiver.
The display was driven through the Raspberry Pi. I wrote a simple program using Python to communicate with the HC-12 board and PyGame to render the graphics. Using a 12volt step-up converter to power the display, the whole setup could be powered from an USB powerbank.
The Arduino was connected to the sensor chip via its analog to digital pins. The HC-12 transmitter was connected via the I2C protocol. This could also easily be powered from a small usb powerbank and didn’t consume much power.
We had to design a simple, safe and water tight enclosure for the sensor. Since we only needed a minimal amount of space, we decided to go with a standard plastic junction box. This was able to fit all of our electronics and also allow for a power source. It could either contain a battery or have a cable connected with direct power from the trailer.
Now that we had a working prototype, it was time to test it! The first test was pretty simple. We were tilting the angle sensor and reading the result on the screen. Here we looked for two things: the accuracy of the sensor and the speed at which it updated.
Next we went outside to perform real world tests. The sensor was placed at the top of a closed trailer, as if it was in a real truck trailer. We drove around on different landscapes while observing the display inside the car. We also tested the signal strength through the closed trailer at different distances to the car.
National finalists in the championship of entrepreneurship
At early spring 2017 our teacher asked if we wanted to participate in the regional entrepreneur championship Company Programme. This wasn’t something our school normally took part in, but our teacher thought our product and business-plan was developed enough to participate. We would come into the competition pretty late compared to the other participants, and we would have to do extra work next to our normal exam. After some discussion in the team, we decided it would be pretty cool to participate.
We had to create a stand for our product. We decided to create a fast prototype demonstration where the display was mounted on two stacked ikea lak-tables with a cloth to hide the wires. For the sensor, we bought a semi-large plastic toy truck, which turned out to have just enough space in the trailer for our sensor setup. The truck was mounted on a camera tripod on a metal plate. This way we could let the visitors and judges try our product by tilting the truck and watching for changes on the display.
We also had to do a lot of graphical work for the two walls of our stand. This was mostly my task, as I had the most experience working with graphics.
After the judges had seen our stand, all of the teams had to do a short presentation about their product and their business plan.
We got accepted for the national championship at Industriens Hus in Copenhagen.
At the regional championship we had to create a larger stand for the judges to visit. We tried our best to make stand stand out from the other stands. We spend most of the day in our stand talking with the visitors and waiting for the judges. Visitors included a few investors from the industry.
At some point in the day, we all had to gather in a big room for presentations. Here we had to do a timed presentation for the hundreds of people at the competition. Later we were also taken out for a short interview with the judges about our product and business plan.
At the end of the day, all of the teams were invited for a fine dinner at the top of the building. After the dinner, the winner was announced. Sadly, we didn’t win the national championship. But that didn’t matter at all, since we gained so much from the whole experience.
This project was one of the longest running projects I have ever been part of. We had to work closely together to ensure the product lived up to the whole teams expectations. We also had individual roles for some of the different project processes.
- I had two special roles:
- Programming the software for our prototype.
- Creating graphics for our stand and presentation.
I gained a lot of experience in product development, design and documentation. I developed skills working closely together in a small team, quickly solving problems and conflicts.
Because of our participation in the national championship of entrepreneurship, I also gained a lot of experiences with business plans and presentation.
We didn’t win but got a Diploma.
- Team members:
- Rasmus Ernst Bolet
- Daniel Dalgaard Andersen
- Thanks to:
- Peter Toftemark - Our Technology teacher
- Company Programme
View my other projects.