Texas Instruments Intern Design Contest Roundup – 2013

With the 2013 TI Intern Design Contest coming to a close, I felt it would be helpful to do a quick roundup of my favorite project entries. This year there were two categories for the design competition, with two awards for each category.

The first category was focused on creating an add-on board for the TI LaunchPad series. This includes the MSP430, TIVA-C, and C2000 platforms. The second category included entries focused on creating an add-on board for the BeagleBone Black.

While there were 50 teams (1-4 people) that originally committed to the contest, it looks like only 40% or so managed to complete their designs and submit a project. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting submissions.

LaunchPad Booster Packs

For the first category, we’ll take a look at the teams that submitted designs based on the LaunchPad platform. There were 5 or 6 submissions in this category and out of those submissions, I found three of them to be pretty interesting.

FlexPack

First up is the TI FlexPack. This is an EMG muscle sensor add-on that enables developers to interpret muscle voltages for interaction with their own applications.

TI FlexPack

TI FlexPack finished result

Overall this looks like an excellent project and it seems like they pulled it off as they had planned. To read more about this project, visit the project page.

EP-Light Visible Light Communication

I don’t have a lot of words for this one because honestly I can’t really do it justice. The project uses light to communicate between boards. Aside from how cool this is, it also has several practical applications and I hope to see their design used in some interesting areas.

EP-Light

The EP-Light BoosterPack for LaunchPad

This is another project that seems to have been executed as planned, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the winner’s circle for best technical design. To learn more about the EP-Light, check out the homepage.

FlashBot

The final project for the LaunchPad entries is the FlashBot. This is a really cool build that enables a robot to be controlled by moving a flashlight around in front of it. The video shows it working fairly well.

FlashBot and its design team

The only caveat I see with their entry is that it isn’t strictly an “add-on” for the LaunchPad, it is more of a really cool use for the LaunchPad. I can see them being penalized for that technicality, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one take “People’s Choice.”

To learn more about the FlashBot and see it in action head over to their homepage.

BeagleBone Black Capes

Next up we have the BeagleBone Black submissions, while initial interest was high in this category it looks like only 6 teams managed to submit a finished product. I think that four of them are particularly interesting.

SensorCape for BeagleBone Black

First up on the list is my own design. The SensorCape adds many different sensors to the BeagleBone to allow you to easily prototype new designs or sensor based products. I am excited about the SensorCape. It clearly fills a niche in the BeagleBone community and I hope it will spur some new designs based around the BeagleBone Black.

Top View of a Bare SensorCape for BeagleBone Black

Top view of the bare SensorCape

I was happy with the final results from testing and with the exception of the Light sensor (which I wasn’t able to test) and the Humidity sensor (which won’t be on the final revision), everything is tested and confirmed working.

I hope to see the SensorCape take “Best technical design” but am certainly up against some challenging submissions. To learn more about the SensorCape and see it working you can visit the project page.

BeagleBone Gaming Cape

Next on the list is the BeagleBone Gaming Cape from Max, this is a very cool entry that turns the BeagleBone into a handheld gaming emulator. Some of the systems it supports are NES, GameBoy, and Sega, as well as others.

His idea seems to be mostly based on his team’s entry from last year when they created a similar system for the MSP430, but this year’s entry is clearly more refined, adds some extra features, and is overall very well executed.

The BeagleBone Gaming Cape

This is excellent design work and a very impressive project, after receiving some coverage from Hack-a-Day (and now MAKE as well), I fully expect this entry to take the “People’s choice” award. If you want to read more about the Gaming Cape then you can visit the home page here.

RFID Adaptor Cape

For this entry, we have a cape that adds RFID/NFC functionality to the BeagleBone. This is a great idea and is very relevant to one of the projects that I want to work on after I finish the SensorCape. I plan to use their reference designs when I start on my own project.

RFID Adaptor Cape

From a design standpoint I would have liked to have seen it all integrated on a single board or at the very least rotate the connectors 180 degrees so that the extra board doesn’t hang off the edge of the BeagleBone.

I don’t think this is quite as design intensive as the other entries, but it is an interesting project anyways. Visit the project page here.

Beagle-Solar-A-Car

The Beagle-Solar-A-Car is cape for the BeagleBone to create a autonomous solar powered car. It seems to be a well designed add-on and though I couldn’t find a video of it working, the Beagle-Solar-A-Car looks fairly promising.

Final product from the Beagle-A-Solar-Car project

This design may not be quite as easy on the eyes as the others but it is interesting anyhow and could spur some innovation for R/C and solar projects based around the BeagleBone Black. To see their finished results, visit the project page.

The End

That’s it for this year, voting for these projects end on August 1 and winners will be announced on August 2. While I think this list covers the most interesting and technically complete projects submitted this year, if you would like to view a full list of the entries then you can view them at the wiki page.

I think projects like these show that TI is recruiting bright and capable young engineers from different backgrounds and this indicates a promising future for the company if they retain this talent. Best of luck to all the entries.

What project did you enjoy the most? Discuss in the comments.

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