The Mechatronic Wings are constructed from Lego’s MindStorms EV3 construction set and a series of technical elements. The step-by-step tutorial walks you through all the elements of physical construction, but Wipprecht also includes detailed programming setup instructions to get the wings hooked up and make sure they respond to external stimuli with an appropriate fight-or-flight reaction.
Of course, the wings won’t actually let you fly, but Wipprecht does ensure us that if you follow her instructions, the wings will look awesome and interact with your environment. After putting together the base module and the gears, you’ll construct the motor that lets the wings move and then the structure of the wings themselves. An infrared sensor and an ultrasonic sensor are then wired into the wings and into the motor, so that your cool new accessory can scare away predators. The last few steps of the tutorial detail how to program the wings and the technical elements to run without constant attention.
The infrared sensor is already set up for instructions in proximity mode, which measures light waves reflected back from any object approaching you and your wings. Using the digital sensor that Wipprecht suggests, the wings will be able to react to objects up to about 2.3 feet away, depending on the size of the threat. The ultrasonic sensor emits high-frequency sound waves undetectable to the human ear. By measuring how long it takes for the sound waves to bounce back to the sensor, the wings can detect objects up to 8.25 feet away.
Since Wipprecht’s Mechatronic wings are more of a fun exercise than an actual safety measure, the short detection distances and toy-sized sensors don’t pose a problem. Wipprecht did not work with Lego directly on the project, but it seems like a very accessible and original way to encourage new hobbyists and even kids to learn about software and hardware through the MindStorms EV3 kit. And in the end, you get to wear around your creation and let the wings flap off anyone you don’t like!
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