ST has announced the three winners of the first phase of the STM32 Design Challenge.
In compliance with the contest rules, these winners were selected from each of the three memory size categories in the contest, based on the originality of the entry application. The detailed entry design was not evaluated at this phase.
For convenience, I categorize the entries by memory allocation as “small” (up to 32 KB), “medium” (32 KB to 256 KB) and “large” (256 KB to 1 MB). It is important for me to define these memory sizes, because in design contest that I managed years ago, 32 KB was considered “large.” Times have changed.
Small category winner
The “small” memory design Phase I winner is Floating Hands Clock by Gemarastem.
This designer notes that he or she builds things, breaks things, hacks things, and fixes things. I suspect that this is true. The submitted design is not the first MCU controlled clock design that I have seen in a technical contest, but it is indeed different from the others, that usually utilized LEDs. I think the mechanical “floating hands” in this clock application will make for an interesting – if somewhat nerdy – desktop time display. I am interested to see how this design will differentiate the hour hand from the minute hand as the electric field interacts with the magnets in the hands. In any case, this clock will make an interesting desktop conversation piece.
Medium category winner
The “medium” memory design Phase I winner is Navicane - Talking Navigation Cane for the Blind by txnghia.
As expected, this application is more complex than the “small” memory design application. The entry also addresses the issue of technology assisting the handicapped, which is always worthwhile. I quickly “Googled” the word “Navicane” and I could not find anyone using it in a medical application. Txnghia should evaluate trademarking this word.
Navigation canes for the blind are not new. I am the US Liaison Office Director for the T-Engine Forum (a non-profit technology consortium based in Tokyo - http://www.t-engine.org/). The T-Engine Forum has also developed a navigation cane for the blind, but it is different in concept from the txnghia entry. The TEF navigation cane depends upon embedded RFID tags in the street and sidewalk to advise the blind person on his or her location, while txnghia depends on GPS technology to do this. The txnghia design should work everywhere, while the TEF design – while providing the blind person with a lot more immediate area information and direction – requires site preparation. The Navicane is also a very ambitious design and offers the user a great deal of functionality.
Large category winner
Finally, as expected, the “large” memory design Phase I winner, Perpetual UAV, is probably the most complex of the three winning designs.
The designer, madsciencetist, is a graduate student at Harvard studying robotics. Madsciencetist’s design controls the propeller and control surfaces of an unmanned aerial vehicle to provide the world with an “autonomous UAV that never needs to land”. This is certainly a worthwhile and innovative application, but I suspect that there are challenges in addition to programming the propeller and control surfaces to maximize the lifting capabilities of the air currents.
I am not an aeronautical engineer or robotics expert, but such an UAV would require solar panels, electronics and an electric engine that is extremely lightweight and extremely high-functioning. I am not sure that all this technology is in existence yet. We have seen planes such as the US military’s “Reaper” utilize UAV technology, and the Virgin GlobalFlyer fly over 25,000 miles in about 70 hours on one tank of gas.
Even so, “perpetual” flight for an UAV still has many challenges.
Click on this link to the ongoing STM32 Design Challenge and rate these designs yourself.