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Earning a merit badge with a pinewood derby photo finish

2/4 store-bought bodies

As a boy scout properly acculturated into the DIY philosophy, [Adam] really wanted to get his hands on the new Inventing merit badge. The merit badge required solving a problem, so of course a pinewood derby instant replay system was the obvious solution.

After thinking through a few solution paths like a radio-controlled camera that follows the cars, [Adam] settled on a system that would replay the pinewood derby cars crossing the finish line.  [Adam]‘s father found a cheap and readily available Playstation Eye camera that can record 60fps video for this task. [Adam]  used a laser/photodiode/Arduino setup to detect when a car was crossing the finish line. A bit of Processing code supplied by his father records the relevant 60 frames of video and plays them at 5fps on a projector for the enthralled spectators.

We suspect that a similar setup could be used if [Adam]‘s den wanted to try the rain gutter regatta or oft-forgotten space derby next year. Check out [Adam]‘s instant replay system after the break, or join us in the comments for the inevitable argument over who had the best pinewood derby car.

[Read more...]

Robotics merit badge just announced

So you know how to build and program robots; what do you want, a badge? Now you can get just that, assuming you’re 11-18 years old and know all of the secret (or not so secret) handshakes, oaths, and pledges. The Boy Scouts of America recently announced the brand-new robotics merit badge. Now kids who cut their teeth building rule-breaking entries in the Pinewood Derby can have a go with robotics kits.

The requirements which must be satisfied to earn the badge start with safety and end with an exploration of the careers associated with the field. Along the way the Boy Scouts are encouraged to learn about keeping an engineering notebook during the design process, planning and programming the hardware, and attending a robotics competition like FIRST or VEX.

It’s not hard to see that this merit badge is right up our alley. We just hope it can grab some attention from the uber-popular badges like Stamp Collecting and Basketry.


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