Alex Tacescu is not your average ordinary high school student. A senior at Clovis North High School in Fresno, California, Tacescu is a robot enthusiast. He is a CAD and engineering team leader for his local robotics team, FIRST FRC Team 2761. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FRC stands for FIRST Robotics Competition.
During a visit with his grandparents, he saw his grandfather (who had Parkinson’s disease) struggling with daily tasks. He was having trouble getting around which got Tacescu thinking. He saw an opportunity to use his knowledge of robotics to design a way for disabled people to easily move around.
Enter Project Maverick. Tacescu created a prototype vehicle that is part wheelchair and part walker. But not only is it more mobile than both, it offers the “same degrees of motion as a normal person.” It moves at a speed of 5 km/hour - equal to the average walking speed.
There are three features that make this design unlike anything you’ve seen before:
- Omnidirectional Drive System: Four steering motors and four driving motors are electronically synchronized so it can move in any direction – forward, backwards, side-to-side and rotate in a circle.
- Collision Avoidance System: If something gets in the way of the vehicle, sensors alert the system that slows it down to a stop. The closer it gets to the object, the more it slows down.
- Autopilot: In tight spaces like narrow hallways and doorways, the rider can switch it to autopilot mode. In this mode, the sensors will automatically center itself to avoid bumping the wall.
To no surprise, this sophisticated design is bringing Tacescu plenty of notice. He’s already won multiple awards, including:
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) President’s Scholarship Award: Won at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the prize is a $10,000 scholarship and complementary IEEE student and student society membership during his four years of college.
- California State Science Fair: First place in Applied Mechanics. Tacescu also received a congratulatory letter from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.
- Fresno County Science Fair Awards: Senior divisions sweepstakes champion, first place in Robotics, Fresno State University Engineering Scholarship, Downing Planetarium Award, Fresno-Madera Dental Association Best in Show Award.
While searching for funding to complete the prototype, Tacescu is also applying to universities. He would like to major in mechatronics engineering – a mix of mechanical and electrical concepts for robotics. He’s considering a double major in business, as he’d like to run his own company.
3Dconnexion is happy to have played a part in the Project Maverick design. Not only did Tacescu use his SpaceMouse Wireless for the design, he also uses it as the joystick to control the vehicle. He said the following about using the 3D mice:
I cannot have achieved what I have done so far without my SpaceMouse. Freshman year, my parents bought me a SpaceNavigator to start me off. I have to say that it has improved my productivity in 3D environments by at least 50%. The SpaceMouse Wireless is my second 3Dconnexion device, and it improves on everything the SpaceNavigator did well already.
We appreciate the kind words and can’t wait to see what the future holds for Alex Tacescu!
UPDATE: Tacescu is getting attention for invention. He was recently featured on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon during the Fallonventions segment. Watch the video below.
Image Source: via Alex Tacescu