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The Wingman helps enable a smooth ride

Every year, interns spending their summers at Texas Instruments are challenged to test their creativity, technical prowess and might in a competitive design challenge based on TI technology. This year, we are challenging our interns to create a solution based on a TI MCU LaunchPad™ or the BeagleBone Black. The Wingman was chosen by TI applications and systems engineers as both Leadership Choice and Top MSP432™ MCU Design.

Since we were toddlers, we were taught to never ride our bikes without helmets. But why not take that a step further? Why not use a device that truly has your back while on the bike? Enter The Wingman. Mounted seamlessly under your bicycle seat, The Wingman acts as both an alert system that texts loved ones in the event of a crash while also monitoring your bike for theft and sending you a message with its location if it was stolen. The Wingman also has a sidekick of its own, the Safe-T, a T-Shirt with LEDs sewn into it that communicates wirelessly with The Wingman to ensure visibility of the rider at all times. The inspiration for the creation of this gadget comes from the alarming truth that 43 percent of all bicycle injuries happen solely by fault of the rider. Riders should not have to be concerned with how they will receive help in the event of a crash, and The Wingman takes care of this by sending GPS coordinates via text message to a pre-programmed loved one immediately after a crash has been detected on the bicycle. Off the bike, cyclists’ biggest concern is bike theft, a common occurrence all over the United States and especially on large college campuses. Using the motion detecting capabilities of The Wingman, riders can rest easy knowing that if their bike was to be stolen, they would immediately receive periodic GPS pings that can then be turned over to the authorities for safe retrieval of the bicycle.

As with any DIY project, The Wingman presented many challenges. Not only were we unfamiliar with some of the parts that we were using (a GSM module and an accelerometer), but we also had little experience interfacing parts of this complexity with the MSP432 and MSP430™ Launchpad™ development kits.  Many nights were spent reading technical reference manuals and datasheets, desperately trying to understand the hardware and software enough to accomplish the ambitious goals set for The Wingman. By the time we were done with the project, we were not only able to create a fun and useful gadget, but we learned valuable lessons that can be applied both in the workplace and during prototyping in our free time. Needless to say, these lessons will not be wasted and new and improved Wingmen are expected to take flight in the future.

A full list of parts, access to software and hardware documentation, and a detailed technical demo can be found here.