The Countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area is On!


Students Accidentally Leave Science Fair Robot On Plane

The Latest in Hobby Robotics
YouTube player

VIDEO: ‘False alarm’ at Love Field after ‘robotic device’ prompts evacuation, handcuffed passengers | Crime Blog | Here’s a comment from someone on the Dallas news site that was there…

…They were flying back from kansas city where they attended an honors conference with the great plains honor council. I was at the conference, saw the device, and was on the plane with them coming in from kansas city. This experience exposed some major flaws in the handling of potentially dangerous situations by the tsa and dallas police department as communication regarding the event, instructions regarding evacuation, and our safety were not delivered in a manner that was clear, or even broadcast over an intercom until 20 minutes into the supposed evacuation which was given verbally by the officers to those at the front of the group that was waiting to regain entry to their gates after being asked to move back past gate number 8. Also being april fools day, many people were skeptical when they were told the terminal was being evacuated. Many of the tsa personnel were oblivious to the fact we had even been asked to evacuate. Thankfully it was just a case of mistaken identity, but I hope the tsa and dallas police gain some insight into how to better handle a potentially dangerous situation in the future.

I few people sent in this story, it appears the TSA had the kids back on the plane within the hour and they were able to go home on the flight. As millions of makers out there build things and ultimately travel with them from time to time, this is a good reminder on how fast and scary things can get. I think it’s our job as makers to educate the TSA and the government that the maker movement is huge – we respect precautions, we also know well-trained TSA staff usually do not have any problems with electronics & science projects. Leaving a robot on a plane is different of course, and may cause all sorts of problems, it looks like it could have been worse. I did not know the policy is to handcuff people if they’re just being asked questions.

If you’re wondering what the official policy of the TSA is with maker-made electronics, here’s a quote from them:

“We’re not implying that you cannot travel with these types of items, we’re just pointing out that they could be of concern, or possibly even hold you up a little bit. Listen, we think these things are cool too, but this is just a friendly “heads up” and not a threat.” – Bob (TSA) EoS Blog Team

Maker Faire is coming up, if you’re traveling on planes to the event, keep all this in mind. I realize just by posting this it will cause some “passionate” debate – but I think there’s value in talking about this so we can all work together and travel without too many problems.

If any of the students read MAKE please feel free to post up in the comments.

20 thoughts on “Students Accidentally Leave Science Fair Robot On Plane

  1. rocketguy1701 says:

    In a practical-dealing-with-reality-mode, the collaborative approach makes sense. And I would encourage folks to do so, since it generally leads to less intrusion/issues.

    However, at the same time, I think it’s our duty as Americans to take back our civil rights *in an effective manner*. The 4th amendment of the constitution has been shredded, and to me this is unacceptable.

    But I’m not going to make an issue of it in the airport security line, not because I shouldn’t (ethically, I should be civilly disobedient as an American patriot) but because it will not make headway on the underlying issue. Instead, I’ll be making an issue of it via letters to the editor and at the ballot box, and exercising what 1st Amendment rights I still have.

    I might tape a copy of the 4th amendment to my luggage though, as a non-confrontational protest. Somebody made stickers IIRC.

    “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    -Benjamin Franklin

    1. phlamingo (@phlamingo) says:

      Honestly, I get tired of seeing this quote in this debate. Isn’t trading some liberty for some security the very definition of civilization? The line between essential and non-essential liberties is very much a live debate.

      1. Len says:

        Actually, civilization is a product of liberty, abandoning liberty means returning to barbarism. Mises and Rothbard have written extensively on this subject. See here:

      2. rocketguy1701 says:

        No, Civilization is a fine and wonderful thing, and while it does constrain our behavior (don’t kill your neighbor), it does not follow that liberty has to be curtailed for security, or that security is *actually* improved by such curtailments. The axiom that liberty and security are actually tradable is fallacious, and is the result of faulty thinking. It’s not zero sum.

  2. mexoplex says:

    its only funny because it wasnt meant to harm anybody. with that said: LLLLLMMMMMAAAAOOOOO!

  3. Heidi Black says:

    Each year I chaperone the 10 or so amazing students from Santa Clara County that have earned a spot at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. One year a student called me about 2 weeks before the flight and said, “I think I may have a problem-my project could be mistaken for a pipe bomb.” Thus began a series of completely useless phone calls trying to find out if there was some method of pre-clearance of items that seemed potentially hazardous. The only response I got was “if it isn’t on our list you’ll just have to take your chances with the individual TSA agent upon screening.” We ended up sending one in the checked luggage, mailing one, and bringing one on board, which made it through with the proper introduction of our destination. I would have felt both more “protected” and relaxed about reaching our destination with the project in hand if some system were in place to deal with items “not on the list”.

  4. F! says:

    TSA makes nobody safer. TSA has never prevented a terror attack. TSA makes travel more difficult for law-abiding citizens. TSA violates civil rights thousands of times daily.

    Eliminate the TSA. We don’t need them.

  5. Burnin' Bush says:

    I’d like to see LOTS of people take their electronic and other “scary looking” projects thru in carry on, and get caught!, so as to draw attention to the problem. Just make sure that (1) your project very very very definitely cannot be construed as dangerous in any way, (2) you have plenty of time or even an extra day in case you are delayed, (3) if the worst happens and your project is confiscated you have a backup plan, and (4) be very courteous, dress well, act responsibly the whole time! A whole bunch of situations like this might force media coverage and raise public awareness. And if you’ve got the time and backup, what fun it could be! Bring a friend and some sandwiches!

  6. Daniel says:

    I am in a unique position to see on both sides. I have been an avid maker and inventor my whole life ANDI worked for TSA for almost 7 years before moving on. From a maker point of view I see my robots, Altoids amps, and all my other projects as science and fun. But what most people don’t see is that “harmless” Altoids amp looks exactly like a component of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). So everyone can see what I mean I’m posting a link to show Xray images at the bottom of my post. I understand it’s a hassle and have gone through it myself with my projects. However if an agent saw a homemade project and just assumed it wasn’t dangerous and it turned out to be an IED everyone would be in an uproar because TSA overlooked a threat. Myself and the agents I worked with would rather err on the side of caution then let something slip by resulting in a plane being blown out of the sky. We always said to each other “If you don’t know what an item is and your family was on that plane would you let go by without checking it out?”

  7. njmalhq says:

    All ye politically inert do-gooder tool wielders. A new maker challenge for you. Make us a new US. One that isn’t afraid of its own shadows. Right after you are done playing with your toys. Don’t take too long though. Bush 8 + Obama 4, doesn’t look like the OEM is about to include this crucial feature in its product any time soon.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

current: @adafruit - previous: MAKE, popular science, hackaday, engadget, fallon, braincraft ... howtoons, 2600...

View more articles by Phillip Torrone
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 30% off early bird ticket sales ends August 31st, 2023!

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Prices Increase in....