Thanks to everyone who entered the MAKE/Design News Gadget Freak Design Contest sponsored by Alibre, Allied Electronics, and Texas Instruments. We had lots of great entries and were really splitting hairs among the top five or so, but after careful consideration we are now pleased to announce the winners:

Grand Prize: Infrared seeking sentinel

IR Sentinel.jpg

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Rick Prescott outfitted a Nerf® Vulcan EBF-25TM foam dart shooting machinegun with an array of Devantech TPA81 thermopile sensors, all controlled by an ATmega168, to create this wicked Aliens-style heat-tracking autocannon:

An idea sparked in my mind one day while walking the toy gun isle in a store with my kid and later that evening learning of the workings of a thermopile array while surfing the internet. The result is this infrared seeking sentinel which joins a realistically priced infrared sensor to a realistically operatable Nerf® machine gun to create a slightly less deadly yet still highly deterring automated machine. Personally I have grand plans to deploy the infrared seeking sentinel facing the entrance of my work cubical in order to speed interaction with less desirable visitors.

Rick has won $1,000 and a storefront in Makers Market with 6 months of free service. Congratulations!

Second Prize: GPS bus notifier

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University of Florida student Miles Moody used a WizNet Ethernet module wed to an Arduino Nano to scrape and parse HTML from a local web service that reports the real-time GPS coordinates of the bus that takes him to school every day:

The program compares the location to where my apartment is located and depending on where it/they are, the device will light up one of three LEDs: red if no bus is close, yellow if a bus is somewhat close, and green if the bus is coming and I need to hightail it out of my apt. For the green case, a piezo buzzer also sounds so I dont have to be looking at the device all the time. It also twitters the current location of the busses every five minutes. This allows me to check via text message the bus locations when I am on campus.

Miles has won $500! Congratulations!

Third Prize: Not lazy Susan

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MAKE buddy, occasional guest author, and all-around wondergal Dustyn Roberts built a custom board and enclosure from scratch to create this hands-free Lazy Susan for the dinner table that rotates with just a wave of the hand:

In this project, we’ll use at lazy Susan (also called a turntable or thrust bearing) to create a rotating platform. To make things interesting, we’ll use an infrared LED and phototransistor to make the table rotate with just a wave of your hand. You can use this as a table to magically serve food to dinner guests, or to make a fun interactive centerpiece for the next wedding you plan.

Dustyn will receive one of two $100 gift certificates redeemable at the Maker Shed. Congratulations, Dustyn!

Third Prize: Magic 8 ball mod


Mariano Alvira replaced the message die in a standard “Magic 8-Ball” toy with a blue OLED display that can be wirelessly programmed from outside the ball:

The steps outlined here will show you how to modify a standard Magic 8 Ball to replace the normal message icosahedron with a OLED screen, and how to add wireless microcontroller, and accelerometer. The screen is submersed in the normal Magic 8 Ball goo so that all the original aesthetics are preserved. The messages can be reprogrammed wirelessly without having to open the 8 Ball. The accelerometer detects when the 8 Ball is in use (e.g. tipped from resting to looking through the Magic Hole) and signals the microcontroller to turn on screen and fade in the messages.

Mariano, as our other third-place winner, will receive one of two $100 Maker Shed gift certificates! Congratulations, Mariano!

Thanks again to everyone who entered!