The Viper 2.0

viper with isaac clark

The Viper was one of the most popular projects at Maker Faire Bay Area last year, blowing minds, creating smiles, and eliciting screams of excitement. Isaac Clarke from Dead Space even approves (rad handmade costume by Shawn Thorsson pictured above). The Viper is a full-motion Battlestar Galactica-themed flight simulator built into the fuselage of a Piper PA-28 plane, complete with 360-degree rotation on both the pitch and roll axes, as well as a fully immersive flying environment inside. The most amazing part is that The Viper was made by a team of five high school students, guided by their mentors, as part of the Young Makers program. The Viper is coming back to Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend, May 18 and 19, and it promises to be even more impressive.

Project mentor Tony DeRose sent us this update:

In last year’s version the game running in the cabin was an open source simulator called FlightGear. The experience in the cabin was a terrestrial flight, taking off from virtual SFO. The flight dynamics were that of a Boeing 777, so the virtual plane wasn’t very maneuverable. Flying over San Francisco in a 777 wasn’t consistent with the Battlestar Galactica theming.

In this year’s version the pilot is completely immersed in the Battlestar Galactica universe. The game running in the cabin this year is Diaspora, a freeware Battlestar Galactica-themed game that the team has modified to drive the motion platform. The pilot flies a space mission to save the Theseus, a Battlestar similar in design to Galactica. The Viper 2.0 is equipped with lots of weapons to shoot down Cylon raiders, and is capable of very high performance acrobatics. Although we can’t let the public fly The Viper at Maker Faire, we are setting up a squadron of laptops for the public to fly against our pilots in a multi-player dog fight.

Other elements we’ve added are Arduino-controlled EL wire in the cabin, an alarm system that the operator on the ground can use to throw “curve balls” (simulating unexpected equipment failure that the pilot has to recover from), and tons of additional sound and lighting effects.

Check out the video teaser the team created:

YouTube player

viper at mfba12

viper at mfba12 ribbons

Pictured below is this year’s team. Clockwise starting on the left is John Boyer, Sam Frank, Tony DeRose (mentor), Laurent Hery (in the cabin), Alex Jacobson, and Joseph DeRose. Not pictured are mentors David Jacobson, Mark Boyer, Jessica Cole, and Paul Novak.
viper work

We’re really excited to check out the newest iteration of The Viper this weekend, May 18 and 19, at Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo. For all the information you need to come out and join us, head to the Maker Faire site. See you there!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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