Look out, world. Here comes a generation of wildly creative engineers.
We see Gadget Freak projects from all walks of life, but many of our most imaginative gadgets are created by very young engineers. Most of our budding engineers are moving their way through college mechatronics programs, but some were in high school when they developed and submitted their creations.
Click the image below for a slideshow of the best gadgets from some of our youngest engineers.
Gadget Freak Case #196: Mayan Water Sound Fountain
Here's an entertaining gadget from a trio of engineering students -- a waterfall over a miniature Mayan temple that responds to music. Speakers and lights are built into the Mayan pyramid, and water flows through the center of the gadget for a powerful overall effect. The device includes a pyramid plexiglass body, a water system, a control unit, speakers, and an output screen with LEDs.
Do you have a Gadget Freak project you would like the world to see? Send a brief description of your gadget and a photo to Senior Editor Rob Spiegel.
Great job by those young engineers! I would like one of the smart bikes - I always have trouble knowing what gear to shift on my ten speed when the terrain changes. I also would like that toolbox for our garage - my only request would be that they add an additional feature that solves the problem we always have - remembering to replace the tools in the proper place when the job is complete!
I wonder if they will be attempting to bring any of their designs to market. We see a lot of senior projects (hubby teaches electronics at the college level) but the logistics of bringing a prototype through the product development and marketing process seems formidable at the student level - budget being one of the limiting factors. However, these efforts are always great props for future interviews and speak very highly of the person's abilities in so many ways. Bringing these projects to completion involves multiple skill sets and is no small task! Congratulations to each one of these young people!
Nancy is certainly correct: sometimes we do things just for fun, just because we can. No, the temple waterfall does not have much practical use, but it is entertaining, with the added advantage that it is quite safe, which is a big point in some circles.
I wasn't going to say anything, but that was my immediate impression of not only the Mayan pyramid, but a few others, too – "what's the point?" Then, my mind takes me to the next-adjacent area where wonderful talent gets misdirected, and I see Hackers & Virus writers in early incubation. (shuddering)
What these young genius's need is a series of targeted goals & challenges. Maybe the DN can encourage in a more positive direction, with the creation of student stimulus program of some kind-?
I definately agree. I would really love some sort of engineering competitions easy to access. I was lucky enough to get on an FRC team, but I know that a lot of people don't have that opportunity. I think it would be especially good in middle and high schools, done in a way that the kids can learn skills without a large time commitment, and most importantly, create something of their own design for a competition. In my school (and I assume that most others) the only real engineering class in one semester, and barely goes beyond paper and masking tape.
Jim is correct in that it is far better that they develop things like this than write viruses and develop hacking skills.
But still, having some open-ended challenge, such as the development of additional means of energy harvesting, or the development of a better means of energy storage, could possibly result in some major game-changing discoveries. Something like that could benefit all of humanity for a long time, and hopefully make the inventor wealthy.
Not being a DesignNews staffer (person able to create initiatives), I was making a back-handed suggestion that DN might be the right vehicle to create a sponsored challenge. I'm encouraged that I have a little support of this opinion, because I was quite reluctant to suggest these bright minds to be at risk of going to the Dark Side.
As I hinted; I was hesitant to imply any of the projects were less than wonderful, but now see a growing concurrence. Innovation should not be 'corralled' but certainly benefits from guidance. I hope DN can get some mutual benefit -- if an initiative launches.
JimT - I completely agree with you, it always troubles me when I think about hackers or all of the energy very talented people spend on writing viruses. It reminds me of the Bruce Willis movie - Die Hard or Live Free. If someone had mentored those hackers, their intelligence perhaps could have been redirected to great things instead of a dysfunctional subculture that gloried in destructive accomplishments. While fictional, I think they really do exist at some level and have gotten lost along the way to perhaps a brilliant career that could have served to improve rather than destroy.
As far as some of the projects - I think that goes back to mentoring as well. As as a student project, one would think they would be assigned a faculty advisor to guide them in their choices. However, I think we also need to define the goal of the project. If they are learning foundational electronic theory and how to design and implement it, learning programming, what it takes to actually build a more complex project including part selection and locating, and documentation, and the ability to work together as a team, these are admirable goals and perhaps at this level, practicality of the project is not as important as enthusiasm...
JimT, when I called the Mayan pyramid fountain "completely impractical," I didn't intend to diss it, since art and archaeology are two of my interests. Much in art and entertainment is completely impractical but fulfills other human needs. But I think you made a good point about targeting engineers' creative efforts.
@ Jim, Nancy & Ann. What makes you think hackers and those that create a virus do so only because they lack mentoring? I have no supporting statistics, but I believe some people exist whose soul purpose in life is to gain notoriety. We see some doing insane stunts on You Tube, others who shoot up a school or theater and I think the virus writers are cut from the same cloth. If only we could channel their creativity to something beneficial to mankind is a pipe dream. Their goal is to not only be famous, but feared and notorious. Evil people do exist.
Tool_maker, I'm not sure which post you're replying to, but most of the discussion here about young people and mentoring has to do with engineering, not hacking. And I'm not sure why you replied to my comment here, since I didn't say anything in this comments stream about hackers.
Nancy, the effort for moving a great idea into a great product is the main rason that we don't have so very many great products. The effort is huge, in most cases.
Of course, if it were easy, then it is possible that not only would we be inundated with great products, but that we might even run out of new great ideas. Or at least experience a temporary shortage of them.
Nice point there Jim. What the unfortunate thing is that talent like this is forgotten eventually and not groomed in a proper way. These kids have potential in them all. It is the governments Job to arrange innovative competitions, so that they can filter out pool of talent and skills from kids.
Some projects were really great, specially the boosting of RC cars range and speed using audrino controller but as Jim said, I also found some of the projects pointless, they have all got brains but lack proper direction.
Also the bicycle auto gearing seems like a blessing for all those people who used to fight with gears while running it. I was one of them.
taimoortariq, of all the possible parties that could be doing things I would choose the government as a last choice, based on prior performance. Private industry can do a better job, and would indeed do a better job because in industry you must be good or go out of business. The government would be mandated to be "fair" and give those with no talent, no motivation, and no ability, the same chance as the others, which would be a waste of resources.
That is because in order to succees one must want to suceed and at least try to be a success.
William, I was actually refering to the engineering competitions for young participants who want to show case their abilities in such an event. So that their talents can be identfied. It will mean filtering of more capable and technicaly advanced individuals. In no way, they would be wasting more efforts or resources on the less capable individuals. It will just provide more oppurtunities and chances for a common person to participate in such events, regardless of his school status. He/she will be judged simply on pure talent, ambition and skills. And then they can be selected and eventually guided for future accordingly.
taimoortariq, it is still much more likely that some private company can do waht you describe better than the government. The goal is admirable and very worth the effort, it is just that private industry can probably do a better job than the government. That is not the way that it should be, but it looks like that is the way that it is, unfortunately.
So this is not intended as any criticism of your idea, just saying that the government would not likely be able to do it as well as other organizations can.
There are some very interesting ideas here. The smart recycle can, in particular, seems like a practical solution for sorting out material that can be recycled. I also like the idea of picking a song for the trash-flap dance, which should most certainly add to the amusements value of the gadget in a public environment.
Great Post Rob, Unfortunately there are very few companies that will allow time for great creativity such as this. After retiring from the appliance industry, I look back and realize that things that could have been done were never done because of time, money, and the downright "not invented here" syndrome. It's very refreshing to see these students bring forth their creative talents and hopefully, they will find a suitable outlet to market.
Eleven years ago one of those rare, brilliant moments emerged from the crack staff of Design News: Let’s put the tinkerers among our audience community to work in designing and building some truly wacky devices. And Gadget Freak was born.
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