Boy Scout Adam Cole of Orlando, FL, used a PS3 Eye cam, laser pointer, Arduino, and a Processing sketch to create an instant replay system for pinewood derby races, to fulfill a requirement for his Inventing Merit Badge.
Adam has been working on his Inventing Merit Badge since last summer. We discussed potential “problems” and “solutions” for months. After the harsh realization that he wasn’t going to invent a flying car, or a robot to clean his room, he focused a bit more on things within reach. One problem kept resurfacing – at our annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, there are so many Cub Scouts around the track, the 75+ parents in attendance can’t see the track. Given that it takes 2+ hours for a race, things get boring pretty fast for the adults, Cub Scouts, and siblings that can’t see the racing action.
Adam decided this was a problem worth solving. He knew there were some existing systems out there, but none were designed specifically to work with our track. We discussed that inventing doesn’t mean you have to build something completely new – that taking an existing concept, but tailoring it for your specific problem was still a worthy challenge.
You really have to read the entire blog post. The work Adam did (with some Processing help from dad Ian) was simply amazing. He even mocked up the system with the help of Lego bricks to help visualize the solution.