SCHAEFFLER -Young Engineer creates a Big Bang
(ENP Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ENP Newswire - 16 August 2013
Release date- 15082013 - Alan Egan, formerly a sixth form student at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Kings Heath, Birmingham, and now at the University of Cambridge, has won the Young Engineers' Duke of York Award (Rose Bowl) for 'Creative Use of Technology'.
Alan received the Award at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair at London's ExCeL conference centre on 15th March 2013. Schaeffler UK is a sponsor of Young Engineers. Karen Preston, Marketing Services Manager at Schaeffler, attended the awards ceremony and presented the award to Alan.
The aim of Alan's project, entitled 'Using colour to build better user interfaces', was to design and build a colour-based user interface that could be connected to a variety of professional electronic devices such as audio, video and lighting equipment, which would help simplify the whole user interface experience for novice users.
The project involved a wide range of technical disciplines: complex circuit design; custom-designed PCBs; the use of LEDs to generate changeable colour components; mechanical design of the casing; manual soldering of electronic components to PCBs (printed circuit boards); software; manufacturing of a 3D printed frame; and designing the necessary interfacing to other electronic devices.
As Alan commented: 'I came up with the idea of using colours as a key paradigm in the interface, primarily because the price of large graphical LCD displays was prohibitively expensive at the time. I've always been very interested in electronics and wanted to see if I could build something that was efficient and cost effective but also easy to use.'
Alan's user interface consists of a laser cut front panel that pushes onto a 3D printed frame, onto which everything else is mounted. The front panel contains a small screen, a number of general-purpose buttons and some sliders (one on each side of the device), all of which can be made to light up any colour.
The core part of the user interface comprises two large grids of 20 buttons. Each of these buttons can be programmed to light up any colour. Custom designed PCBs sit behind each half of the panel with LEDs and touch sensors mounted to these for each button of the grid, the buttons by the display, and the sliders. These boards are designed to relay information to and from a more powerful controller: turning on and off the LEDs as required (and changing their colour), as well as informing the controller as to the status of touches on the buttons or sliders.
'My aim was that by using colours, it would be easier for novices to pick up on how to use the system, which is particularly important in the case of school video or lighting desks or a small theatre. Also, by using LEDs for the majority of the interface instead of a large LCD screen, a great deal of cost is removed while maintaining flexibility.'
As Alan concluded: 'Overall, I'd have to say the project was very successful. Not only did I have a fantastic time working on the project and learnt a huge amount of new skills in a wide variety of disciplines, but I also managed to produce a device that was not only functional but useful, and more expandable than I'd previously imagined.'
Rod Edwards, Chief Executive of the Young Engineers charity, says: 'We truly value the support of Schaeffler UK, as without such support, we would not be able to function. We do not receive any direct Government funding and yet the UK is facing a massive shortfall in engineers. Alan is a very worthy winner of this year's prize and is an excellent example of the type of young person who is needed to drive the UK economy forward.'
Schaeffler (UK) Ltd is a sponsor of Young Engineers and an active member of EESW.
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