Our makerspace received a Strawbees kit as part of the Instructable Build Night program, so I decided to put it to use with my latest hobby. I've started flying quadcopters and while I'm still learning, I figured it would be a good idea to come up with some training accessories to help focus my flights. Strawbees are easy to work with and since you can use basic straws as part of the structure, any damage will be easily repairable. So in this Instructable, I'll show you how I quickly setup two different accessories: a take-off/landing zone and some course turn pylons. These are simple to build, easy to use, and functional!
Step 1: Starting Out With Strawbees
Strawbees are essentially various configurations of plastic adapters that allow you to assemble straws to create structures. These can be used for great creative exercises for kids or adults. The parts use friction to lock into the straws and they can interlock together to build more complex structures. The kits come in various sizes, so you can choose the amount of Strawbees that you might be interested in.
My kit contained blue and white connectors and clear straws. You can use your own straws as well if you would like different colors and/or patterns. To vary the shapes and sizes you can also cut straws down to specific lengths if desired. This gives you lots of options for prototyping rough ideas.
Step 2: Assemble Take-off/landing Zone
My landing zone will be a simple square. To fit the size of my 250 class quadcopter, I'm using two straws per side, so I select:
- 8 blue single-end connectors
- 4 blue double-end connectors
- 4 white single-end connectors
Use the double-end connectors to build four sides, by connecting two straws together. Then use the blue single-end connectors at the each end of each side. Now you can join the sides together using the white single-end connectors. This is a simple shape, but it folds up conveniently for storage and takes up very little space. The quadcopter fits snugly inside providing a tight target to practice precision landings on.
Step 3: Anchoring the Take-off/landing Zone
I fly the 250 class quadcopter outside and it produces quite a bit of downwash. As Strawbees are very light, the landing zone would easily blow away. To solve that problem, I just used four large paper-clips as anchors. Fold out the the paper clips as show in the photos, to create small "stakes" to be used on the landing zone. Slide the folded part clip through the white connector and then press the straight part of the clip into the ground. This works just like a tent stake. It works best if you can angle the straight part of clip when pressing it into the ground instead of pressing it straight in vertically.
For extra safety (and to avoid losing your paper clips), you can apply tape across the white connectors and paper clips to hold them in place. This is helpful in the event that your propellers strike the landing zone structure and pull the paper clips out. They should still be attached with the tape and will be easy to find and repair your landing zone.
Step 4: Assembling Course Pylons
The next accessory is a couple of course pylons for use with my tiny indoor mini-quad. I use this for practicing flight skills indoors. Similar to landing, your practice will be more productive if you use specific targets. These are just some simple markers to provide a course for flying laps, s-curves, turns around a point, etc.
We will build two pylons. Each pylon will consist of:
- 3 white triple-sided connectors
- 1 blue triple-sided connector
- 6 straws
Start by connecting the three white connectors with straws. These will form the triangular base of our pylon. Use the blue connector as the cap of the pylon and connect the straws from each of the base's corners. These simple small structures are perfect obstacles for my mini quad.
Step 5: Flying the Pylons
Finally, here are some action shots of my mini quad zipping between the pylons. The lightweight is perfect and helps prevent any damage the the mini-quad whenever accidental contact is made. These collapse down easily into a small space as well and can be stored with the mini-quad. A simple use of Strawbees to make indoor flying more challenging and fun.
Strawbees is very easy to use. The structures are light and easy to work with, so it is a fantastic brainstorming and prototyping tool for kids. As you can see here, there are also fun uses for adults as well.