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13-year-old XBee Project Innovator Teaches Tech to MIT graduates

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Our friend Quin is always up to big things. Most recently, the 13-year-old innovator has decided to kick off his career in education early by hosting technology classes at MIT. We were lucky enough to meet Quin back when he used XBee modules in the infamous “gas cap.” Since then, we’re constantly chatting with Quin about his projects over social media, hanging out and talking shop at Maker Faire events around the country, and now, watching him tell his story on BBC. Go Quin!

XBee Crew & Quin at World Maker Faire

“In less than three years, 13-year-old Quin Etnyre learned to program electronics, created his own company, and began teaching MIT graduates in his spare time,” the BBC article, which accompanies the video below, reads.

Create Your Own Outcome: Easton LaChappelle Reinvents the Conventional Prosthesis

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Colorado 17-year-old Easton LaChappelle is on a mission to change the world with his XBee enabled prosthesis.

“I’m from a small town. This year’s graduating class had 23 people. The nearest Radio Shack is an hour away. I had to find my own thing to do—which was good. I just wanted to make something useful.” Easton said in a casual and confident voice. “Last week I spoke to 2,000 people at TEDx, this is what I’m meant to do.”

TEDx is just one of the endeavors Easton has taken on, his Kickstarter campaign raised over $18,000 in 30 days, he’s been to the White House, shaken hands with the President of the United States and landed work with NASA.

What started out as a simple glove with flex sensors is now on it’s way to becoming one of the world’s most advanced prosthesis with a waiting list of 300 amputees.

Easton and one version of the robotic arm

Here’s how Easton, at 17 years old, is making his mark on the world.

At 14, Easton tapped into his desire to take things apart and put them back together in a new way. With an Arduino and direction from online communities like Instructables, SparkFun and Hack a day, Easton has self-taught himself how to build with electronics and how to program the electronics.

He came up with the idea to create a wireless hand that’s controlled by a glove. “I found flex sensors and sewed them onto a glove. I made my own custom PCB boards, a custom servo shield. Then, I added XBee modules. The wireless transceivers makes the project much better.”

While Easton’s drive paired with his cool and collected personality make the road to his accomplishments look easy, he admits that he had to learn a lot—from configuring XBees to programming the system.

While Easton has had a lot to learn, he has a distinct goal in mind. In his own words, he’s “reinventing the conventional prosthesis.”

“I wanted to make an arm that was lighter than a humans, but had the same strength– all the way up to the shoulder. I’ve achieved all of that for a low price,” Easton explained. “The other half is the control system. It uses a wireless brain EEG headset that picks up 10 different channels of your brain.”

The next generation of the hand can sustain 50 pounds of weight on an individual finger. Accessibility is key, so Easton has worked to get the price down to about $400 by using 3-D printers to bring his designs to life.

Easton’s work with robotics doesn’t stop at reinventing conventional prosthetics, he’s also interning with NASA. At NASA, he’s working on mechanical design and a tele-robotic arm. The project he’s working on, the Robonaut, which also uses Digi products, mocks human movements to perform maintenance tasks or duties that are dangerous for astronauts.

So what’s next for Easton? He’s sticking to his goal of helping people with prostheses. In the next two weeks, the first arm will officially be used as a working prosthesis. Easton plans on continuing to do public talks and share his work with the world. “Inspiring younger people is my way of giving back,” he says.

While many 17 years olds are focused on college, Easton has seen school as a hurdle. While he has a number of full ride offers, he doesn’t know if he’ll be attending college immediately.

Easton explains that he’ll be “getting his senior year out of the way” and continuing to work on prosthetics. “Kickstarter proved that there is a market, so now I’m going to work to fill that need. Education systems have boundaries, and you don’t always have to work within the boundaries of systems. You can do things to achieve your own outcomes, and that’s what I’m doing.”

6 Ways to Learn Even If You’re Not (technically) Headed B2S

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One of the best things about technology is that there’s always more to learn. There’s an endless amount of projects and possibilities. Here are just 6 ways you can school yourself into making something cool (and learn a lot along the way). These are great resources for those looking to learn more and for those looking to empower others through knowledge. For instance, next time you want to empower your employees, suggest that they take time to develop a skill they feel passionate about. Life-longer learner or leader, a fact that you’ll appreciate: the classes and resources listed below are all under $100 or free (yes, free). Enjoy!


Machine Learning 
Learn about the most effective machine learning techniques, and gain practice implementing them and getting them to work for yourself.


Web Intelligence and Big Data
This course is about building `web-intelligence’ applications exploiting big data sources arising social media, mobile devices and sensors, using new big-data platforms based on the ‘map-reduce’ parallel programming paradigm.


Arduino Basics: Electronics for Artists and Hobbyists
This is a physical class in Brooklyn, NY. Skillshare offers local class all around the United States.

This course is designed for beginners who know little, if anything, about programming or electrical engineering. The class will be broken into three parts: key electronics concepts, understanding and programming Arduinos, and getting our hands dirty with sample projects.


Computer Architecture
In this course, you will learn to design the computer architecture of complex modern microprocessors.


Digi’s Examples and Guides Site
This site shows you how to wirelessly connect sensors, outputs, motors, lights and the Internet to XBee radios and other products. Just getting started? There’s a getting started page that covers the basics too.


From Tesla to the Transisor: An Intro to Electronic Circuits
This is a physical class in Brooklyn, NY. Skillshare offers local class all around the United States.

What is electricity? This course will aim to shed light on the elusive, invisible force that has become an integral part of our lives. Through hands-on experimentation in a small classroom environment, participants will learn to detect, quantify, and manipulate electricity in the tradition of the great pioneers of this science such as Michael Faraday and Nikola Tesla.

Digi Favorites: The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show

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The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show exhibited cutting edge products and amazing technologies that we’ve been following through #CES and #CES2012. Here’s just a handful of stand-out innovations we hope to see more of.


Marvell Chip

The Internet of things starts at home– the Marvell chip and Marvell’s Smart Applicances Platform has taken the challenge of making household items network-aware. The chip enables wireless networking to home appliances and LED light fixtures.

The equipment is designed to make it relatively cheap for manufacturers to make connected versions of common house-hold items, such as thermostats and dishwashers.

The system uses Zigbee wireless chips, which would be embedded into a light fixture’s controller, and a small gateway device, which can communicate with 200 individual fixtures or bulbs.


WiMM One Android watch

No need to reach in your pocket for your smartphone, WiMM Lab’s exhibited a new class of Android-based smart watches at CES 2012. The wearable device is a tiny Android computer that runs WiMM’s Micro Apps system that includes a preloaded RSS reader, games, tip calculator and more. WiMM Labs also provides a development kit with special tools to help developers build for the small screen.


Escort Live

Escort Live is a living, breathing speed-trap alert system, a social network for motorists. The ticket protection social network for drivers won a 2012 Innovations Design and Engineering Award at CES.

The app communicates via Bluetooth with Escort’s detectors to record sites where speed cameras have been installed or there are police officers using laser guns and radar equipment. Escort Live also uses crowd-sourcing to warn drives of speed traps and cameras. Alerts are then transmitted to the cloud and shared with other subscribers to warn them of potential speed-fine threats.


Always loosing your keys? Your wallet?  There’s an app for that. BIKN finds tags you attach to the stuff you care about, that way your most important items are never lost. 

Even if your phone is dead or turned off, what was lost is now found. BiKN is an iPhone geo-location app system that comes with a battery powered case and two tags, one for your iPhone and the other to the item you want to track.

What CES technologies are you most excited about?

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