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Capstone 2019 Highlight: Dynamic Center-of-Gravity Display

Capstone 2019 Highlight: Dynamic Center-of-Gravity Display
Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Team: Sammy Ezzeddine, John Foster, Michael Lewis
Adviser: Michael J. Cabral, Ph.D.
Sponsor: Cranemasters

When trains derail, specialty cranes are deployed to place them back on the tracks. These cranes carry loads as heavy as 200,000 pounds on terrain riddled with mounds and valleys. The risk of a tip-over is high.

This team is creating a display that reliably monitors a crane’s center-of-gravity in harsh, unpredictable conditions and lets operators know when it is in danger of tipping. The project is a scale-up of 2018’s Capstone Design winner in the multi-departmental category. Last year's project was a 1/20th size proof-of-concept model. This year's project, based in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, uses last year's model as a starting point to adapt the design to a full-scale crane.

Currently available anti-tipping displays, called Load Moment Indicators (LMIs), usually run on pre-calculated programs that work well on the flat ground of a construction site. To function on the irregular surface of a derailment site, the VCU team’s display runs real-time calculations based on “a massive physics equation” of variables including incline, pitch and angle, weight and torque.

When their project is complete, it will be a fully enclosed display mounted to a Cranemasters crane and ready for service.

At the Capstone Expo, visitors will use knobs to operate a facsimile crane control and see the display change in response.