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    By Jim Trudeau

     

    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!