ABOUT THIS PROJECT
Tell us briefly about your project. Is it a work of art or does it serve another
The Marble Maze is an interactive demonstration used at academic and engineering events to generate interest in robotics. It's purpose is mostly to get kids excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) by showing them what is possible when they learn how to apply their brains and imagination to create new things.
When did you start working on this project and how long did it take you to complete?
I began work on this project in 2009 and had a functioning first prototype ready in October of that year. Since then I've continued to expand on the maze adding the gumball dispenser, robotic arm, LCD panel, and more.
What was your goal in building this project?
To create an interactive exhibit for kids that shows what is possible with automation and hobby robotics.
Does your project help to solve a problem? If so what problem?
The problem was how to capture the interest of younger kids at academic and engineering events intended to get them excited about learning and STEM topics. I've attended numerous academic and robotics events and found that most kids (especially younger ones) only care about what you have to show them when they can play with it themselves. The Marble Maze serves this purpose by offering a hands-on activity. When you add a candy prize to this equation you're left with a device that's impossible for kids to ignore.
What makes your idea unique?
While the marble maze is itself a very old game, the addition of servo control and an accelerometer input puts a high-tech twist on this classic challenge.
In what capacity are you using bearings and what type of bearings?
Boca flanged bearings are used in the rotating axis of the marble maze platform. The bearings provide smooth low-resistance rotation that makes the marble maze easy to control and very precise.
What is the most important thing you want people to know about your project?
The Marble Maze is intended to represent the excitement and wonder that is possible when creativity and technology meet. All of the skill sets required to create a device like this such as electronics, mechanical design, programming, and fabrication skills are not reserved for only those with advanced degrees, extensive on-the-job training, or access to cutting-edge resources. All you need is your curiosity and a desire to learn. Maybe start with a local robotics club, at the library, an after-school activity, or with learning kits available online. When you feed your mind new ideas and knowledge the possibilities are endless!
How will you use the $10,000 prize?
To help fund community robotics projects and events that show students the exciting world of robotics and engineering. Our goal is to ensure that the future work force will include plenty of capable engineers, scientists, and innovators that can solve our world's issues and guarantee the success of industries critical to supporting a higher quality of living for everyone.