University of Vermont

UVM Self-help Web Guide

UVM in Motion

Alumnus' film merges art and engineering

Watch Tryba's film "UVM in Motion."

"No one wants to film someone else on a powder day," says Julian Tryba '13, explaining how he conceived of the Eleview. After a monstrous snowfall his junior year, Tryba and friends headed to Jay Peak, where in between runs, they daydreamed about a device that could follow them down the mountain, filming them without the need for a designated cameraman.

That concept would become Tryba's senior capstone engineering project: the creation of a flying, filming robot that uses smartphone technology to enable its handsfree functionality. Two smartphones, one on board the quadrotor in the air (also equipped with a GoPro camera) and the other in the pocket of the snowboarder or skier, send and receive GPS coordinates to track and follow a subject as it moves.

The robot was constructed by Tryba and four classmates thanks to a grant from the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, with money raised by the crowd-sourced funding initiative UVM Start, and with help from a partnership with the MITRE Corporation. The first step for the team was creating an algorithm that differentiates the Eleview from technologies that have come before it -- allowing the on-board smartphone to track the beacon smartphone by twice every second calculating "way points," or directions where the quadrotor should fly. Simulations showed that their algorithm, which uses linear averaging to improve accuracy, would work. A prototype was built, and the team worked their senior year at making their mountain daydream a reality.

During testing, the robot proved useful for capturing more than extreme sports. Another project of Tryba's was launched: documenting the university campus where he spent four years. His film "UVM in Motion" marries two of his passions, photography and engineering, to offer a unique perspective of the university, captured in time-lapse photography and by the Eleview he helped build.

An ambitious endeavor for a capstone project, the creation of the Eleview and the realization of its full functionality is still under way. But unlike Tryba, now graduated and at work for GE Aviation where he interned following his junior year, the Eleview has stayed at UVM and is available to a new crop of engineering students for their own senior capstone project. Using leftover funds and still under the mentorship of MITRE, the new team of four seniors are continuing what the first group began and plan to add a few enhancements -- like the ability to turn off the tracking mechanism and "park" the robot, filming an area from a single, elevated vantage point.

Project adviser Jeff Frolik, associate professor of engineering, is excited that more students will be able to dig into the complex set of problems the Eleview presents. "Very rarely do we have a project that goes all the way to completion," he says, "and to have another team pick up the project is great."

"It was a much bigger scope than a one-year senior engineering project," Tryba says, "but we got a good start to it, and that's why we're handing it off to the next group. It's one way of giving back."