A FLL Alumni’s continued work on a Smart Move Project wins big at Maker Faire!

Every year, staff of MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire award “Editor’s Choice” Ribbons to makers that have demonstrated great creativity, ingenuity and innovation for their Maker Faire project. This year, at the 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire, FLL alumni Violet Replicon was awarded a first place Blue Ribbon for a Magnetic Levitating Vehicle (maglev).

Violet’s project started out as the Smart Move Research Project of her FLL team back in 2009. That season, teams were tasked with identifying a transportation problem and Violet’s team – Antipodes – focused on creating a working model of a maglev.

The Antipodes coach, Ken Filar, explains:
Their idea all along was not to necessarily create a game-changing innovation (in a few months) that would suddenly make maglevs economically viable.  Instead, their idea was to create an educational tool to inspire a future generation of engineers (their FLL peers) to work on an increasingly important problem with ever advancing technologies at their disposal.

Emma, Kjersti and Violet of FLL Team Antipodes – at the 2009 NorCal FLL Championship. (photo – K.Filar)

“Their first model merely levitated, but their second model included a first attempt at electromagnetic propulsion.  More than anything, it revealed how difficult it was to design a linear motor without any experience.
They finished their final track and motor design in time to take it to the FLL Open European Championships  in Istanbul, Turkey, but did not have enough time to develop a complex control system.  Instead, they built a push-button remote that switched the electromagnets in their motor, moving the vehicle down the track one magnet at a time.”

After FLL, the Antipodes stayed together as a team in FIRST Tech Challenge. It was at the 2011 FTC World Championships, where Dean Kamen challenged the FIRST students to change the world, not some day, but then, that Team Antipodes took note. They decided that the most promising way to accept Dean Kamen’s challenge was to continue to work on their maglev design.

Violet at the 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire (photo- K.Filar)
Violet explains the maglev to a Maker Faire attendee. (photo- K.Filar)

During summer vacation, Violet took the project and worked on building a 3-phase Arduino-based motor driver with a remote control.  It drove like the team had always imagined and she posted the information on their website.  Engineers from around the world began contacting the team for help in building their own small scale systems – the first was built in Venezuela.  After dealing with an engineering graduate student in Ireland trying to replicate the model for his thesis project, Violet realized they needed a simpler motor driver for people to replicate. Using the skills she acquired taking a C++ class the previous summer, Violet designed and built a new Arduino based unit, finishing two days before Maker Faire.  This new driver and remote was not only simpler but it also included automatic braking and PID speed control.

So, what are Violet’s plans for the future?

“I am planning on studying Astrophysics and Computer Science at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. FIRST LEGO League gave me my first taste of what programming is like and got me interested in (STEM), and  inspired me to pursue this field.

Smart move for one smart FLL alumna!

Check out Antipode’s YouTube video describing their maglev here: http://youtu.be/7xX5nZ_MUGs