Digital Design Lab: High-School Inventor’s Paradise

Dustin Diep and Ahmed Gedi from Franklin HS, holding their F.A.F.

Here's Dustin (left) and Ahmed (right), holding their F.A.F.


regon MESA’s program called Digital Design Lab (D2L) allows young inventors to design and create their own projects, from start to finish, over the course of six weekend sessions. We had a chance to speak with two of those inventors, Dustin Diep and Ahmed Gedi from Franklin High School, and take a look at what they call the “Friggin’ Awesome Fedora.” The F.A.F. plays mp3 music and is controlled by buttons placed on the brim.

When they demonstrated it to GetReal, they played My Generation, by The Who. We recommend clicking that link and listening, while you read the rest of our exclusive story.

The F.A.F. uses the LilyPad, a special Arduino board specialized for crafts with fabric, and a couple other parts to allow the wearer to play music out of speakers, which they embedded into the crown of the fedora. They managed to get this up and running in just five weekend sessions at D2L, with only minimal independent work between sessions. See the pictures for yourself:

The FAF speakers and control buttons

The F.A.F. uses these four buttons to play music out of its green speakers. Good sound

The LilyPad Arduino exposed.

The LilyPad Arduino board, usually hidden behind the striped band, controls the F.A.F. music-playing systems.

View of the inside of the FAF; you can see the mp3-controller board, and some wires.

The built-in mp3-controller board, hidden inside the hat, sends audio signals to the speakers.

Image of the tiny battery used to power the FAF

Here's the tiny battery, which powers the F.A.F. To compare, notice the edge of the LilyPad board, at the bottom of the image.

Image of Dustin wearing the FAF

Dustin, who wore another fedora while he worked on the Friggin' Awesome Fedora, donated this one to the project. Here, he wears it for old time's sake.

Dustin and Ahmed, both proud to be Portlanders, got the idea when they first thought to make a glove-phone—a glove with speaker and microphone, which would answer when you made the “call me” hand gesture and held it to your head.

After some research, where they discovered how complex it would be to do—working with bluetooth and analog signals with Arduino gets pretty messy—Dustin and Ahmed decided to refine their idea to something that could fit into the remaining five sessions.

Image of Ahmed wearing the FAF

Ahmed, a classy young gent, demonstrates how one can tip the brim politely, while simultaneously activating the F.A.F.

Dustin and Ahmed have both worked on some interesting projects in the past. Dustin contributed to the FHS App project, an open-source web app which lets Franklin HS students follow relevant notifications.

The code is going to be used for a Franklin/Wilson community safety app, so residents can follow police notifications and the like (open-source is great!).

And Ahmed has been featured on D2L YouTube videos in the past, with a Simon Says game for Arduino. Both are hardworking and bright high-school students.

These two high school sophomores are already well on their way to building great portfolios of work they’ve done—just because they decided to turn one of their ideas into a reality.

See, every time you have an idea for an invention, you’ve got the potential to be an engineer. Some people might forget about those ideas, some might play with them, and some might even write them down in a notebook somewhere. But what do you do with those ideas?

If you’d like to take that idea, and turn it into a creation, you’re an engineer.

Have you ever wanted to make one of those invention ideas? Because through programs like Digital Design Lab, you can. Express your interest in having more D2L sessions by writing a short email to MESA.

Here’s a video of other D2L projects from a previous session.


How problems can provoke innovation

Some people like inventing new things because it’s cool to do so, or because they like being awesome. But others might see that as a waste of time. Both views are okay, but one thing both groups can probably agree on is that having a problem with no good solution is a good reason to invent something new.

Let’s say, for example, you’re living in a nice apartment with low rent, close to a lot of stores, but one minor downside: there are train tracks right outside your window. The immediate solution is to buy good, soundproof windows. Good call!

But then summer rolls around, and you want to leave your windows opened as much as possible. What a hassle to get up every time a train rolls around, especially if they come a lot. Buy an air conditioner? Well that’s going to spike your power bill, and you’re in an apartment because you’re saving money. What do you do?!

Duh, you invent an automated window-closing system that detects passing trains.

Because for an engineer, inventing automated windows
is easier than just opening and closing them.
Because it’s that easy to invent.
(This is also known as the coolest kind of lazy)

It’s probably true that there are some ways this invention could be improved. How about a second linear actuator on top of each window, so it doesn’t get cockeyed and stuck? Try to think of a few of your own, before you make your own version!