Another year of Design Challenges has passed! We ran our very first in 2012, have since run more than 25, and the community never fails to deliver new and amazing projects. This year we saw ridiculously over-engineered doorbells, an upgraded exercise machine, a Bluetooth skeleton key, and much, much more. Check out some of our favorites, and then cast your vote for the best Design Challenge project of 2018!
For our Bluetooth Unleashed challenge, mad scientist Shabaz created one of the most overpowered and well-engineered doorbells in the history of mankind. It's a doorbell so advanced it could conceivably become Skynet at some point and subjugate the human race. I, for one, welcome our new doorbell overlords.
Using the Texas Instruments CC2640R2 launchpad, custom PCBs, and other goodies, Shabaz's creation still appears to be evolving, according to this blog post, so who knows what we're in for next?
The word "smart" gets thrown around a lot when new tech gets added to appliances; James O'Gorman built a truly smart 40" range hood for our Pi Chef challenge. He included custom sheet metal, 3D printed enclosures, thermal imaging courtesy of the Panasonic Grid Eye, and custom PCBs for the specially made sensor array enclosure to protect the electronics.
And, on top of all that hardware, was an interactive app that controls the fans, and a touchscreen display on the range hood for interacting with it, featuring the ever popular "Summon Husband" button. The judges were impressed with the array of skills James exhibited, from design, coding, NodeRed, Fabrication, 3D printing, and PCB design. James also documented his fails as well as his victories, and gave us amazing insights into the design and build process.
Stirling engines: old technology (invented in 1816!), often seen as promising (in 1986 made a small radio-controlled plane stay airborne for upwards of six minutes!), but never practical enough to be seen commonly in consumer products. Design challenge veteran Douglas Wong grabbed our eye with this somewhat different approach to the Bluetooth Unleashed challenge: investigating the inner workings of this existing heat engine type, using the PSoC6 Pioneer kit, micro:bit, and more.
It was a challenging build, but Douglas accomplished a great deal. The project evolved in interesting ways over the course of the challenge, and exposed the Stirling engine concept to the community where there hadn't been much discussion of it previously.
Milos Rasic won our Design for a Cause challenge, sponsored by Arduino, where our contestants created devices to help those living with physical or mental impairments. Milos created a device that helps users with sight issues or low dexterity to open locked doors. The prototype scans RFID tags next to or on locks, and then presents the user with the right key using added fingerprint recognition technology. It's a well functioning prototype that Milos plans to improve, as he wants to streamline its design and make it more compact, as well as potentially add a mechanical lock that can prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to the keys.
When you make the effort to exercise, isn't it nice to have some feedback about how much work you've actually done in your quest to stay healthy? I think Yuri Tikhonov agrees, since he upgraded his exercise machine with the NXP for Bluetooth Unleashed. His blogs, written in a playful point of view, walk through his experiments in adding sensors, an app, electricity generation, and phone chargers to his bike.
Yuri included all his mathematical formulas and process details, wrapping up his blogs with a 3rd person story recounting the tale of his heroic build. His project is working and added some unexpected features.