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  • Writer's pictureFrederick Dopfel

Intentionally Terrible Devices

Three of my friends and I created a team to enter a parody hackathon (media coverage here). We created a sterling-engine powered "social" fire alarm that would only activate when completely engulfed in flames (a large temperature differential is required to generate motion in a sterling engine). The parody played on users' fear of radioactivity (most fire alarms have small amounts of americium-241 as part of their sensing system) and the desire to avoid false alarms from burning popcorn. In addition, we played on companies' obsession with Internet services by connecting the fire alarm to Android Wear (smartwatch notifications), Yo (receive a Yo when the house is on fire), Philips Hue (turn lights red when aflame), Nest (turn on AC in fire), Muse (think calm thoughts to disable the alarm), and SMS and automated phone calling services. The electronics were encased in a wood box, partially because it was easy to drill holes in, and partially because it added to the absurdity of the design. Prizes were awarded randomly.

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