Earlier this year at the Freescale Technology Forum we ran a very successful Make It Challenge on site in San Antonio, Texas. Our customers showed remarkable ingenuity using a variety of Freescale platforms and partner enablement technologies to produce marvelous, sometimes whimsical, and always innovative creations.
That led directly to a desire to expand this to people who could not be physically present, hence the Make It Challenge: Kinetis MCUs Americas. I wrote about that here when we announced the contest, which is now well along. Participants had the opportunity to take their design to the next level utilizing our innovative and award-winning modular development platform, the Freescale Tower System. They could choose any Kinetis (ARM Cortex-M4) processor, a highly-scalable and capable family. The work they did shows it!
The ten semifinalists were selected. Each created a prototype and submitted a video displayed at the ARM TechCon 2011 in Santa Clara CA. Per the rules, attendees at the event voted on the semi-finalist submissions to select three finalists.
Before we get to the finalists, however, I just want to mention how much fun contests like this are, not to mention valuable. Prize money fosters phenomenal innovation. Look no further than the Ansari X Prize that led to SpaceShipOne. For the Make It Challenge we may be three orders of magnitude down from that in terms of prize money, but the engineering spirit is absolutely the same, and so is the desire to achieve!
Of course there is the usual platitude that “everyone is a winner.” Well, in this case it’s true. Everyone on this list is a winner, as the semifinalists each received $1,000 (US) for getting this far. So kudos all around. But let’s go a bit beyond that. This stuff is just way too cool and fun to go without mention. So, without further ado, we have in no particular order:
- Matti Kariluoma: A thermostat and home energy advisor (demo video)
- Carlos Cifuentes: Sensor-based biomechanical kinematics monitoring system for physical rehabilitation (demo video)
- Eli Hughes: An electric guitar pick guard with touch sensors to control tone, volume, and sound program (demo video)
- Alex Chen: Freehand gesture (rather than joystick) control of a mobile robotics platform (demo video)
- Bradley Hanken: Fight back against R/C helicopters in the comfort and safety of your own home (demo video)
- Rajesh Chittiappa: A Wi-Fi network of microclimate sensors for fine-grain data from a local environment (demo video)
- Steven Lindholm: A low-power inertial navigation system for autonomous robotic vehicles (demo video)
Climatology, gaming, musical instruments, kinematics, navigation, wireless remote systems… my many hats are off to everyone involved, including our Challenge partners: CMX Systems, FreeRTOS, GainSpan, IAR Systems, Keil Tools by ARM, Micrium, and Segger. Combine that ecosystem with Freescale’s enablement technology: the Tower System, Processor Expert Software, CodeWarrior tools, MQX RTOS, and the plethora of example code available on the web, and you have a rich playground for experimentation and development. The possibilities are limitless. What the semifinalists did is proof positive.
I have to say, though, one of my favorite entries (just showing some personal bias here) is the interactive guitar pick guard. Living and working in Austin TX has the side benefit of being in the Live Music Capital of the World. We aren’t kidding! With shows like Austin City Limits and events like South by Southwest, to famous performers like Willie Nelson and other unbelievable local talent, I can’t begin to tell you how rich the music world is here in Austin. It covers the gamut of every musical style, so whatever you like, we’ve got it, and it is world class. Add in the rich community of techno-geeks here in the “Silicon Hills,” many of whom are musicians, and you end up with things like electronic pick guards. Innovation happens at the edges, and Freescale is happy to help.
So let’s return to “pure” technology. As noted above, the votes are in. Congratulations, again in no particular order, to the three finalists in the Make It Challenge.
Jorge Rodriguez and Gabriel Pinzon: A “Swiss Army Knife” of portable utilities for visually impaired individuals, including a notepad, a scan-to-Braille utility, twitter communication, and software so that a blind person can be assisted by those with no Braille experience.
Charles Fricker and Earl Foster: An automobile security system with Ethernet camera that “phones home” with pictures. Using an accelerometer, the system detects when the vehicle is being tampered with. The camera pans around the car and stores audio and video on an SD card. It sends the file to a server, and sends a text message to the owner identifying the data file to review.
Matthew Pratt: A prototype beer brewing system that automates the sweet wort production process. With this system the user downloads a recipe via the network to the system, adds the ingredients, malt and hops, and runs. Mmmmmmm, beer.
Each of the finalists travels to Freescale headquarters in Austin, Texas, where final judging will occur the week of Nov 14, 2011 to determine 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Good luck! And with any luck, I’ll get to shake some hands. Maybe they can take in some good music while they’re here!