By: Rob Adams on April 15, 2013
My son received his Arrow of Light Saturday. For those of you not familiar with Scouting, the Arrow of Light is the last achievement a cub scout receives before moving up to the boy scouts. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia watching Kyle and the other boys go through their ceremony. I still remember 5 years ago when I stood in front of him and 20 other 6 yr olds as their den leader. They were adorable as little tiger cubs.
A couple weeks ago I was helping them earn their Scientist activity pin. They were considerably less adorable these days. However I’ve had many opportunities to perfect my “Daddy voice” so I quickly got their attention. At one point I had to explain what prototyping was. That’s actually a difficult concept to get across. I ended up taking them through an example. We did some brainstorming on what to design, and no surprise they wanted to build various tanks, missiles and other weapons. But we picked one idea to expand upon, a shooter of some kind that would mount to the bottom of a chair. Then we discussed options for the system. Of course it needed to be motorized, with controls on both armrests, and a digital display for aiming. The chair needed to move and rotate and the shooter would fire something similar to Nerf bullets. The chair had built in speakers, a rumble seat, and … wait for it … a drink holder. They anticipated useability issues like wanting rechargeable batteries. And while the list of features is extensive the boys understood the difficulty in building something this complex.
At that point I could talk to them about what it would take to prototype their idea. Using an iPad for a display system, and feeding data to it from the joysticks. Using motor controllers to at least rotate the chair around (moving the chair would take something like a motorized scooter). Building frames to hold speakers and cup holders. I could point to each part of the fab lab and describe generally how I could use the equipment to mock up their design. And then I could describe how this would be a prototype and how successive iterations would go from meeting the basic functions to looking like something they could buy in a store. In describing how to build their prototype they could get the sense of how much time and effort can go into building something complex. But In the end I wanted to start building this cool motorized shooting system, and I know they did too. Who knows, summer is coming up, maybe Kyle and I will build a prototype.